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13 Strange and Interesting Facts from the History of Orthodontics

Braces and orthodontic appliances are a common sight these days. They used to be something only seen on teenagers, but now it is common to see children, teens, and even adults in their fifties and sixties wearing braces.

Is orthodontic treatment something only found in modern times?

Interestingly, no. History is full of strange and interesting Orthodontic facts.

1. Archeologists have discovered evidence that people in many cultures have used various methods of straightening teeth for the past few millennia. Crude appliances have been found on the teeth of ancient skulls found in Egypt, Greece, and the Mayan people in Mexico. Catgut (a type of cord made from animal’s intestines) and/or metal wires have been found wrapped around the teeth of human remains in these cultures.

2. Throughout history, people have used all kinds of materials as braces including gold, silver, copper, platinum, rubber, vulcanite, wood, and ivory.

3. The Etruscans, a civilization that lived in Italy as far back as 900 BC, buried their dead with gold bands around their teeth. They believed this would help maintain their teeth in the afterlife.

4. Hippocrates and Aristotle discussed ways to straighten teeth and fix dental conditions. A Roman named Aulus Cornelius Celsus recommended that caregivers of children use a finger to press on children’s new teeth every day. He believed this would help the teeth grow into their proper position.

5. Many of the ancient ideas and methods were lost, and dental practice was very primitive for centuries. Oftentimes rotting teeth were simply pulled. Another common treatment was bloodletting, which was a practice of removing blood from a patient to try to cure them.

6. One early dentist believed that misaligned teeth were hereditary, but he also stated that people who suffered from it were “neurotics, idiots, degenerates, or lunatics!”

7. Pierre Fauchard developed many techniques for straightening teeth, in the 18th century. He created a bandeau to expand the palate and anchored dentures to molars. He used forceps to create space between crowded teeth then tied the teeth to their neighbors until they healed. Fillings, braces, and the idea that children’s teeth would move easier than those of an adult were introduced by Fauchard. While he introduced many excellent ideas, some were not so wonderful. One of his more disgusting ideas was his recommendation that people gargle twice a day with freshly collected urine!

8. Over the next couple of hundred years, many advances were made in dentistry. Dental impressions, separating crowded teeth with swelling threads or wooden wedges, and headgear to apply gentle pressure to teeth were all developed during this time.

9. Edward Angle was the first orthodontist, a dentist who specializes in moving teeth and aligning jaws. While practicing in the late 1800s, he designed many orthodontic appliances, including brackets. Angle also founded the first college of orthodontics and organized a society that became the American Association of Orthodontists.

10. NASA developed nickel titanium for the space program. This alloy is heat activated and can return to its original shape after being deformed. This makes it perfect for braces since it can be bent into position, activated by body heat, and then remember its original shape to help move your teeth into the perfect position. Gold was previously used, but it is easily moved out of shape, so people had to get their braces adjusted much more often than they do today.

11. Believe it or not, Zia Chishti who imagined and created the basic design of Invisalign was not an orthodontist or scientist. He was a businessman who thought up the idea while wearing a retainer to complete his orthodontic treatment.

12. Recently, orthodontic treatment has become so commonly accepted that many people attempt DIY treatments. This is very dangerous and may cause problems years down the road. It could even cut off the blood supply to the pulp of the teeth, causing teeth to die and fall out. Think of braces as a high-tech tool. Orthodontists are trained for years in the best techniques for using this tool, and they are the ones who are trained to use this tool to create optimal results for each individual mouth. As with many other areas in life, it is worth the money to have a trained professional do the work!

13. Orthodontic treatments have greatly improved over the course of history, but perhaps one of the strangest facts is that most cavemen had better alignment and healthier teeth than modern humans. Our hunter-gather ancestors who lived more than 10,000 years ago had far healthier teeth and alignment than people from modern times. Daniel Lieberman, a paleoanthropologist at Harvard points out, “The jaws of hunter-gatherers nearly uniformly reveal roomy, perfect arches of well-aligned teeth, with no impacted wisdom teeth.”

How is it possible that with all our modern advances cavemen had healthier mouths than modern humans? This has to do with our lifestyle. The way we chew, breathe, and hold our jaws at rest have all changed as society has become increasingly more industrialized. One difference is that our food is softer and contains far more sugar and simple carbs. We also have tools to cut tougher foods (like meat) into smaller pieces. This means that we don’t need to chew as much, and our jaws don’t work as hard to chew. Over time, human jaws have become smaller, so our teeth are more crowded and crooked. Smaller jaws mean that airways and soft tissues of the mouth don’t develop as well, so many of us hold our mouths open to breathe, which only makes the problem worse.

Can this be changed? While some orthodontic problems can be prevented, many are genetic and require treatment. Luckily, modern advances have made orthodontic treatment much more simple, effective, and comfortable. If you need orthodontic treatment, please call us to schedule a complimentary consultation. We offer a wide range of corrective services and would be privileged to help you gain a healthy beautiful smile.

At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.

Call Us - (480) 759-1119

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