History of Braces: They Used to Do What?

I think it’s safe to say that we all know orthodontics has come a long way. But do we know just HOW far the technology has progressed? You won’t believe how it all started out.

The concept of teeth straightening is not a new one. In fact, historians believe that braces actually date back to ancient times. Both Hippocrates and Aristotle tested theories relating to the teeth straightening around 400-300 BC. Mummies of our ancient ancestors have been discovered with metal bands wrapped around their teeth. And get this: at one point catgut was used as a way of closing gaps in the teeth and mouth. That’s right, actual fibres from the intestines of animals played the role of “braces.” Whoa!

Around the world, different civilizations toyed with similar ideas. The Ancient Italians buried the dead with dental appliances in place. These were intended to maintain space and to prevent the collapse of the teeth during the afterlife. Roman tombs have even been found with teeth bound by gold wires. Talk about high priority.

The 1700’s brought about the idea of the “bandeau.” This was a horseshoe shaped piece of iron used to expand the arch. This was also the time that the recommendation for extraction of premolar teeth was given to help alleviate crowding and to improve jaw growth - something still considered beneficial in some cases today...

Orthodontics as its own science finally emerged in the mid 19th century. Here, wire cribbing and gum elastics were employed. The idea to use mild force at timed intervals to move the teeth came about. Thank you, modern scientists. We’ve been advancing from here ever since!

Classification systems now tell us just how crooked our teeth are, which direction they are pointing, and how they fit together. Not to mention the heaps of different options we have to choose from: clear braces, clear aligners, self-ligating braces, and even hidden (lingual) braces. Which leads to the moral of the story: next time you get those braces adjusted, keep braces history in mind and be thankful you’re not chewing on cat intestines!