The History of Orthodontic & Braces

Orthodontics is an ever-evolving field that has a rich and fascinating history dating back thousands of years. From the ancient Egyptians who used catgut to bind teeth together to modern-day clear braces, the techniques and tools used to correct misaligned teeth have undergone significant advancements over time.

In this article, we will take you on a journey through the history of orthodontics, exploring the methods and individuals that have shaped this field. We will delve into the discovery of X-rays, which revolutionized the practice of orthodontics, and examine the contributions of some of the key figures who have played a role in shaping the field.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the evolution of orthodontics and the impact it has had on the field of dentistry.

The Greeks and Romans

Orthodontics has a rich and varied history that spans centuries and continents. As early as 1000 B.C., the ancient Greeks were practicing orthodontic techniques, as evidenced by fossils and tombs that have been excavated. Even Aristotle and Hippocrates had thoughts on orthodontics, which were remarkably advanced for their time.

The Etruscans, who lived in Italy long before the Roman Empire, also had their own unique take on orthodontics. They created a mouthguard-like device made of solid gold that was placed over the teeth of deceased women. The idea was that the device would prevent the teeth from decaying after death and preserve their symmetry in the afterlife.

The Romans, on the other hand, were the first to attempt to straighten teeth for practical purposes. Aulus Cornelius Celsus was the driving force behind this significant development. Although his methods may seem rudimentary now, at the time, his idea of moving teeth with pressure from his hand was a major innovation. Archeologists have even uncovered ligature wires in Roman tombs, providing early evidence of dental braces being used to shape teeth for both functional and aesthetic purposes

Hiatus in Development

The history of orthodontics has not been a smooth progression of continuous innovation. After initial attempts by the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, development in orthodontic practices stagnated for a long period of time, with no significant advancements made between the Roman era and the rise of the British and French empires. One theory for this hiatus in dental progress is attributed to global events such as the Black Death and witch hunts that occurred during this time. However, the 1800s marked a turning point for the field, as two French dentists made significant contributions that revitalized the profession and paved the way for modern orthodontic practices. In this article, we will delve into the work of these two pioneering dentists and their lasting impact on the field of orthodontics.

The French Rejuvenation of Orthodontics in the 1700’s

In the 18th century, two French dentists revitalized orthodontics, setting the stage for the modern-day practice of correcting misaligned teeth. The first breakthrough came with Pierre Fauchard’s 1728 book, “The Surgeon Dentist,” in which he dedicated entire sections to discussing orthodontics and ways to straighten teeth. Fauchard introduced a horseshoe-shaped device called a “Bandeau,” which functioned similarly to the mouthguards used by the ancient Greeks.

Pierre Bourdet, France’s royal dentist, further developed Fauchard’s Bandeau device and made significant improvements to its original design. In his 1757 book, “The Dentist’s Art,” Bourdet addressed the issue of dental crowding, demonstrating that removing molar or premolar teeth could fix the problem. Bourdet’s work proved that dental crowding was a significant dental issue and solidified the importance of orthodontic practices.

Thanks to the pioneering work of Fauchard and Bourdet, modern orthodontics came into being. Their work paved the way for future advancements
in the field and provided a foundation for the development of braces and other devices to straighten teeth.

What are the Different Types of Palatal Expanders?

There are various types of palatal expanders available in the market (4). The type of palatal expander your orthodontist recommends would depend on your age, the severity of the condition, compliance, dental development, etc.

  • Removable Palatal Expanders: A removable palatal expander looks similar to an orthodontic retainer but has an expansion screw in the center to allow the widening of the upper jaw. Removable expanders are recommended for people who need just a little bit of palatal expansion and have good compliance. These are the least common type of expanders.
  • Rapid Palatal Expanders (Fixed Expanders): A rapid palatal expander is a fixed expander. It is placed on your palate and cemented to your upper posterior teeth. There is a tiny screw in the middle of the expander and you turn it a little every day with a specific expander key. You can start to see significant results in a few weeks of turning the screw. You will be given instructions on how to turn the screw.Based on the type of material and fixation method use, the following are some common types:
  • Hyrax Expander (Figure 3): It contains metal bands fixed onto the back teeth and a screw in the middle. This is the most comfortable and common type of expander used by orthodontists.

