For those of you who never got over being called a “metal-mouth” as a pre-teen, it could have been worse. From ancient times, people have wanted a beautiful smile. But it wasn’t easy.
Archaeologists have found early braces on mummies, who had catgut stretched through crude metal bands to pull teeth together. Around 400 BC, Hippocrates wrote about attempts to straighten teeth. One Roman who died in Egypt had his teeth bound with gold wire.
By the 1700s, the idea of having a straight smile emerged. In 1728, French dentist Pierre Fauchard published a book titled The Surgeon Dentist, and created a blandeau, a device to straighten teeth that looked as fearsome as any torture device. The blandeau was a horseshoe-shaped piece of metal that was used to help expand the arch. Blandeaus remained in vogue until 1819, when Christophe Delabarre invented the wire crib, similar to today’s braces.
Braces were pretty standard over the next 100 years as dentists learned more about how cavities worked and why teeth fell out. Braces were made from a variety of materials – gold, platinum, steel, gum and rubber. The wires were most always made of gold because they were easier to shape. Practitioners introduced stainless steel wires in the 1950s. Dentists learned how to glue the brackets onto the front of the teeth in the mid-70s, and they were able to move them to the backside of the teeth in the mid-80s. Braces today are no longer the ugly, heavy metal rings of the past. Go here to learn more about how braces work today.