I am sure many of you are wondering what braces looked like in the early 1900’s. They were composed of a variety of materials such as, gold, platinum, silver, steel, gum rubber, vulcanite and occasionally wood, ivory, zinc, copper and brass. These materials were used to form loops, hooks, spurs, and ligatures. Gold was the most common material used for wires and bands. Unfortunately, it was quite expensive and only a small number of individuals could afford treatment.
In the 1960’s, stainless steel began being the material of choice for orthodontic appliances. This greatly reduced the cost and made orthodontics more obtainable for a greater number of individuals. Most of the appliances consisted of bands being placed around every tooth and aligned with wires. Bends were placed in the wire in order to move each tooth to its correct position. This was extremely time consuming.
As you can see from the pictures above, bands were placed around every tooth until the mid 1970’s. Although brackets had been around since the late 1960’s, there was no way to attach them to the teeth. That was until the discovery of dental adhesives which allowed for the brackets to be placed directly on the teeth instead of using bands or wires wrapped around each tooth.
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Edward Hartley Angle
Many individuals have made contributions to the field of orthodontics but one individual stands above the rest when considering who has had the greatest influence in this field of study. Edward H. Angle is thought to be “The Father of Orthodontics”. In 1887 he published the first classification of bite abnormalities in his “Notes on Orthodontia” with occlusion being his primary focus on diagnosis. His classification was dependent on the position of the maxillary first molar in relation to the mandibular first molar. This classification system is still used today (Class I, Class II, Class III). This classification allowed dentists to describe how misaligned teeth are aligned, what way teeth are pointing, and how they fit together.
In 1899 he established the first school of orthodontics in St. Louis. He introduced photography into orthodontics, organized the beginnings of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) and founded the first orthodontic journal in 1907. He is credited with making many recommendations and changes to the first orthodontic appliances used in the United States. He also played a part in the first specialty board in dentistry. In 1929 the American Board of Orthodontics was established.
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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As far back as the ancient Egyptians, humans have had the desire for straight teeth. Archeologists have accumulated artifacts from preserved corpses and mummies that demonstrate the efforts of the ancient Egyptians to control and align teeth. The first evidence we have of people trying to straighten or align teeth is from 1,000 B.C. The Greeks and Etruscans attempted to push or pull teeth by wrapping metal bands and wires around them in hopes of improving their appearance. However, we have no way of knowing if these efforts were successful. It does show that dating back to ancient times, humans did understand the basic concept and ability of moving teeth with pressure over time.
Hippocrates and Aristotle even contemplated ways to align teeth, but it wasn’t until around the birth of Jesus Christ that the first recorded efforts to improve tooth alignment were discovered. Anulus Cornelius Celsus, a writer in the Roman Empire, prescribed the removal of milk (baby) teeth to help facilitate the eruption of the permanent teeth. He also prescribed finger pressure on a daily basis to the erupting permanent teeth to help assure their alignment. Gaius Plinius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Elder, suggested instead of applying pressure to the teeth, that they be filed down to better align them with the surrounding teeth. This method was used for more than 1,200 years.
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