The History of Braces
Where did the concept of braces and straightening teeth originate? There is a long history to the development of modern orthodontics, and you won’t believe the places and time periods these prehistoric teeth straitening systems were found. The theme of the next few blogs I write will be this long, and pretty cool, history of orthodontics.
First, we are going to go way, way back into ancient times. Would you believe that some mummies have been found with metal bands wrapped around their teeth? It is surmised that these bands were used to close gaps between the teeth, so even in these early times it appears that people believed that straightening their teeth was an important thing. Since modern metals and technologies were not available to the Egyptians, it is believed that catgut (made from the intestines of a cat) was used to put the pull on these early braces to move the teeth and close the space.
Moving forward in time, the famous Greek philosophers Hippocrates and Aristotle were known to have spent some time thinking about ways to straighten teeth and correct dental issues. They thought about a lot of important things, so we are glad they gave some thought to orthodontics! The Etruscans, and then the Romans were also known to have used a version of braces as well. The Etruscan dead were found to be buried with metal bands placed around their teeth to maintain spacing in the afterlife. Some Roman remains were found with gold wire binding the teeth to keep them in place. Unfortunately, although there are likely many other examples, there isn’t a lot of evidence of early orthodontic care due to poor preservation of bodies and the limited nature of early technology. Interestingly, though, even in times B.C., the precursors to orthodontics were definitely around!
The version of orthodontics that we know today, however, got its start with a French dentist named Pierre Fauchard. He published a book called “The Surgeon Dentist” and developed a device he called a “Bandeau” which was a horseshoe-shaped metal appliance that helped to expand a narrow dental arch, opening space for crowded teeth. A short time later, another French dentist, Louis Bourdet, wrote a book called “The Dentist’s Art,” which included improvements on the “Bandeau” appliance as well as the first suggestion of the extraction of premolar teeth to open space for alignment. Bourdet was the dentist to the King of France, so he had some pretty important clientele!
As can be seen, although methods to improve alignment of remaining teeth were around since early times, the science of orthodontics did not really exist until the mid-1800s. That is where we will pick up on the next blog installment.