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1810 E NOB HILL ST SE
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History of Orthodontics


Your smile is the first thing that people notice about you. Moreover, the first thing they see when you smile is your teeth. Having beautifully white, perfectly straight teeth smiles at you that people will not soon forget. At the same time, having crooked, gapped, or overcrowded teeth, or a misaligned jaw, also leaves an impression, just not usually the one you want. On top of the impact on the appearance of your smile, crooked teeth can also severely impact your oral health, causing bruxism, uneven tooth wear, and serious jaw pain, among other issues.

This concern over the appearance is far from new. When most people think about correcting crooked teeth, their minds instantly go to shiny metal braces. While this treatment has been around for several decades, treatment for correcting misalignment started much earlier. At Amborn Orthodontics, we provide the orthodontic treatments you need for the correction of crooked teeth and jaws, helping to restore your smile as well as your oral health. Here is a look at the history of this treatment.

Modern Metal Braces


When most people think about braces, the first thing that pops into the mind is the metal brackets and wires that are attached to the teeth, which then leaves you with a shiny, metallic smile. Metal braces have been around for several decades. They can be used to treat misaligned teeth, a crooked jaw, or both. Braces have commonly been thought of as a cosmetic treatment, correcting the appearance of your smile, but they do have benefits for your oral health as well. In correcting misalignment, and restoring a natural bite, issues such as bruxism, jaw pain, and even an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease can be eased and eliminated.

Metal braces consist of three basic pieces:
•  Brackets. The brackets are small pieces of metal that are attached to the surfaces of the teeth with special dental cement. They remain in place throughout the duration of treatment.
•  Bands. Metal bands are slipped on to each of the very back teeth and are designed to hold the wires in place.
•  Archwires. The archwires, often simply called wires, span across the teeth, attached to each bracket with an elastic O-ring. The O-rings are available in a multitude of colors, which gives patients an opportunity to customize the appearance. The archwires are responsible for the movement of the teeth. They place gentle pressure on each tooth, which forces the periodontal ligaments to widen. The teeth, now loose, are moved to where they need to go and held securely in place while the ligaments and be bone reform around the tooth. The entire process can take up to a few years to complete.

While these components are the basic pieces of braces, there are other components that may be used depending on your specific situation. These components consist of rubber bands, coil springs, power chains, springs, and more. These parts are not used when you have a specific need that requires additional assistance.

The First Hints of Orthodontics


It is possible that the first attempts at orthodontics date back to the Egyptians. In their digs, archaeologists have uncovered several mummies that have the remains of a cord made from animal intestines, similarly running along the teeth to modern orthodontic wires. This is believed to be an attempt to close gaps in the teeth.

Others have found Etruscan remains with dental appliances in the mouth. The Etruscans had extensive preparations for burials, and it is believed that this appliance, called a bridge, was part of that ritual. They believe that the bridge was placed to prevent the jaw from collapsing in to keep the body looking good for the afterlife. Interestingly, only female remains have been found with these devices, hinting that concerns about beauty date back thousands of years.

Ancient Greece and Rome


The earliest mention of dental irregularities dates back to 400 BC, in the writings of Hippocrates. The first treatments for dental irregularities, however, were recorded by a Roman writer by the name of Celsus, who studied and discovered new medical procedures. He kept a record of all of his work, and this includes the first known attempt at straightening crooked teeth using finger pressure.

The 18th Century and the Father of Orthodontia


There was very little progress in the dental field throughout the middle ages. All sciences, including dentistry, fell into a period of decline. It was not until the 18th century that dentistry and orthodontics began to gain steam.

The country leading the way at this time was France. This has a lot to do with the work of one man, Pierre Fauchard, who became known as the Father of Orthodontia. In 1728, he published a book called The Surgeon Dentist, which covered a variety of dental topics. The chapter that stood out, however, was the one on orthodontics. The chapter covered several methods for straightening teeth, but the one that made the book stand out was the concept of the bandeau. This dental device, which resembled a horseshoe in shape, was a metal expansion device that was tied to the teeth. It worked to keep the natural arch, and mouth, in place.

In 1757, the dentist to the king of France, Pierre Bourdet, wrote a medical book called The Dentist’s Art. A portion of the book explored different ways in which the alignment of the teeth could be improved. One of his theories involved tooth extraction to prevent overcrowding. Another theory used the bandeau idea put forth by Fauchard and improved upon it. He was also the first to use lingual devices to expand the arch.

The Beginning of Modern Braces


The 19th century saw a significant number of advances in the field of orthodontics that would eventually bring about the braces we are most familiar with. In 1819, Christophe-Francois Delabarre created the first wire crib, a half circle device that was placed directly on the teeth. He also used wooden wedges that he would place between crowded teeth, which he would swell with water to relieve overcrowding.

In 1843, Dr. Edward Maynard introduced gum elastics to correct jaw alignment. Elastics were attached to wires to correct the jaw slowly. This idea was later improved upon by E.J. Tucker in 1850. Tucker used small bands cut from rubber tubing.

