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The History of Orthodontics

If you have braces or are planning to get them at some point in the future, here is an interesting article that examines the history of braces. You will be surprised at how far it dates back!

You probably wondered whose brilliant idea it was to connect teeth together with wires.  While modern orthodontics involves light pressure, that wasn’t the case in the earlier days.

Did you say mummies?

Would you be surprised if we told you that the first instance of a person wearing braces dates to mummies in Egypt?  Scientists examining the remains of some mummies found that they had some metal wires which joined teeth together on more than one excavated mummy.  Fascinating to know how ancient Egyptians used technology (available to them) to help correct their smile and teeth aesthetics. They used various materials to form braces including gold, platinum, silver, steel, rubber, vulcanite, wood, ivory, zinc copper and brass.

Between the mummies and references to teeth straightening by ancient Roman philosophers, we can trace braces back to at least 500 B.C. However, the history of braces for teeth could even go beyond the ancient civilizations.

The Evolution of Orthodontics & Braces

While the history of braces may be very long, the science and technological advancements of braces stayed intact until the late 18th century. Back in 1728, the Frenchman made particularly important strides in orthodontics. A book called The Surgeon Dentist, published by Pierre Fauchard, included chapters on teeth straightening and ideas for devices.

By the mid-1700s, other dentists also explored options for straightening teeth and correcting deformities. Ettienne Bourdet built upon Fauchard’s work with his book The Dentist’s Art.

When the early 1800s arrived, modern orthodontics became more accepted as a viable practice and profession. Joachim Lefoulon came up with the word “orthodontosie” in 1841, which translates to “orthodontia”, or the word we use today for orthodontics. Since that time, the term has stuck and is what we still refer to as the term for straightening the teeth. “Ortho” means to straighten, and “dontia” means teeth in greek, therefore, to straighten teeth is the literal translation of orthodontics.

Paving the Way for Modern Braces

Orthodontics is the first dental specialty, starting in 1900 (oral surgery was next in 1901).

By the start of the 20th century, people such as Edward H. Angle, commonly known as the “Father of Modern Orthodontics”, made more significant findings and discoveries leading to classifications of malocclusion, founding the first school of orthodontics, and starting the Society of Orthodontists (which evolved into the American Society of Orthodontists).

During the two World Wars and throughout the 1940s, the science and technology of Orthodontics did not make much headway.  Even braces in the 1950s did not show much change – though the practice became more common, and orthodontists became increasingly skilled in wrapping teeth with metal.

The 1970s – A breakthrough period in Orthodontics

Prior to the 1970s, orthodontists wrapped metal around the teeth because they lacked dental adhesives. Though dental adhesives existed as early as 1949, it was not sufficient to maintain an attachment until manufacturers introduced new materials, including special resins.

These adhesives required multiple steps and still did not last long enough to complete treatments. That resulted in the need for reapplications throughout a course of treatment.

However, the advancements in adhesives during the 1970s and 1980s led to significant breakthroughs in the 1990s that eventually yielded effective, one-bottle systems. The eighth generation of dental adhesives hit the scene in 2010 with immense success and versatility.

Orthodontics Today

The history of braces is remarkably long and complex, but it led to efficient treatments that help millions of people each year. Modern braces are smaller, lighter, extremely efficient, and affordable. Today, patients can also benefit from alternate treatments, including orthodontic appliances and clear aligners.

Orthodontic specialists today understand the importance of straight teeth not only from an aesthetics perspective, but for overall good health. Many studies associate straight teeth to better eating, breathing, sleeping and more. Technological advancements allow Orthodontists to achieve better, safer results than previous generations – all with much less discomfort.

So, there you have it, a short history lesson on the beginnings of braces and orthodontics.  If you are interested in straightening your smile and need to find an Orthodontic Specialist in Texas, look no further than the TAO.  To find a doctor near you,  visit our online directory.

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