In 1669, the French dentist Pierre Fauchard, who is often credited with inventing modern orthodontics, published a book entitled The Surgeon Dentist on methods of straightening teeth. Modern braces were invented in 1819 by Christophe-Francois Delabarre. The French had evolved the field of dentistry in the 1700s, with notable advances that included personalized mouth guards and the removal of wisdom teeth to achieve overcrowding. However, it was Delabarre who created the precursor of braces as we know them today.
He devised a woven wire or 'cradle' fitted over the upper and lower teeth and was used for an extended period of time to straighten the teeth over time. At the beginning of the 20th century, the term became popular. However, braces were still expensive and not everyone could afford them. Dentists would wrap bands made of assorted materials around the teeth, which would then be connected by a cable.
Most dentists would use ivory, copper, or zinc as cables. But patients who could afford expensive treatments preferred silver or gold wires. Although gold wires would require frequent adjustments, as gold softens due to heat. The field of orthodontics may seem like a modern invention, with popular orthodontic treatments such as braces almost a “rite of passage into the modern world”.
The world of orthodontics saw considerable advances that ultimately led to the invention of modern orthodontic appliances. The Surgeon Dentist documented numerous topics in general dentistry, but what made the book stand out in the world was a particular chapter dedicated to orthodontics. Traditional orthodontic appliances are usually worn for two to two and a half years, depending on the extent of orthodontic treatment needed. Fast forward to the early 19th century, modern orthodontics emerged as a viable practice with the introduction of the first wire elastics for cribs and gums.
However, it was the occlusion (bite) that gave orthodontics its scientific basis and the reason it has progressed to the advanced technology available today with traditional metal braces, transparent braces and transparent aligners called Invisalign. Exploring the history of orthodontic appliances can not only alleviate some of the fear and emotions surrounding this sometimes intimidating dental device, but it can also be interesting to see how braces have progressed and improved over the years. While the name may remain the same as the technique used in modern dentistry, the technique and devices used in orthodontics advanced considerably during the 20th century. Because braces require regular adjustment (in addition to the initial application), the cost of orthodontic treatment is somewhat higher than many simple dental procedures.
Angle designed many orthodontic appliances and is largely credited with the evolution of orthodontic treatment from a speculative process to a demanding science. Before the 1970s, orthodontists wrapped metal around teeth because they lacked dental adhesives. This metal could eliminate the need for people to undergo multiple orthodontic visits just to realign or tighten their braces. Orthodontists predict that the popularity of seeking orthodontic treatment will only increase as both the cost and duration of treatment decrease.
Even orthodontic appliances in the 1950s did not show much change, although the practice became more common and orthodontists became increasingly skilled at wrapping teeth with metal. Universities around the world have continued this training ever since, with graduating specialists now known as orthodontists. While very crude in nature for orthodontic treatment today, Egyptian mummies were found with metal bands around their teeth and archaeologists believe they used cat gut to attach the bands and move them. .
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