In 1864, latex sheets known as dental dams were introduced. These sheets keep the teeth dry during dental procedures, including during the application of braces.

In 1893, many of the concepts developed during the century were combined into a single treatment by Henry Baker, bringing about the Baker anchorage. He combined rubber tubing with the wire cage. In doing so, the need to extract several teeth to improve alignment was eliminated.

The following year, in 1864, Eugene Talbot was the first dentist to start using X-rays for planning orthodontic treatment. The X-rays were used to find teeth hidden below the gum line. Talbot thought that extracting these hidden teeth could help to prevent overcrowding issues.

The First Braces


Braces were not a term until the 20th century. Now, the braces from the beginning of the 20th century were vastly different from the ones we know today. The teeth were individually wrapped with their chosen material, and then a wire would be used to connect each band. In adjusting the wire, pressure could be applied to the teeth to move them into proper alignment. The bands were made from different materials, as there were no specific standards at that time. Some dentists would use wood; others might use copper. Others still might have used ivory. The materials varied from dentist to dentist based on their preference, their geographic location, and the budget of their patient. However, many dentists preferred using gold, as this material becomes quite flexible when it is heated. Gold could be used to make a variety of different things, including wires, clasps, and bands. While the preferred material, there was one major downside. Gold was very expensive and not many patients seeking orthodontic treatment could afford it. Silver was often used in its place, is far more affordable. Silver is not as flexible, but it provided a much better alternative to some of the other less forgiving materials used at the time.

Major Changes in the 70s


After the development of braces at the beginning of the 20th century, not much changed. Treatment using these methods continued for seven decades. It was the 1970s that began to see major advances in braces and orthodontic treatment. One of the biggest developments during this time was the use of a dental cement to secure the brackets to the teeth. This concept eliminated the need to wrap individual bands of material around each tooth. Along with the use of dental cement, ties and elastic ligatures were also being brought into use to help secure braces to the teeth.

The 1970s also saw the replacement of gold and silver wires with stainless steel ones. While stainless steel had been introduced in the 60s, it was not until the 70s that it picked up steam, becoming popular with those practicing orthodontics. Stainless steel had advantages for everyone. Practitioners liked the material due to its flexible nature. Patients enjoyed it because it was a much gentler on the wallet.

Along with all of these major advances, the 1970s also saw the first attempts at creating invisible braces, to address the cosmetic concerns that metal braces often brought up. Both the United States, along with Japan played around with the idea that braces could be worn on the insides of the teeth, the first efforts at lingual braces. By placing the brackets and wires on the backsides of the teeth, the appearance of the smile is not affected by shiny pieces of metal that can quickly detract from your smile.

The Development of Alternatives to Metal Braces


While the metal braces we all know today are highly effective at correcting the alignment of the teeth and jaws, not everyone is keen on the idea of having a mouthful of metal to achieve the smile of their dreams. Over the last few decades, there have been numerous advancements being made to bring about more aesthetic alternatives to the bright metal brackets and wires.

One of the first was lingual braces in the 70s. With this treatment method, the brackets and wires are placed on the back of the teeth, keeping the fronts of your teeth clear of the obstructive metal. In the 1980s, the idea of ceramic and clear braces came along. Both of these treatments involve the use of a tooth-colored or clear material used for the brackets, as well as the wires. These types of braces work exactly like metal braces; only they are far less obvious to those around you.

The 1990s saw the beginning of a truly innovative orthodontic treatment, clear aligners. Many are familiar with the Invisalign brand, but there are several others out there today. With this treatment, a series of clear, rigid plastic aligners are used to straighten your crooked teeth. Once they are set in place over the teeth, they disappear from view. It is very difficult to tell if you are wearing them. Even the earliest aligners in the 90s used 3D technology to create a series of custom aligners for each patient. Each set of aligners is often worn for a period of two weeks before switching to the next set. Each set is different from the one before it, as the rigid plastic works to shift your teeth into proper alignment. Another desirable feature of clear aligners is that they are removable, unlike metal braces. The aligners can easily be slipped off to eat as well as to brush and floss your teeth, meaning no restrictions on your eating and easier oral care. Treatment with aligners also tends to be quicker than with metal braces. Today, the popularity of clear aligners has risen significantly as a way to straighten the teeth without the embarrassing metal mouth.

When orthodontic treatment first began taking off, the treatments were reserved for the wealthy, or for those with extreme alignment issues. Today, braces are a routine treatment that can benefit just about anyone with crooked teeth. With the variety of options available today, patients can find a treatment that best suits their specific needs. Even though orthodontic treatment has come a long way in 3,000 years, there is still research and development being done to further improve orthodontics and find other alternatives. For more information on available orthodontic treatments and how they can benefit you, call Amborn Orthodontics at (503) 967-9887 today.

1810 E Nob Hill St SE, Salem, OR 97302

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(503) 967-9887


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