The Early History of Dental Braces

Dental braces are very common in today’s society – so common that you’d hardly believe that they had been in use since ancient times. It sounds very bizarre and somewhat unrealistic that braces were envisioned before medieval times. However, even in the old century, humans had clear and purposeful intentions – they desired a straight tooth and a perfect smile. Before we study the history of braces, let us look at the basics to understand how they work.

The science of braces

Braces are designed with engineering principles. If you apply a constant, mild, and calculated pressure on the teeth, they will most likely move in the correct position. The wires are the force generator, and they apply this force to the periodontal ligament that binds the teeth together. And because of their high sensitivity, using excessive force in a short period can cause tooth loss. As such, braces are maintained for as long as enough to slight change every 30 days until the teeth retain their correct position.

Braces in ancient times

It is more than fascinating that we humans envisioned crooked teeth correcting thousands of years ago. According to archaeological studies, several mummified skeletons were discovered with pieces of metal attached to their teeth. ‘Cat gut’ – a strong cord made from the skin of animals was attached to the teeth as well (as discovered by researchers).

The first documentation

Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a citizen of the ancient Roman empire, documented his efforts at straightening his teeth. He did this by applying pressure to his teeth at regular intervals using his hands. He reported some measure of success. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to back up his findings now.

Mummies discovered in Egyptian tombs had gold wires bound to their teeth.


There were no advancements in teeth straightening until the 18th century when Pierre Fauchard, in 1728, wrote a book titled “The Surgeon Dentist.” In the book, Fauchard discussed a Bandeau device that resembled a mouthguard and helped position the teeth correctly. In 1757, Pierre Bourdet improved on the bandeau device. He discovered that one could remove the rear wisdom teeth to avoid overcrowding the teeth.

Here’s what happened before anyone knew about braces

Before ‘braces’ became popular, the orthodontic world saw a lot of advances. Here’s a brief history:

1819 – Christophe-Francois Delabarre invented a wire crib (a half-circle device). The wire crib was designed to be placed on the teeth.

1843 – Dr. Edward Maynard attached a gum elastic to the wiring inside the mouth. This helped ease the movement and make the patients more comfortable during treatment.

1850 – E. J. Tucker elaborated the braces by cutting the rubber tubing and fitting it comfortably inside the mouth.

1864 – S. C. Barnum invented the dental rubber dam. The rubber dental dam is a latex sheet designed to keep the teeth dry while an orthodontist works on it.

1893 – Henry Baker invented the “Bake anchorage” that helped combine the rubber tubing with the wire crib. There was no longer a need to remove molar teeth to create space for other teeth during straightening.

1894 – Eugene Talbot introduced X-rays into orthodontics. This prevented the impaction of teeth that were out of sight.

Braces became famous in 1900

The term ‘braces’ became popular in the early 1900s. However, they were out of the reach of ordinary folks (due to their very high cost at the time). Instead, dentists usually wrapped bands produced from different materials around the teeth. These bands would then be linked to each other by a wire. Most dentists used zinc, copper, or ivory as wires. However, patients who could afford expensive treatments preferred gold or silver wires. However, the problem with gold wires was that they would require frequent adjustments because gold grows soft due to heat.

Breakthroughs in 1970

The most significant breakthrough recorded in the 1970s was the invention of a dental adhesive to hold brackets above the teeth. With the dental sealants, the treatment became less painful and more comfortable. As technology advanced, silver, gold, and other metals were replaced by stainless steel, improving convenience and affordability.

Modern clear aligners were invented in 1997

Modern clear aligners are the brainchild of Zia Chishti, a graduate of Stanford who wore braces growing up. He imagined an innovative alternative to conventional metal braces. The new option would be invisible, have a clear design, and provide the straightening action of metal braces without the need for regular adjustments. This led to the birth of the Invisalign system. The Invisalign system was invented in 1997 but was not available until 2001.

Clear aligners? What are they?

Clear aligners are a new method of straightening the teeth without braces. Clear aligners correct mild to moderate dental issues with greater efficiency. They are so efficient that they’ve become the first options for most adults looking to straighten their teeth.

How do they work?

Clear aligners and orthodontic braces work the same way. They push your teeth into the correct position. But this doesn’t happen suddenly. Instead, the process of shifting occurs gradually.

One of the significant differences between clear aligners and other options is that clear aligners do not use wires and brackets. Also, you don’t have to pay regular visits to your dentist for adjustment. Instead, you’ll get a replacement every two weeks. Every new clear aligner that you wear creates a new position for your teeth to move into.

Clear aligners must be worn for 22 hours daily to enjoy their full benefits.

The following conditions can be treated with clear aligners:

  • Teeth gaps
  • Crowding issues
  • Issues with spacing

Merits of clear aligners

Modern dental technology has improved orthodontics such that teeth straightening no longer interferes with one’s social or professional life. Clear aligners have the following advantages:

  • They are cost-effective. They are 70% less expensive than braces
  • The teeth straightening process is faster with clear aligners compared to braces. You can have your teeth straightened within 4 – 6 months compared to 2+ years for traditional braces.
  • Clear aligners are near invisible
  • They are comfortable and can be removed with ease
  • There’s usually no need for in-office dental appointments

Beam clear aligners

Beam clear aligners have a mission to make dental care more accessible and affordable to all Australians. Beam clear aligners are your best bet for a perfect smile.

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