The History of Healthy, Straight Teeth

Humanity has always viewed straight teeth as aesthetically pleasing. Even before we knew anything about our own teeth, we understood that teeth looked better straight and healthy. Orthodontia may seem like a recent practice and study, but in fact, this form of medicine and cosmetic procedure has been around since ancient times.
In this blog, we will discuss how the practice of orthodontia has developed, and more importantly, where it is going. Today, roughly four million people in the United States wear braces, but that number is suspected to rise. We will be able to review the trends in orthodontia, and what innovations are making its practice far more popular as time progresses.

Ancient Orthodontia

It might seem like an odd concept, but while the ancient Egyptians were building pyramids, they also valued their own dental care as well. Naturally straight teeth are hard to come by, so it wasn’t a surprise to archaeologists when they found remains with crooked teeth. However, archaeologists were astounded when they found the remains of ancient Egyptians with their own orthodontia. Yes, the mummies that were found had their own set of braces; inside the mouth of the remains, archaeologists found crude metal bands around their teeth. Also, in the personal effects of the mummies found, explorers found the earliest models of a toothbrush. The findings have been studied and it was concluded that the Egyptians used these bands to provide pressure to the teeth to move them into place. Of course, only high born people had these bands, but the finding still leads us to believe that even in ancient times, straight teeth was a very desirable feature.
Even the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers studied humanity’s fascination with straight teeth. Hippocrates stated in multiple accounts of dental irregularities he saw during his time — and that was 400 B.C.! So, far beyond the time we believe orthodontia was invented, people have been noticing dental irregularities and wondering how to fix them. In fact, 400 years after Hippocrates, a Roman philosopher wrote that he hypothesized that you could fix dental irregularities by pushing your teeth into place. Of course, the idea of pushing your teeth into correct positions is not necessarily accurate but it does represent how ancient minds thought of ways to correct dental flaws.

17th and 18th Century Dental Care

Of course, the Middle Ages was a golden era for dental care. Though it might have seemed like dental care was not on the top of anyone’s priority list, the 18th century saw leaps and bounds in terms of dentistry. For instance, men like Pierre Fauchard pushed the boundaries of what was understood about teeth. In his life, Fauchard was able to innovate dental methods and explore basic oral anatomy. In his publishinging, he was able to find signs and symptoms of oral pathology and find ways to restore decayed and crooked teeth. During his years of studying teeth, Pierre Fauchard developed an appliance called the bandeau, whose primary purpose was to realign the teeth. Essentially, this was one of the prototypes that lead to the braces we know and use today.
The bandeau was made of metal that fit in a horseshoe-like shape on the inside of the teeth. In the metal, there was regularly spaced holes so that the metal would fit in the teeth. It worked similarly to today’s retainers, by fastening to the teeth by using the spaces in between each tooth. During all of his years studying and innovating dentistry practices, Fauchard wrote a book called Le Chirurgien Dentiste” or The Surgical Dentist. The book of his finding had transformative powers over the world of dentistry and orthodontics, which is why he is called the Father of Modern Dentistry.

Dentistry in America

Dentistry really took off in America, especially during the 1800s. In 1822, J.S. Gunnell invented the occipital anchorage, which was the first orthodontic headgear of its kind. The invention was fastened to the jaw from the outside of the mouth and continually applied pressure to the teeth. By wearing this form of headgear, the teeth could be gradually pushed into place and the jaw could be eventually realigned.
Others, just like Gunnell, made innovations to the practice of dentistry and orthodontia, such as E.G. Tucker in 1846. Tucker was the very first American dentist to use rubber in his orthodontic appliances. So, if you have ever struggled with the rubber bands in your braces — you have him to thank!

Other American orthodontic innovators include:

    • Chapin A. Harris

Published The Dental Art, which focused on dental practices such as soldering knobs on bands to assist with tooth rotation.

    • Charles Goodyear

Invented vulcanized rubber in 1839 which orthodontists could use for dental practices.

“Father of Modern Orthodontics” who was able to identify the properties of malocclusion and invented many processes and tools used today in orthodontia.

The 1970s Brings a New Wave of Orthodontic Advances

Before the 1970s, many braces were made from metal and were anchored to the teeth themselves through a collection of wires. That meant that alongside a mouth full of metal, the braces had to be completed using more metal material which made them less comfortable. During the 70s, dental adhesive made its debut, which revolutionized how braces were kept in a person’s mouth. Instead of having a system of wires to stabilize the braces, the adhesive worked to attach the braces to the teeth themselves. This simplified the process greatly, making braces functional without so much metal.


Today, braces have come a long way. Today’s braces are minimally made from wire and the adhesive worked to keep the braces in place. Best of all, orthodontists have worked to innovate the technology and makes them from different materials. For instance, “invisible braces” are made with a clear ceramic material instead of metal. Modern dentistry is coming up with new and better ways to align your teeth, as well as fix other issues, such as jaw misalignment. Orthodontia is moving from an aesthetic procedure to one that can help relieve jaw, tooth, and neck pain.

Brad Edgren DDS

At Brad Edgren DDS, you can receive the very best in orthodontic care. Whether you are looking for a skilled orthodontist to align your teeth or treat your jaw pain, we can help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.