A Brief History of Braces 

Before the Agricultural revolution Human Jaws Were a Perfect Fit for Human Teeth

The emergence of agriculture initiated major changes to the jaw structure of ancient humans, leading to the dental problems we are experiencing today.

Our mouths often just don’t have the space to accommodate all of our teeth like they used to. Dental crowding is reportedly the most common reason for orthodontic referral and, along with malocclusion (a poor alignment of the teeth), which these days affects one in five people.

How did we get here? 

Those changes likely came from diet, our hunter-gatherer ancestors  needed big, strong jaws to chew the uncooked vegetables and meat that often made up their menu. The earth supplied their food; there were no grocery stores or restaurants.

Early farmers, on the other hand, had a softer diet, they started consuming cooked foods like beans and cereals that didn’t demand such a high level of chewing or mouth strength. 

Over time,  jaws became smaller in response to these dietary changes, yet our teeth didn’t follow suit, they remained around the same size. This likely directly led to the problem of inadequate mouth real estate we so commonly see  today. We are being told there is not enough room for all of our teeth. 

The switch to farming wasn’t the only cause of change to our jawbones. The arrival of agriculture also brought on other skeletal changes in humans, especially as we added processed food in the mix, causing lighter, less-dense bones, particularly around joints. These developments appear to be due to both diet and changes in physical activity, particularly the more sedentary lifestyle allowed by farming and domesticating animals.

Our ancient ancestors didn’t seem to have these same problems. Rather, as a new study has demonstrated, up until about 12,000 years ago, humans had what one of the study’s lead authors called “an almost ‘perfect harmony’ between their lower jaws and teeth.” 

The big change, scientists say, came from civilization’s transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers.

If you think the desire for straight teeth is just from modern society, think again! Extreme Makeovers may be recent, but “braces” date as far back as ancient man!

Early History

Even ancient people wanted straight teeth! According to the AAO (American Association of Orthodontists), archaeologists have discovered mummified ancients with crude metal bands wrapped around individual teeth to close gaps, Later, in 400-500 BC, Hippocrates and Aristotle both contemplated ways to straighten teeth and fix various dental conditions. Straight teeth have been a thing a very long time!

A Researcher found a number of teeth bound with a gold wire in a Roman tomb in Egypt, — the first documented ligature wire! At the time of Christ, Aurelius Cornelius Celsus first recorded the treatment of shifting teeth with finger pressure. 

Despite all this evidence and experimentation, no significant events in orthodontics really occurred until around the 1700s In Medieval times, specialized barbers often performed dental “operations” and extractions.

Important Breakthroughs

Even before George Washington wore his famous wooden teeth, dentists were thinking about ways to correct bad bites. In 1728, French Dentist Pierre Fauchard published a book called the “The Surgeon Dentist” with an entire chapter on ways to straighten teeth. Fauchard used a device called a “Bandeau,” a horseshoe-shaped piece of precious metal which helped expand the arch. Something that is still very much needed today.

French Dentist Ettienne Bourdet followed Fauchard in 1757 with his book “The Dentist’s Art”, also devoting a chapter to tooth alignment and appliances. Bourdet was the dentist to the King of France. He was the first dentist (on record) who recommended extraction of premolars to alleviate crowding. A procedure I would  not recommend today from my own personal experience. Having my premolars removed caused many dental issues including pain in my tmj joint and less room for my tongue. He was also the first to scientifically prove jaw growth. Which is a major breakthrough and contradicts removing teeth to make more room at the same time.

In 1771, Scottish surgeon John Hunter wrote a book “The Natural History of the Human Teeth”. Hunter coined the terms bicuspids, cuspids, incisors and molars. Although teeth straightening and extraction to improve alignment of remaining teeth has been practiced since early times, orthodontics did not really exist until the mid-1800s.

Historians claim that several men deserve the title of being called “The Father of Orthodontics.” 

Edward H. Angle, in America in the early 1900s, devised the first simple classification system for malocclusions, which is still used today (Class I, Class II, and so on). His classification system is a way for dentists to describe how crooked teeth are, and how teeth fit together. Angle contributed significantly to the design of orthodontic appliances. He founded the first school and college of orthodontics, organized the American Society of Orthodontia in 1901 (which became the AAO in the 1930s), and founded the first orthodontic journal in 1907. 

