Orthodontics is the name given to the specialist field of dentistry which focusses primarily on correcting the alignment of a patient’s teeth. As a discipline, it can be traced back as far as ancient Greece, when the greatest minds of that time – Aristotle and Hippocrates – toyed with the idea of straightening teeth through medical intervention as far back as 300-400BC.
Archaeologists have also discovered the bodies of ancient Etruscans containing rudimentary braces which were designed to straighten and maintain a straighter smile. However, there is a vast ocean of design refinement between the ancient etruscan orthodontics and orthodontics in Weybridge as it is recognised today.
The father of modern dentistry
In 18th century France, there was a dentist named Pierre Fauchard, who is generally considered to be the father of modern dentistry. Fauchard, in 1728, published a book which contained numerous revolutionary new dental techniques and practices which pertained to orthodontics and maintaining a healthier, straighter smile. He also created the first orthodontic brace which he called the ‘bandeau’ and which was utilised to widen the upper palate of a patient. By today’s standards, this was a crude device which would give almost anyone the shivers, however it was revolutionary in steering the world of orthodontics to discover the techniques which are used throughout the world today.
Getting things in shape
It wasn’t until the 19th Century that orthodontics was officially recognised as a separate entity from conventional dentistry, and in 1819 the first wire dental crib was created in an attempt to align teeth better. Throughout this time, numerous rare minerals were experimented with for their potential application within orthodontics. Gold was a vastly popular material from around this period until right up to the 1960s, due to it’s malleable nature as well as its aesthetic appeal. During the latter part of the 1970s orthodontists first began to directly adhere brackets to the front – and later backs – of a patient’s teeth, in a fashion which resembles the conventional braces which are still common today.
A bright future
In the early 2000s, the National Space Association of America (NASA) replaced common steel wire brackets with their revolutionary heat-activated nickel-titanium alloy. These allowed for far greater flexibility, as well as paving the way for invisible and discreet braces. Today, thanks to the wonders of modern medical science, the design progression of orthodontics has come on in leaps and bounds. By utilising specialist equipment such as an i-Cat Cone Beam 3D Dental Imaging System, a fully accurate rendering of the insides of a patient’s mouth can be generated with ease – which allows for a far more bespoke and tailored orthodontic experience which is tailored around the specific needs and requirements of each individual. Alternative methods of orthodontic alignment, such as Invisalign retainers – which are specialist plastic retainers – negate the need for fused braces altogether. By creating retainers which are moulded around the contours of each patient’s teeth, orthodontists can add specifically placed pressure points within them to gradually align the patient’s teeth to their correct specification. These, and other emerging methods of dental alignment are proof that the story of orthodontics is far from over, and that there are bright things to come.