CAN YOU IMAGINE an Ancient Egyptian in braces? Are you picturing an appliance made out of metal bands and catgut? That’s right; the practice of straightening misaligned teeth has been around since ancient times! So how did we get from there to the braces of today?
Evidence suggests that those braces made of catgut and metal bands were likely only used as part of a burial ritual, to make sure the dead person’s teeth looked nice for the afterlife. Similar burial rituals were performed in Ancient Greece and by the Etruscans.
The first time braces were used to straighten the teeth of the living was in Ancient Rome, around 400 BC. 400 years later, Aulus Cornelius Celcus theorized that teeth could be guided into place by applying hand pressure in the right direction as they grow in, but modern orthodontic research doesn’t support this.
Braces And The Industrial Revolution
Not much changed in orthodontics until the 18th century, when Pierre Fauchard created the first known modern braces. His invention, the bandeau, was a horseshoe-shaped piece of metal with holes throughout it, held in place by silk threads. He also tried tying teeth together in an effort to get them to stay put while they healed. Christophe-François Delabarre tried separating crowded teeth by putting wooden wedges between each tooth. Yikes!
The Emergence Of Modern Day Braces
In 1822, J.S. Gunnell invented occipital anchorage (the first form of headgear), but the man considered to be the father of modern orthodontics was Edward Hartley Angle. Angle formally identified different types of malocclusions (bad bites) and developed appliances to correct them beginning in 1880.
Through all these developments, early orthodontists were still limited by technology. They didn’t have bonding agents that could allow front-mounted brackets like in today’s braces, so moving teeth required wrapping metal completely around each tooth. That all changed when dental adhesive hit the scene, and the development of stainless steel in the ’70s also made braces more affordable because they no longer had to be made out of silver or gold.
Finally, invisible aligners hit the scene in the late ’90s.