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A Brief History of Dental Braces

Archeologists have found early evidence of orthodontic treatment in ancient Egyptian mummies! Clearly, the desire for straighter teeth is in no way just a modern occurrence. Luckily, our solutions these days are a bit more high-tech than the simple wire or catgut found in the mouths of mummies…

While people have been attempting various methods to straighten their teeth for centuries, dental braces as we know and understand them are a relatively recent invention. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1819 that the familiar system of wire brackets and cribs was developed. Elastics came around 1843. The first article on what we understand as modern orthodontics was penned in 1859.

Early Attempts at Dental Braces

Throughout history, different materials have been used for dental braces. These include metal, wood, and rubber. The first braces were used in ancient Egypt. This type of orthodontia was crude, but it is thought that it was able to create a straight smile. These early straighteners were made of various materials, including wire, copper, and wood.

Then came the Romans, who were the first to use fine gold wire. This wire was soft and flexible enough to be easily moulded at low temperatures and placed on the teeth.

The 18th century saw the birth of modern orthodontics. The father of orthodontics, Edward Angle, developed many different types of braces. He believed that orthodontics needed specialised training and that the procedure should be based on science. He established a postgraduate program dedicated to orthodontics.

In the 19th century, orthodontists sometimes used ivory or brass. The early orthodontists anchored the brackets with wires that would go around each tooth. This was designed to keep the teeth in place over time. Then, they would tighten the wires to make adjustments, as with more modern metal braces.

Developments in Dental Brace Placement

Despite the advances in technology, the history of dental braces has not been without its challenges. For example, many people dislike the aesthetics of traditional metal braces, finding them unsightly and distracting. Lingual braces, attached to the back side of the teeth and therefore invisible, provided a solution to cosmetic complaints. However, it took a long time for the idea to fully catch on.

Lingual braces were first introduced in the United States in the 1970s by orthodontist Craven Kurz. He and Jim Mulick, his partner from the UCLA School of Dentistry, sought out a dental company to help develop a prototype.

Initially, only a few orthodontists used lingual braces in their practices. These orthodontists had concerns about the invasive nature of the braces. The high profile of the brackets also caused problems with chewing, as evidenced by reports of irritation on the tongues and in the mouths of patients.

Eventually, orthodontists made significant advances in new techniques. Today, lingual braces are a discreet and effective method of straightening teeth.

From Metal to Plastic

Despite the decades-long popularity of traditional braces, the invention of Invisalign in the early 2000s dramatically changed the orthodontics industry. It offered an aesthetic alternative to metal braces that were both easy to use and comfortable for the patient. Invisalign quickly became one of the most popular orthodontic treatments available. This breakthrough in orthodontics was created by Zia Chishti, a computer science student at Columbia University. A wearer of braces himself, he was unsatisfied with his metal orthodontia and wanted to create a clear alternative. He teamed up with another Stanford MBA student, Kelsey Wirth, to develop the concept for Invisalign. Their product, the Invisalign tray, would correct crooked teeth, open bites, and spacing issues. Clear plastic aligners are incredibly popular today, providing a comfortable and nearly invisible method of tooth realignment.

How Can We Help?

We want all our patients to be happy with their appearance while undergoing orthodontic treatment. Not only that, but we also want our patients to be comfortable. That’s why we offer the latest in orthodontic treatments, ranging from traditional metal braces in funky colours and designs to clear aligners designed with the help of robotics and computer scans. We will provide a full examination and help you decide on the best course of treatment for your needs.

To learn more about the treatments we offer, please see here.

To schedule a consultation, please call 03 9330 0702 or get in touch here.