Romans, Etruscans and Greeks
As far back as 400 BC Greek philosophers Hippocrates and Aristotle were thinking and writing about straitening people’s teeth. Mummies have also been unearthed by archaeologists with bands of metal on their teeth. Catgut was also used in closing gaps and performing early orthodontia. Etruscans, or the precursors to the Romans, were known to bury their dead with braces to prevent the collapse of the teeth in the afterlife.
Along Came the French
In the early 18th century Pierre Fauschard, a French dentist, used a device called a “Blandeau”, which was a horseshoe-shaped brace for expanding the arch made out iron. Fauschard, who published The Surgeon Dentist, included in it a way to straighten teeth. He is often cited as the inventor of orthodontics.
In the later 18th century, Lous Bourdet, who was the dentist to the King of France, published The Dentist’s Art, and mentions tooth alignment and applications. Bourdet was also the first dentist to remove pre-molar teeth to ease crowding and improve mouth growth. At that time early patients with the “Blandeau” in their mouths were told to eat grapes as the acid was thought to make device resist rusting out. In reality, all that acid had the opposite effect and made for more rusty braces.
The 19th Century
In the 19th century Christophe Delabarre introduced the wire crib and some , marked this as the onset of contemporary orthodontics. By the mid 19th century gum elastics were used for the first time by Edward Maynard and Tucker became the first dentist to cut rubber bands from rubber tubing. When dentist J. N. Farrar wrote A Treatise on the Irregularities of the Teeth and Their Corrections, he was the first to advise the use of mild force at timed intervals to move teeth.
Mr. Modern Orthodontic
The 20th century brought Edward Angle into the spotlight. Dr. Angle is known as the father of modern orthodontics, and came up with the first classification system for malocclusions. He also help found the first school and college of orthodontics, and created the precursor to the American Association of Orthodontists in the 1930s. Angle’s seminal work, Malocclusion of the Teeth had seven editions printed.
Brass, Silver, and Plastic
In the early days of the 20th century, gold, platinum, silver, steel, gum rubber, vulcanite, and even wood, ivory, zinc, copper, and brass were used to cerate braces. Braces at this time were usually wrapped around each tooth. Around the late 1930’s stainless steel started being used more commonly, as it allowed doctors the ability to easily adjust braces and they were more comfortable to the wearer.
X-rays were not common to diagnose orthodontics needs until the 1950’s. By the 1970’s, brackets started to replace the wrapping of teeth, and by the 1980’s braces start to look more like we commonly think of them today. In the 1990’s invisible braces were introduced using a series of plastic trays to align the teeth. Though braces have been with us for thousands of years, as technology continues to evolve so will braces themselves.
Eli Madrone is a writer from Portland, Oregon and learned about braces in Klamath Falls, Oregon from Dr. Neil Walle at Klamath Falls Dental Specialists.