Today, many visits to the family dentist involve the installation of braces, which now come in a variety of colors, shapes, and designs.
Dental braces are not a recent invention. There is clear evidence that braces-like devices were already in use more than a thousand years ago. Of course, ancient braces weren’t as neat and efficient as the ones being offered by the friendly dentist in your neighborhood today. Let’s take a look at how braces evolved throughout history.
Archaeologists have discovered Ancient Egyptian mummies that have a cord made of catgut wrapped around gapped teeth. That means they used animal intestines for orthodontic wire.
The women of the Etruscan civilization, which existed in Ancient Italy from 768 BC to 264 BC, are believed to have worn bridges made of pure gold in their mouths. Their dead also wore such fancy bridges as part of their burial rituals.
At around 50 AD, Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a medical writer in Ancient Rome, wrote about how finger pressure at regular intervals was used to straighten the teeth of poor Romans who cannot afford the gold wires that the Roman elite used to correct any teeth misalignment.
In 1728, Pierre Fauchard, a French dentist, published "The Surgeon Dentist." In it, he wrote about various general dentistry topics. One particular chapter stood out, wherein he laid out different ways to straighten the teeth, including the use of the “Bandeau,” a metal object that resembled a horseshoe. The Bandeau was attached to gold wires and was held in place by silk threads or waxed linen.
By the early 1900s, the term “braces” was coined, and many people were already into straightening their teeth. Dentists were crafting braces using gold, silver, and copper. Some even used ivory and wood.
For decades, there were no significant strides in orthodontics. Then the 1970s came and changed dentistry forever with the development of direct bonding techniques.
For centuries, wrapping individual wire around each tooth was standard procedure, since it was the only way to keep the brackets in place. Thankfully, a dental adhesive was formulated in the 1970s that allowed dentists to bond dental brackets directly to the teeth. Stainless steel also became the material of choice for braces by the mid-70s, effectively shoving the more expensive gold and silver braces out of the way. Stainless steel helped lower the prices of braces and made things easier for dentists because of its flexibility.
The 1970s also gave rise to the idea of invisible braces, but it took two more decades before it became a reality.
Would you believe that Invisalign, the current standard for invisible braces, was developed by two people who had no medical or dental training at all?
Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth, then-MBA students at Stanford University, are responsible for the creation of the Invisalign method, a top trend in cosmetic industry today. Invisalign requires the use of different clear plastic retainers changed periodically to shift and move teeth into place slowly. When it was made available to the public in 2000, Invisalign took the world by storm and is now the technique favored by many people who want to straighten their teeth.
Victoria Anderson has been writing about various dental topics for the last five years. Braces have a special place in heart because even though she hated them as a child, she is fully aware that having been a “metal-mouth” gave her the lovely smile that she has today.