Straightening teeth; the history of orthodontics

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Orthodontics Weybridge may give you an image of slightly socially awkward teenagers in school,  but there’s a lot more to it than that. It turns out that treatments to straighten teeth have been around for a very long time. At the end of the day, people would prefer straight teeth and if there is a method to result in this, they will pursue it. Here is a quick rundown of the ever-evolving quest for straight teeth.

As old as medicine itself

The first medical manuals produced by Hippocrates in ancient Greece refer to exercises to push on teeth, straightening and realigning them over time. It refers to them as an old technique suggesting that this sort of manual reorganising of teeth predates ancient Greece by a long way, perhaps before the written record.

Rome attempted to imitate Greek culture in many ways. This included their medical manuals and continuing to practise dental treatment and straightening among social elites. They seem to have appreciated that a gap in a smile would result in the shifting of the remaining teeth.

The scientific revolution/

The lull from the mediaeval period ended dramatically with an explosion in scientific thought during the Renaissance. By the 18th century, the first device to extend the arch was documented. It could not only alter the position of the teeth, but create additional space in an overcrowded mouth without performing extractions, the bandeau.

The first brace

By the nineteenth century, the heavy and awkward bandeau had been replaced by a proto-brace, the wire crib. It could only push rather than pull on teeth and by surrounding each tooth in a mesh of metal, teeth could be moved in whichever direction was appropriate.  Adjustments could be made by removing the crib and bending the wires with needle-nose pincers before replacing them over the teeth.

Dental cemented and bracketed braces

Incremental improvements in the wire crib reduced the amount of metal that obstructed the patient’s bite. This often resulted in the need for headgear and struts that extended outside of the mouth itself.  But a new material was about to change many procedures in dentistry, dental cement, becoming widely available in the 1970s. This was the first practical adhesive for teeth, allowing crowns to be held in place and brackets to be fitted to the front of each tooth connected by an arch wire. This was the first time that braces could both push and pull teeth.

Digital progress

digital xray

Computers may not immediately spring to mind thinking about technology that helps dentistry, but the digital revolution has changed how almost everything is done in clinics. Traditional dental moulds have found themselves obsolete compared to hand 3-D scanners. Emails being sent between dental teams and orthodontics have also reduced the chance of error when it comes to moving teeth.

Digital X-rays are also cheap and precise, allowing procedures to be planned better and monitored with far more accuracy. Computer-aided design and manufacturing have taken a large quantity of highly specialised bespoke manufacturing and made it cheaper and more automated.

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