Flashback: What Orthodontics Was Like Before Technology

Gone are the days of fear when children are told they need to seek orthodontic treatment. As technology has evolved, the world of orthodontics has seen vast changes in the way patients are treated. Clear aligners have replaced traditional metal braces that gave the idea of going to the orthodontist the first step in the demise of your reputation. Embarrassing nicknames such as metal mouth and tin mouth are no longer something that children fear, and the fear of getting braces has diminished as well. While orthodontic treatment was once known as a cosmetic luxury, the shift in viewing it as a necessity came with modern practice.

The First Sign of Orthodontics

Studies have shown that the obsession with having the perfect smile is dated back to the early 1800s, but small glimpses of what might have been dental appliances can be seen all the way back during the times of the Egyptians. Many mummies in Egypt have what seemed to be an attempt to close the gaps in their teeth. These were made from animal intestines wrapped around the teeth like how wires are used in modern day orthodontic appliances. Greek dental appliances were early as 1000 B.C. Part of the Etruscans, the predecessors of Romans in Italy, involved mouth guards in their burial ritual to keep them looking good in the afterlife. The evolution of the modern orthodontic dental devices was dated back to the Romans.

Advances in Braces

The term braces was coined in the early 1900s. While the name remains the same, the technique and devices used in orthodontics advanced since the 20th century. Dentists wrapped individual bands around each tooth. The band was connected by a wire and pressure would be applied to the teeth to move them together. Dentists used many different materials including ivory, wood, copper, and zinc. Until the 1970s, braces remained the same. Breakthrough techniques were discovered now and dental adhesive was introduced to hold brackets to the teeth. The first attempt at invisible braces occurred at this time as dental braces were applied to the inside of the teeth instead of the outside.

Today’s Orthodontics

Over the next 20 years, the perfection of the invisible braces lead to an increased popularity in finding a straighter smile. Originally reserved for the rich or extreme cases, braces have emerged to be part of a routine dental procedure that children and adults undergo on a regular basis. Currently over four million individuals in the United States undergo some type of orthodontic treatment. As its popularity increased, orthodontic treatment became popular in adulthood, not just among children.

While braces have come a long way since the days of using animal intestines to straighten teeth, it is predicted that orthodontic treatment still has room to grow. A look into the future of orthodontics could include special heat-activated, nickel titanium metal discovered by NASA. At the very least, we can expect to see a decrease in cost and length of treatment as time goes on.