The History of Orthodontics

The history of orthodontics and the history of dentistry closely run parallel to each other when researching how far back the surgical practice of both fields truly goes.

Orthodontics in Ancient Times

ancient orthodontics in egyptAccording to the AAO (American Association of Orthodontists), archaeologists have discovered mummified ancients originating in various parts of the old world with metal bands wrapped around individual teeth serving as an ancient set of braces.

Through these finding and based on their locations it is clear that ancient civilizations like the Romans and the Egyptians used bands to straighten teeth.

Ancient Roman Encyclopaedist Aulus Cornelius Celsus was an ancient Roman encyclopaedist and philosopher who spent a great deal of his life to studying and discovering new medical procedures.  As a dedicated philosopher, discoveries Ancient Roman Orthodontistthat advanced the world of Orthodontics are accredited to him.  Celsus kept detailed accounts of his work, and holds the first recorded attempt to straighten or move teeth by use of finger pressure.  Although the application of one’s own finger is a rather simple concept, there were still results, proving that Celsus’ work had merit and opened up new way of thinking about medical practices for teeth.

Celsus documented a case that involved applying finger pressure to the teeth at regular intervals. Through detailed notes and recordings it was hypothesized by Celsus that the teeth were slowly moving and realigning themselves due to the extended exposure to the finger pressure.

Early Roman Attempts at Braces Romans invented a dental device resembling modern orthodontic dental devices. Many Roman tombs were opened up by archaeologists only to discover that some teeth of the deceased had a small gold wire, known as a ligature wire, that was used to affix the arch wire to the bracket. The wire was bound to the teeth in an effort to force the teeth to move and close off noticeable gaps. Although there is no date documented, this process was most likely before the start of our era.

It is estimated that orthodontic practices began some 2000+ years ago!

Orthodontics in the 19th century

It wasn’t until the 1800s that orthodontics along with dentisty began to mature as a field with notable practitioners. In the age of the wild west, famous figures like Famous dentist Doc HolidayDoc Holiday, held the profession of dentist.

During the same century, French Dentist Pierre Fauchard, credited as being the “father of modern dentistry,” wrote the book entitled “The Surgeon Dentist” and included an entire chapter on ways to straighten teeth.

The book is considered a milestone in the history of orthodontics that truly advanced the field.

The rich history of orthodontics in the 1800s continued to flourish as further progress in advancing orthodontics was achieved when the first “wire crib” was invented which is basically an early model of the dental brace. Most consider this to be the first form of modern day orthodontics.

Orthodontics in the 20th Century

In the early 1900s the term “braces” became popular as an alternative form of the earlier wire crib, aiming to correct problems primarily focused with teeth alignment. Braces in those days were MUCH different than they are today.

Braces in the early 1900s consisted of metal bands that would wrap individually around each tooth and each band would be connected by a wire.

Dentists used a variety of materials depending on what was on hand including ivory, wood, copper, zinc, and the most preferred material, gold! Imagine how expensive those braces were! As a result of the cost, gold was not used very often. Silver was significantly cheaper and was used most often.  In the 1970s stainless steel became the preferred material and is still used today by orthodontists across the world.

Between iconic figures and people throughout history, Orthodontics has been a pretty robust field that has affected so many in a multitude of ways!