When Metal Mouth really described it…

The First Metal Mouths

What did braces look like a century ago? In the early 1900s, orthodontists used gold, platinum, silver, steel, gum rubber, and occasionally, wood, ivory, zinc, copper, and brass to form loops, hooks, spurs, and ligatures. Fourteen- to 18-karat gold was routinely used for wires, bands, clasps, ligatures, and spurs, as were iridium-platinum bands and arch wires, and platinized gold for brackets. 

Why gold? It is malleable and easy to shape. Gold had its drawbacks, however — because of its softness it required frequent adjustments, and it was expensive! Anyway, — these bands wrapped entirely around each tooth — the original “metal mouth” was real gold or silver! How’s that for bling on the teeth?

In 1929, the first dental specialty board, the American Board of Orthodontics, was born. 

On a side note, the first synthetic (nylon)-bristle toothbrush was invented in 1938. 

Around this time, stainless steel became widely available, but using it for braces was considered somewhat controversial. Kind of howhe3w11 early interceptive orthodontics is today.

It wasn’t generally accepted as a material for orthodontic treatment until the late 1950s/early 1960s! You may be surprised to learn that x-rays were not routinely used in orthodontic treatment until the 1950s!

Advancements in the 1970s

Braces continued to wrap around the teeth until the mid 1970s, when direct bonding became a reality. 

Why did it take so long for dentists to invent the modern bonded bracket? 

The adhesive! The bonded bracket was actually invented earlier, but the formulation for the adhesive wasn’t perfected until almost a decade later. 

At first, bonded brackets were made of metal. Like any new method, it took a while for the direct bond bracket to catch on — which is why some people may remember wearing the old “wrap around” metal braces into the late 1970s.

Over the years many designs were patented, but few were commercially available until the Edgelock system in 1972. As the 1980s and 1990s progressed, many companies created their own versions and improved upon the idea by offering both passive and active resistance on the arch wire. Nowadays, we have a number of choices, such is Evolution.

In the 1970s, Earl Bergersen, DDS created the passive Ortho-Tain appliances, which guide jaw growth and help correct orthodontic problems and malocclusions in both children and adults. The Ortho-Tain appliances look like custom plastic mouthguards, and are worn mainly at night, or for only a few hours each day. In many cases, people have been able to correct or greatly diminish many types of orthodontic problems with these removable custom-made appliances.

Around 1975, two orthodontists working independently in Japan and the United States started developing their own systems to place braces on the inside surfaces of the teeth — lingual braces. These “invisible braces” offered people the results of bonded brackets with one big advantage — they were on the inside of the teeth, so nobody else could see them! 

It takes special training to treat a patient with lingual braces, and many American orthodontists in the 1970s and 1980s were reluctant to use the method — but orthodontists in other countries readily embraced it, and continued to make advancements with new techniques. Lingual braces have become more popular because technology has made them more comfortable. 

Lingual braces were the “invisible” braces of choice until the early 1980s, when “tooth colored” esthetic brackets made from single-crystal sapphire and ceramics became popular. Nowadays we also have brackets made from a combination of ceramic and metal — giving the patient a strength of metal with an aesthetic look of less noticeable “tooth colored” braces. 

As far back as 1945, orthodontists realized that a sequence of removable plastic appliances could move teeth toward a predetermined result. Some orthodontists even made simple plastic “aligner trays” in their offices for minor adjustments. But it took an adult who’d just had braces to take the concept a step further.

Invisalign was the brainchild of Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth, graduate students in Stanford University’s MBA program. Wirth had traditional braces in high school (she reportedly hated them). Chishti had finished adult treatment with traditional braces and now wore a clear plastic retainer. He noticed that if he didn’t wear his retainer for a few days, his teeth shifted slightly — but the plastic retainer soon moved his teeth back the desired position. In 1997, he and Wirth applied 3-D computer imaging graphics to the field of orthodontics and created Align Technologies and the Invisalign method. With a boost from ample Silicon Valley venture funding, Align soon took the orthodontic industry by storm. Dentists and other dental companies were skeptical at first, because neither Chishti nor Wirth had any professional dental training. Invisalign braces were first made available to the public in May, 2000 and proved extremely popular with patients. Soon similar products began appearing on the market.

Technology Continues to Advance

As technology enhances our daily lives, it also continues to advance the science of orthodontics. More and more companies are utilizing digital computer imaging to make orthodontic treatment more precise. There are more and more companies throwing their hats in the ring.

NASA developed one of the late 20th century’s most dramatic orthodontic breakthroughs: heat-activated nickel-titanium alloy wires. At room temperature, heat-activated nickel-titanium arch wires are very flexible. As they warm to body temperature they become active and gradually move the teeth in the anticipated direction. Because of their high-tech properties, these wires retain their tooth-moving abilities longer than ordinary metal wires and need less frequent attention from the orthodontist. Many orthodontists now employ heat-activated wires in their treatment plans.

