The Birth of Contemporary Orthodontics

early orthodontic braces

In 1819, Christophe-Francois Delabarre introduced the wire crib, which marked the birth of contemporary orthodontics. This appliance was the precursor of several of today’s appliances. Before the 1830’s there was no dental degree in the United States. All work in the mouth was done by physicians, barbers, or worse.

For all of you headgear fans, J.S. Gunnell in 1822 invented the first headgear appliance. It was crude in its appearance and he referred to it as occipital anchorage. The headgear appliance has undergone many changes over the years but the basic concept is still the same as you can see from the photo above.

In 1841 Joachim Lefoulon was the first to coin the term, orthodontoise which roughly translates to orthodontia. Which lead to the term used to day which is orthodontics.

In 1846, E.M. Tucker was the first to take advantage of Charles Goodyear’s invention of rubber by cutting small bands from rubber tubes and incorporating them in orthodontic treatment. So for all of you who have had the pleasure of wearing rubber bands during your orthodontic treatment, you now know who to thank.

Two individuals in the dental field who contributed significantly in the last half of the 19th century were Norman W. Kingsley and John Nutting Farrar. Kingsley had several innovations such as extracting teeth and retracting the upper anterior teeth into their place with headgear and being the first one to discuss the treatment of patients with cleft palate. He also wrote a text describing modern orthodontics titled “A Treatise on Oral Deformities”, in which he describes in detail that the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment plan should be the foundation for orthodontics. Farrar was the first to discuss the biology of tooth movement and the limits of the movement. He laid the foundation for “scientific” orthodontics. His Treatise on Irregualrities of Teeth and their Corrections in 1888 was considered the first great work exclusively in the field of orthodontics.

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