People sometimes imagine that some of the things we treat with modern medicine only became “problems” once we had the expensive techniques needed to fix them. But for the vast majority of medical problems, that’s simply not the case. Most of them we knew were problems right away, but we’ve only recently come up with ways to fix them.
Braces In Antiquity
Braces and orthodontics are good examples of how humans have tried to solve problems like overbites and crossbites for millennia. A bad bite can make it hard to chew food while teeth pressing against each other can lead to cavities and infections, and while you can solve this problem by pulling teeth it’s important to remember that the ancients didn’t have the benefit of things like anesthesia or modern dentures.
What they did have were metal bands, and archaeologists have found metal bands covering the teeth of ancient Egyptian mummies that appear to have been there to keep the person’s teeth lined up in a solid arch.
Early Modern Braces
The science of orthodontics didn’t seriously advance until the 18th century. That’s when an innovative dentist named Pierre Fauchard came up with what he called a “bandeau.” The basic concept was the same as the ancient metal band, but Fauchard managed to update and refine the idea. He was also the first person to suggest removing the wisdom teeth straight away, since the fact that the mouth isn’t big enough for them makes them a leading cause of tooth misalignment.
By the time the 20th century began, dentists and orthodontists had figured out most of the obvious causes of tooth misalignment and came up with ways to deal with them. These techniques eventually developed into the braces we know and worry about today, with metal brackets on every tooth, a wire to connect them, and a special rubber band to slowly push the teeth into the right positions. But then the science of tooth alignment didn’t stop there.
The New Wave
Orthodontic science continues to evolve. Braces usually go on during some of the most awkward years of a young teen’s life, and so orthodontists have come up with ways to make them harder to spot.
- Invisalign braces use clear plastic appliances you have to be looking for to spot.
- Ceramic brakcets are tooth-colored and practically invisible to anything but a close inspection.
- Lingual braces attach to the inside of your teeth to make them impossible to spot. In exchange, though, they’re harder to get used to and it’s harder to replace the wires and rubber bands.
The nature of braces will continue to change into the future thanks to new technology and new techniques. After all while braces, as we think of them today, may be new the problems they solve are as old as the human body.