What does all this mean for the orthodontic patient of the future?

As companies develop more precise, high-tech materials and methods, your braces will be on for a shorter period of time, be smaller and less visible, result in less discomfort, and give great results, especially if we start early and use child growth and development.

We’ve sure come a long way from the wrap-around “metal mouth” 

While people are concerned about straight white teeth there is something that is not being talked about when it comes to orthodontics and that is form and function. 

Traditional orthodontics will have you wait until a child is 7-8 to seek treatment.

Interceptive orthodontics, is the act of addressing orthodontic problems earlier before they become more challenging to correct. Interceptive orthodontics takes advantage of growing jaws to correct issues like overbites, crossbites, misalignments, and underbites before they get out of hand.

The disadvantages of interceptive orthodontics is that there is no single universally accepted approach.

Preventive and interceptive orthodontics has the purpose of preventing or alleviating occlusal and airway problems that might be happening in the transition period from deciduous to permanent dentition. 

There are many conflicts among providers about the true benefits of interceptive orthodontics in the much desired higher level of evidence. 

Our mouth starts to form as soon as we are born with how we are fed as an infant. So in my opinion there is a gap in care not being addressed.

Due to so many possible treatment modalities, interceptive orthodontics is not a single procedure and is not the only treatment performed before 11 years of age,  as a result there is a collaborative  approach needed for optimal results.

Nevertheless,  an anterior open bite or tongue thrust swallow brings significant dental changes in the mouth if not treated early will have skeletal changes that are harder to correct as a child grows. 80-90 of their upper jaws are formed by the age of 8. What are we waiting for? 

A recent study demonstrated that teeth, especially projected incisors, are the main cause for bullying among children and that extremely severe malocclusions, especially a pronounced overjet, have a negative impact on their quality of life.

I am very passionate about this because I know how it feels to be bullied because of your teeth.

As dental professionals we are mostly worried with the efficiency of a procedure in the strictly dental aspect, and tend to overlook the additional benefits behind these treatments. The early correction of an increased overjet may not solve a Class II in a definitive manner, but it can have a positive effect on the quality of life of a child, as well as possibly reducing the risk of dental traumas. 

I lived through the bullying due to my teeth,  so I can attest first hand how it impacts the way you see yourself as a child. If I had had these issues addressed earlier in life it would have changed the way I felt about myself growing up. 

This broadened look and going beyond the straight teeth proposes preventive and interceptive orthodontic care in the public health system, with the purpose of promoting self-esteem and psychological well being, essential to the full health of children and teenagers. 

Orthodontics and myofunctional therapy should be examined earlier in life  and should be added to the dental questionnaire filled out to enter kindergarten in schools.

It is clear that the interceptive measures should be clearly defined before being performed, since it is well known that form follows function and it will have a profound effect on self esteem, airway, breathing, behavior, focus learning and so much more.

Well diagnosed interceptive treatments may not reach definitive results, which is our aim under ideal circumstances, but removing a child from psychological suffering may be a reason for her to smile during her whole life.

The smile, which is an important part of a person’s appearance, reflects their image. Adults with a “bad” smile are more likely to develop inferiority complexes and a low sense of self-worth. Oral diseases are more likely to develop in children who have protruding or misaligned teeth.

Children with speech disorders may develop a fear of people or a lack of social confidence, suffocating their personal development. Because low self-esteem and confidence can have a negative impact on both professional and personal life, it is always recommended that children receive treatment for low self-esteem and confidence as soon as possible. 

Despite the fact that adults can now easily obtain orthodontic treatment, it is widely recognized that the younger the patient, the easier it is to treat them and the more likely they are to succeed.

Early orthodontic treatment can aid in the proper definition and shaping of the jawline.

Malocclusions affect people of all ages, and tooth alignment problems are becoming more common. Don’t put off treating your child’s oral health issues because successful orthodontic treatment is now widely available. 

Dental malocclusions must be addressed for the sake of a child’s dental and psychological health. It may take a team. 

A myofunctional therapist, a lactation consultant,  a feeding specialist, airway orthodontist, speech pathologist — can evaluate your child and help you find the providers that can help so our kids don’t experience  what I did growing up and that’s something we can all smile about!

I offer a free consultation if you have any questions. Link Below






Source: http://www.archwired.com/HistoryofOrtho.htm (For original source information please reference this article.