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The History of Braces & Who Invented Them

Teeth straightening methods have come quite a long way throughout the centuries! The concept of orthodontics and straightening teeth dates back to ancient times, but modern braces like those we offer at Brodie Bowman Orthodontics were not available until the last several decades. Here’s a brief history of braces and an introduction to the people who invented braces.

The Health of Teeth in Ancient Times

An ancient civilization known as the Etruscans lived in what is now modern-day Italy around 750 B.C. This was during the founding of the Roman Empire. The Etruscans were known for the sophisticated dental prosthetics they used to bury their dead. Gold bands were wrapped around the teeth to preserve space and keep the teeth and jaws from collapsing during death. 

Archaeologists have found mummified remains throughout the world with metal bands wrapped around the teeth. While these weren’t used during life to shape the teeth, they may have served as inspiration for modern dental devices.

In ancient Greece and Rome, even renowned philosophers like Aristotle and Hippocrates (era 400 and 300 B.C.) wrote about ways to treat dental conditions. Their writings show that even at this time in history, there was a significant interest in dental health and aesthetics.

18th-Century France: A Significant Time in the History of Braces

The 18th century was a major time for the world of orthodontics. Pierre Fauchard was a French dentist who is known today as the father of modern dentistry. In 1728, he published a book that described a method of teeth straightening. At this time, he also introduced his orthodontic appliance, the bandeau. This was a piece of iron shaped like a horseshoe that was designed to help align the teeth.

A few years later, another French dentist named Louis Bourdet enhanced the bandeau. In an influential 1754 book called “The Dentist’s Art,” he wrote about extracting premolars to help improve jaw growth and alleviate crowding issues. Not only were his writings innovative for the time, but they are also a staple of modern orthodontics. Pulling teeth to make room and preserve the health of the jaw is still a common practice in orthodontics.

The Invention of Orthodontic Braces by Norman W. Kingsley and Edward Angle

Orthodontic devices that are recognizable as modern braces first appeared in the 19th century. At this time, two American dentists, Norman W. Kingsley (known as the father of American orthodontics) and Edward Angle, made significant contributions.

Kingsley wrote “Treatise on Oral Deformities” in 1880. His writings helped develop the foundations of modern orthodontics and are still celebrated as essential to the field, but Angle was the one who worked tirelessly to solidify the design and use of orthodontic braces. 

He identified what caused misalignment of the teeth and categorized misalignments into classes that dentists still use today. Angle created the first simple and effective braces in 1915. These braces included a bracket and a band and formed the foundation of modern-day braces.

Evolution of Dental Braces

Of course, the evolution of dental braces didn’t stop in 1915. The entire 20th century marked major advancements in the types of braces available and teeth straightening techniques used. Dental braces evolved from bulky, uncomfortable designs to more comfortable, more effective, and less noticeable ones.

Metal braces, the traditional design, have been in use since the beginning of the 20th century. These braces consist of brackets attached to each tooth and connected through wires, quite similar to Angle’s design.

But in the 1970s, there was a significant leap forward in the world of orthodontics when dental adhesives were invented. These tools meant orthodontists could stick brackets directly onto the surface of the teeth rather than wiring them around each individual tooth. Stainless steel was also used rather than gold and silver as the primary braces material, which made braces more affordable and accessible to the general public. 

In the late 20th century, just a few decades ago, ceramic braces were introduced. These clear and less visible braces offered patients a more modern and aesthetic alternative. Then, 1999 saw the invention of Invisalign. 

Invisalign changed the game once again by offering a less noticeable teeth-straightening system that was removable for eating and cleaning. Invisalign has since become a highly desirable alternative to traditional metal or ceramic braces.

As you can see, deciding who invented braces isn’t simple. Instead, braces are the result of centuries of work and craftsmanship.

The Future of Braces and Orthodontics

The evolution of types of braces won’t stop at Invisalign; researchers are pursuing continued advancements for both braces and teeth straightening technologies in general.

In the last few years, artificial intelligence and 3D printing have influenced many industries, and orthodontics is no exception. Future orthodontists might use AI-powered predictions for tooth movement and smile aesthetics. Another innovation could be 3D printing of personalized braces, which will improve the efficiency of braces and the comfort of orthodontic treatments in general.

One thing that will likely remain the same is the foundational concept of braces: applying force to the teeth to move them into better alignment. This foundational concept is important not only for aesthetics but also for the general health of the mouth and jaw.

Modern Teeth Straightening in Fort Walton Beach, FL

The history of braces is a reminder that the journey to better oral health and aesthetics goes hand in hand with the evolution of science. It’s exciting to watch the field of orthodontics advance! At Brodie Bowman Orthodontics, we stay up to date on the most modern and effective tools possible to give our clients the best of the best. Contact us today for a braces consultation in Fort Walton Beach, FL.