Looking around, you’ll agree with me that there have been plenty of modern developments in orthodontics. But then, it is important to note that the quest for perfect teeth began a long time ago. While the idea for a perfect smile may differ between cultures and times, teeth straightening ideas bite correction remains pretty much the same. In this article, I will share some interesting and engaging information about the history of orthodontics and when clear aligners were invented (it’s not as far back as you think).
Humans have experienced dental problems long before recorded history. In fact, the earliest history of orthodontics (or something close to it) comes from Etruscans, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.
Archeologists have discovered bodies (and mummies!) with gold or metal wire wrapped through and around their teeth. While this may sound like present day braces, it is important to note that they were mostly used to preserve teeth and keep them in place for burial ceremonies rather than improving their bite while alive.
Ancient Egyptians also had metal bands around their teeth. According to a study published in The American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, these bands were made from the guts of animals. It is important to note that these bands may have helped in applying pressure to the teeth, much like modern braces.
In 400 B.C., Hippocrates, the Greek Philosopher wrote some of the first categorizations of tooth disease. Progress in orthodontics was not made until centuries later when Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a Roman author applied pressure on the teeth using his finger. Application of the pressure helped to reposition teeth over time. Around the same period in Rome, the earlies version of teeth filling was invented by Pliny the Elder. With this method, damaged teeth could be filled to their original size.
Fun tip: Hippocrates is the foundation of modern medicine. His ideas are the basis for the famous Hippocratic oath.
17th and 18th centuries
The bulk of progress in orthodontics was done in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in Europe.
- Philip Pfaff and Matthaeus Purmann implemented early versions of dental impressions. This they did by taking plaster and wax to create molds from the teeth. This is as documented in the History of Orthodontics.
- Pierre Fauchard exerted a lot of influence in modern orthodontics. He receives credit for the invention of the bandeau, a metal appliance with a horseshoe shape that expands the palate. He is the author of The Surgeon Dentist, a book that has contributed much to orthodontics.
- Etiene Bourdet, dentist to the King of France also helped to lay the foundation of modern orthodontics. He helped to remedy tooth crowding by extracting teeth to create space. Bourdet wrote books that contributed a lot of knowledge to dentistry.
- The separation of overcrowding was spearheaded by Christophe-Francois Delabarre who inserted wedges and threads between spaces.
While these practices trended at the time, today, they would be considered extremely crude.
How has orthodontics fared in the United States?
Orthodontics, performed globally, was continued in the United States. Modern techniques continue to their more refined states.
- In 1822, J.S. Gunnell invented the occipital anchorage device. This was a predecessor to the headgear.
- According to reports by the NYU Dental School, Horace Hayden and Chapin Harris established the first school of dentistry. In addition, Harris published Harris’ Dental Art: A Practical Treatise of Dental Surgery.
- Edward Hartley Angle is believed to be the father of modern orthodontics. He accomplished a lot in the field of orthodontics, including the establishment of the first educational program to train dentists in the field of orthodontics. He also developed the prefabricated orthodontic appliance system.
Advances in modern technology
Advances in modern technology have opened the door for progress in orthodontics. Orthodontists are encouraged by progression in mining, manufacturing, fabrication, etc., to offer that unique smile with highly effective and exact appliances.
As reported by Columbia Surgery, X-rays were accidentally discovered by Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895. This technology increased the accuracy of orthodontic history, allowing dental professionals to have an unparalleled insight into your teeth’ shape, size, and layout. Considering this, it is no surprise that you’ll still receive x-rays to chart your orthodontic progress.
Material science has played an important role, enabling the creation of orthodontic appliances using stronger, better-looking, and safer materials (including ceramic brackets in braces). In the past, dental professionals attached teeth to brackets using wrapping wire. The invention of strong adhesives that allowed for direct fixation of brackets to teeth paved the way for the design and production of modern braces.
ICT and the computer revolution have also contributed to the evolution of orthodontics. Imaging technology is on the path of advancement, while 3D printing and computer modeling offer outstanding accuracy when used by fabrication labs and dental professionals.
Orthodontics is continually advancing, but there’s one lasting change that may not disappear anytime soon: the focus on straight teeth, an accurate bite, and a perfect smile.
Beam Clear Aligners: A Perfect Example of a Modern Clear Aligner
Beam Clear Aligners is in a class of its own. Other clear aligners are made from thermoplastic materials which are known to be stiff and can cause discomfort and pain. These materials are of lower grade and cannot offer the same consistent tooth moving force. These materials weaken as treatment progresses and may lower your chance of achieving a complete alignment. However, it is different with Beam. Beam Clear Aligners use premium Zendura FLX material. Its superior performance and comfort are attributed to its elastomeric inner layer housed in the unique dual shell construction.
This article originally appeared on the Beam clear aligner blog.