Ancient Orthodontia: The First Braces

Today, braces are used to treat misaligned teeth, helping many attain beautiful smiles that improve overall dental health. How did we get this technology? To answer that question, we have to look beyond the traditional braces in Forest Hills, NY, and gain an appreciation for the discoveries the orthodontists of ancient times made. Here’s a brief dental history lesson about braces.

The concept of straightening teeth can be traced back to ancient times. Some of the first instances of braces arise from the Ancient Egyptians, who used string crafted from animal intestines and attached them to teeth to keep them in place. The Etruscans, who preceded the Romans, used wire to craft mouth guards. These pieces kept the teeth of the deceased in place.

Aulus Cornelius Celsus, the writer of De Medicina, recorded a dental procedure for straightening teeth that involved applying finger pressure at regular intervals. Tombs during Celsus’s time show gold wire wrapped around teeth, suggesting a treatment that was derived from his recordings.

It wouldn’t be until the 18th century that traditional braces would begin development. During the European Enlightenment, French dentist Pierre Fauchard set the foundation for modern orthodontics. He developed a device called a “bandeau,” which expanded the palate and aided in teeth alignment. Louis Bourdet would later refine Dauchard’s methods and make improvements to the bandeau.

After the Enlightenment period, revolutionary developments in braces would follow, ultimately leading to the braces we use in orthodontics today. Of course, refinements and changes are made continuously to make orthodontic treatment faster, more effective, and more comfortable.


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