When we think of braces, those metal brackets that go onto our teeth to straighten them out over time, we rarely think about them in a historical context. We don’t necessarily think of them as something that evolved through trial and error. One of the biggest reasons is that we view straight teeth as a cosmetic luxury, not something that ancient civilizations would have concerned themselves with. However, this isn’t a correct way to view braces. While orthodontists haven’t always been around, the idea that someone’s teeth should be straight has been with humans for a very long time.
Thousands of years ago, people realized the difficulty of having crooked teeth, well beyond how they might look aesthetically. Crooked teeth can lead to jaw alignment issues, a lot of pain, teeth that are harder to clean, and also rot and decay. Braces have been through a lot over the many centuries, and we’re going to go over a quick history lesson to really understand the evolution of braces.
Tracking Braces From Their Earlier Days Until Now
Greek and Roman Versions
Yes, braces date all the way back to the ancient Greeks. As far back as 400 BC, famous Greek physicians like Hippocrates and Aristotle hypothesized ways of straightening teeth. The Romans also did not shy away from trying to get people’s teeth straight. While this was undoubtedly something reserved for the rich and powerful in Rome, there are examples of golden wires being used to bind people’s teeth. Crooked teeth have long been a problem to solve.
The 1700s French
The next step along the evolutionary path took place in France in the 18th century. Pierre Fauchard, the father of modern dentistry, published a book that spoke about multiple ways to straighten teeth. Louis Bourdet followed closely behind, developing and discussing more practical ways to do this and introducing new methods to deal with tooth crowding. Many of these same principles are still used by modern orthodontists today.
19th Century Breakthroughs
The 19th century was a boom time for innovation. Although pre-Industrial Revolution really set the tone for things to come. This is also true with dentistry and braces. Orthodontics became its own separate sort of medical practice, and dentists started to use wires as braces that were made out of gold, platinum, silver and other materials. These methods were a combination of what the Romans had learned and what the French had discovered. The idea that these wires could be adjusted over time popped up in this era.
New 20th Century Materials
What the 20th century brought was a whole lot of newer materials from which dentists could choose and a period of trial and error that would lead to the types of metal braces we know of today. Edward Angle developed a system for misaligned teeth, founded the American Society of Orthodontia, and by the 1960s, gold and other materials were abandoned for stainless steel, which proved much more reliable.
Much of today’s modern braces are actually the same stainless steel brackets and wires that dentists have been using since the 1960s. A lot of the methods have evolved, and the ways by which braces are attached have improved, but the materials and the general idea are still the same. Another thing that’s greatly changed is the treatment plan and the way by which the braces are made to fit properly to an individual by using a 3D model to get everything aligned just right. Then you have non-metallic braces, like Invisalign, that can really do a great job at straightening teeth without having to be permanently fastened or obnoxiously visible.
Like most everything else we use today and take for granted, there’s a really long and storied history behind the product. Just imagine what sort of history is involved with modern streaming, which started all the way back with the advent of picture-taking. Braces have gone through thousands of years of evolution, all so people can have straight teeth. It’s truly an amazing thing to think about.