July 3, 2018
People are often surprised when they learn that societies have been trying to straighten teeth since Ancient Egypt. However, it makes sense since poorly aligned teeth and jaws have been an issue for humans since they began walking the earth. Today, orthodontics is considered one of the more modern fields of dentistry, despite its origin story.
So, whether you’re considering braces in Newark, about to have them placed, or going through treatment now, your orthodontist thought it would be worth exploring how orthodontics and braces evolved into what they are today.
The Ancient Origins of Orthodontics
According to archaeological reports, humans have been trying to shift teeth and correct misaligned jaws for 50,000 years. Based on remains found in Egypt, people used crude metal bands around teeth, which archaeologists like Norman Wahl believe were intended to provide pressure.
Other examples come from the Ancient Greeks, the Etruscans, and the Romans. Etruscan women used gold bands to preserve the position of teeth after death, while the Ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, wrote about the first irregularities of teeth in 400 B.C. About 400 years later, another Roman writer named Celsus wrote about shifting teeth by simply pressing on them with your fingers.
Developments in the 18th Century
There wouldn’t be any notable advancements in orthodontics until the 17th and 18th centuries. With them came a new line of experimental devices and techniques for aligning teeth and creating impressions.
Today, dental impressions are taken with composite resin or 3D scanners. However, back in the early 17th century, doctors like Matthaeus Gottfried Purmann used plain wax to take impressions. In 1756, plaster was used by Phillip Pfaff from Paris.
However, it wasn’t until Pierre Fauchard, who was born in 1728 and is considered the Father of Dentistry today, invented the bandeau appliance. This was a horseshoe-shaped piece of metal designed to fit around teeth and correct their alignment. Another French doctor, named Christophe-Francois Delabarre, tried fixing alignment by placing wooden wedges between teeth.
How Orthodontics Reached New Levels in the 20th Century
As development reached the 19th and 20th century, more contributions came to light. In 1822, J.S. Gunnel created the occipital anchorage, which was a headgear designed to fasten to the jaw from the outside and apply gentle pressure to teeth. In 1840, Chapin A. Harris published the first classic book on dentistry, titled The Dental Art. Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber in 1839, which changed the way orthodontists created braces.
As orthodontics reached the 20th century, Edward Hartley Angle, who’s considered the Father of Modern Orthodontics, identified the true properties of malocclusion and misalignment. He was also able to address these issues with a set of appliances in 1880.
Advances in the 1970s
Prior to 1970, orthodontists would wrap wires around individual teeth to keep brackets anchored. Eventually, we would invent dental adhesive and use this instead to hold them in place. Materials for braces also improved, with stainless steel replacing gold and silver, lowering the cost of braces dramatically.
Thanks to thousands of years of trial and error, research, and dedication, we can now help patients achieve the smile they’ve always dreamed of. Schedule a consultation with your orthodontist in Newark today to learn more about the process!
About the Author
Dr. Timothy G. Wigal earned his DDS degree from the West Virginia University School of Dentistry. He completed three additional years of schooling during his residency program to receive a certificate of specialty in orthodontics from West Virginia University’s Department of Orthodontics. To learn more about his practice, contact him through his website.
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