I have been practicing orthodontics for over 11 years now. Most people get braces and want them because they need them. The history of braces is long and complex. But throughout my time in the business, I have seen a small slice of this history and it has drastically affected the way I do business. There are always new advances that make treatment time faster and more efficient. Digital imaging is just one example of how I’ve seen the business change.
While braces as they are known today weren’t invented until around the 1800s, the obsession with having straight teeth has been around and documented as early as the time of the Egyptians. Archeologists have discovered remains with a cord made from animal intestines that they guess were used to attempt to close gaps in teeth, similarly to how we use wires to straighten teeth in modern times.
There has also been evidence of the Etruscans using dental devices to help straighten their teeth. The Etruscans lived in Italy around 770 BC and 270 BC, and ruled before the Roman ancient empire. They had a burial ritual that involved placing a sort of mouth guard in the dead person’s mouth before burying it. This was so the teeth didn’t collapse inside the corpse’s mouth so they would look good when they were entering the afterlife. You could even argue that they were more concerned with good teeth than we are now, since they were even worried about it in their graves. Only women wore them and they were made out of pure gold, which indicates that they were also concerned with vanity in regards to their dental health.
In modern history, the mention of devices like what we know as braces started coming up in medical journals around 1770. “The Surgeon Dentist” and “The Dentist’s Art” were two books that talked about methods for straightening teeth. The latter book was one of the first to propose the idea that the wisdom teeth be taken out of the mouth to prevent overcrowding of teeth and causing teeth to be more straight.
Braces as the term we all know and use now wasn’t used until the early 1900s. But the actual devices themselves have changed drastically even if the word we use is still the same. The first “braces” were bands made of various materials around each separate tooth, then the bands would be connected by a wire and the wire would be adjusted, similarly to how we adjust wires now. Gold was a really common material due to its flexibility when heated. This also meant that braces were limited to people who had lots of money.
There have been many advances in braces now, and we don’t even need to use wires to achieve the desired look. Invisalign and other invisible brace techniques allow people to straighten their teeth without having to have people see the braces on their teeth. This is extremely important for people who might be getting braces later in life.
The possibilities of braces are vast, and the technology is only going to keep improving.
Written by Dr. Darren Wittenberger, the best orthodontist Columbia MO has to offer, and owner of his own practice, Advance Orthodontics. Dr. Wittenberger enjoys sharing his expertise to ensure people can maintain the healthiest, straightest teeth possible!