As long as mankind has existed, tooth problems and mis-alignments have been an issue. Unfortunately, the most ancient of human ancestors had to make due with these problems, finding their own isolated means of dealing with the issue. Indeed, it was only around 400-300 BCE when the most rudimentary concept of orthodontics came into theory. Both Hippocrates and Aristotle acknowledged the issue and ruminate on ways to straighten teeth. We know these details thanks to archaeological evidence of metal bands bound around one or more teeth. Further evidence indicates that catgut was applied to dental work in a manner similar to the wires of modern orthodontia, drawing teeth cloth enough to shorten or seal gaps within a smile or mouth.
The Etruscan people were willing to perform orthodontic work on their dead, relying on various practices to maintain the shape of teeth post mortem in order to prevent skulls from caving in. One Roman tomb was discovered with several teeth bound with gold ligature wire. The great Egyptian ruler Cleopatra was also known to have a pair of primitive braces. Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a philosopher and physician of Ancient Rome, holds the distinction of performing the first dental treatment via finger pressure. Sadly, most orthodontic care and technology remained relatively stunted and scattershot in its success until the 18th Century.
The First Big Push
1728 would be when Pierre Fauchard, a French dentist well-regarded as the father of modern orthodontics, would publish “The Surgeon Dentist.” This medical text explained various approaches to the straightening of teeth. Fauchard would apply a device known as a “bandeau,” an iron piece of equipment resembling a horseshoe, to widen his patient’s dental palates. 26 years later, Louis Bordet, the personal dentist to France’s king, would author a supplementary text to Fauchard’s treatise. Bordet’s book, “The Dentist’s Art” also included a chapter on the applications of tooth correction. Bordet also mastered the applications of the bandeau and was the first dentist to support the practice of extracting premolars in order to mitigate crowding and to bolster development of the jaw.
The Next Big Step
Sure, mankind had stumbled onto ways of straightening or pulling teeth in order to better align a bite, but orthodontics, as a discipline, did not come into the fore until the middle of the 1800s. Considering that the 19th Century is when the Industrial Revolution occurred, it makes sense that many new implements and devices related to braces would come into existence.
- 1819. The wire crib is introduced, beginning the discipline of modern orthodontics.
- 1843. Gum elastics see their first uses.
- 1850. Rubber bands are cut from rubber tubes.
- 1858. Rennaisance man Norman William Kingsley pens the first article dedicated to orthodontics.
- 1880. Kingsley releases “Treatise on Oral Deformities.”
- 1889. J.J. Guilford publishes the first textbook on pediatric orthodontics.
- In addition to writing two volumes on the topic, John Nutting Farrar holds the distinction of being the first dentist to use mild force in a rhythm to move teeth.
When Things Get Familiar
If there is one name to know within the field of modern orthodontics, especially considering the discipline is focused on alignment, that name would be Edward Angle. Angle is responsible for coming up with the system of classifying malocclusion, misaligned jaw lines, early into the 20th Century. Angle’s system remains the industry standard to this very day. Beyond just coming up with a classification system to better assess a patient’s dental needs, Angle did much to the designs and appliances of orthodontic work, often simplifying old designs. Angle founded the first educational institution for orthodontics, established the American Society of Orthodontia (ASO) in 1901 and the first journal dedicated to orthodontia in 1907. The ASO would later evolve from a society into an association (AAO) in the ’30s.