The History of Braces
Throughout history, people have been preoccupied with straight teeth, even dating back to Ancient Egypt when people, including Cleopatra, used animal intestines as a way of achieving a straighter smile. Today, braces are more advanced and use wires and brackets, but the intention is still the same- to achieve a straighter, beautiful smile.
The Etruscans wanted their deceased to maintain their looks in the afterlife, which led to the use of dental appliances. These devices were made from pure gold and acted as ‘bridges’ and preserved the spacing of the teeth.
Another technique that was created in an attempt to straighten teeth was the use of finger pressure. This involved applying pressure to teeth at regular intervals. A Roman Encyclopedist was the first to record the attempts and hypothesized that the teeth would slowly move and realign with the regular pressure.
Not only have mummies been found with dental devices, but Roman tombs have been opened up only to find that the people had braces like devices on their teeth. Small golden wires had been used to try and close any gaps in the teeth.
The 1700s marked the beginning of braces as we know them, with the concept starting to appear in books around 1770. One new concept at the time was the device called a “Bandeau”. The horse-shoe-like device would be inserted into a person’s mouth in an attempt to maintain the natural arch. Teeth could be tied to the Bandeau with silk to try to move them. Other ideas that emerged around this time included the theory that removing the wisdom teeth could prevent overcrowding.
One of the first forms of modern-day orthodontic treatment came in the early 1800s. A wire crib was a version of what we now know as braces. Wire cribs were a half-circle device that had the intention of keeping the teeth aligned.
By the mid-1800s, elastics were introduced as a way of realigning the jaw. Then at the end of the century, X Rays were used in dentistry. This allowed dentists to see future teeth and remove them before they caused issues, which also eliminated the need to remove other teeth that didn’t need extracting.
The term ‘braces’ was introduced in the 20th Century and whilst they were vastly different from braces today, they still worked towards achieving alignment of the teeth. Different materials were used, such as ivory, wood, copper, zinc, silver or gold. Gold was the preferred material, due to its flexibility, however, it all depended on budget and accessibility.
The 70s welcomed some breakthroughs in orthodontics, in particular the use of dental adhesives to hold dental brackets to the teeth. Until now, the wires were wrapped around each tooth. Stainless steel was also introduced, much to the relief of patients and orthodontists. This material was much more affordable and flexible. After braces became more affordable, people were hoping to find a more discreet alternative to the bulky headgear and wires. This was when dentists started experimenting with ‘invisible’ braces and placed the wires and brackets on the inside of the teeth. People could now straighten their teeth without the visible wires and brackets.
The idea of invisible braces continued to develop but it wasn’t until two graduates worked on creating an alternative to braces. After Zia Chishti realised that his teeth shifted when not wearing a clear retainer he paired up with Kelsey Wirth and together they combined 3D computer technology and the existing plastic retainers. Doing so allowed them to show what progression patients teeth would need to fully realign. Once they had this information they could create plastic retainers that would achieve different stages of alignment by gradually shifting the teeth. This was the creation of Invisalign which became available to the public in 2000.
With the introduction of finer braces and Invisalign, orthodontic procedures are common, with children and adults straightening their smiles. Over the years, braces have grown and developed and will most likely continue to do so, getting more affordable and quicker.