The 19th Century

In 1819, Christophe-Francios Delabarre of France pioneered dental braces by attaching a wire frame to teeth that were not properly aligned. Although the concept of braces was popularized in the 19th century, the term “braces” only became widespread at the beginning of that same century. Since then, dental advancements have rapidly increased.

Dr. Edward Maynard introduced elastics to braces in 1843 as a way to improve the device’s ability to correct malocclusions, resulting in braces similar to those used today. EJ Tucker made further improvements to Dr. Maynard’s design three years later, resulting in a more comfortable brace that could be worn for longer periods of time with impressive results correcting misaligned teeth.

One of the challenges orthodontists faced with braces was inserting them without damaging the gum. Dr. S.C. Barnum solved this problem in 1864 with dental dams made from specialized thin latex that fit around the teeth and protected the gum line while braces were being inserted.

In 1841, Joachim Lafoulon coined the term “orthodontic”. The term “orthodontics” was derived from orthodontia, which is the science of jaw correction and teeth alignment.


Henry A. Baker, a dentist who practiced in the late 1800s, made braces more mainstream by utilizing techniques different from his peers. He used only braces without the need to remove teeth, making the process less painful and more convenient for patients.

Braces and Orthodontics in the 20th Century

After a hiatus caused by events such as the Black Death, orthodontic advancements resumed rapidly after World War II. Collaboration with other fields led to a surge of discoveries about braces and their effects.

The invention of computers revolutionized orthodontics, enabling new possibilities for treatment. In the 20th century, dentists moved away from winding wires around each tooth and instead opted for braces that applied direct pressure, held in place with elastic bands. This was made possible by using a variety of materials such as iron, zinc, and even gold.

Edward Hartley Angle Contributions

Edward Hartley Angle is considered to be the father of modern orthodontics. He was an American dentist who lived from 1855 to 1930. Angle was
instrumental in the development of orthodontics as a specialty and the establishment of orthodontic organizations. In the 1890s, he founded the first
school of orthodontics, the Angle School of Orthodontia, in St. Louis, Missouri.

One of Angle’s most significant contributions to orthodontics was the development of the first classification system for malocclusions, known as the
Angle Classification of Malocclusion. This classification system is still used by orthodontists today to diagnose and treat orthodontic problems. The
classification system categorizes malocclusions into three types based on the relationship of the upper and lower teeth and the jaw:

  • Class 1: The most common class of malocclusion, where the teeth are crowded, twisted, or spaced apart, but the bite is normal.
  • Class 2: Also known as an overbite, where the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth excessively.
  • Class 3: Also known as an underbite, where the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth excessively

Angle also established the American Society of Orthodontists (now known as the American Association of Orthodontists) in 1901. The organization
provided a platform for orthodontic professionals to share knowledge and research, and it helped to promote orthodontics as a legitimate specialty.

In addition to his contributions to the field of orthodontics, Angle also invented several orthodontic appliances, including the ribbon arch and the edgewise appliance. These appliances are still used by orthodontists today to help move teeth into the correct position.

Angle’s work laid the foundation for modern orthodontics, and his contributions have helped countless individuals achieve better oral health and a more beautiful smile.

With the discovery of stainless steel and dental adhesive in the 1970s, different types of braces were developed. Braces have evolved over the centuries, and orthodontists today have several options for their patients to choose from. 

Here are some of the most common types of braces:

  1. Metal Braces
    • Made from steel, gold, and zinc
    • Held in place by dental adhesive
    • Arrive in various colors
    • Can be worn for up to 3 years until treatment is complete
    • Consist of brackets, bonding material, arch wire, and ligature elastic
  2. Invisalign
    • Made of plastic and are clear and transparent
    • Customized for each patient using 3D imaging software to map out the teeth
    • Only need to wear each one for two weeks
    • More expensive than metal braces
  3. Ceramic Braces
    • Similar to metal braces, but brackets are teeth-colored and blend easily
    • More expensive than metal braces
    • Helps improve self-confidence by making them less visible
  4. Lingual Braces
    • Applied to the inside of teeth so they are unseen
    • More challenging to clean and maintain than other types of braces
    • More expensive than traditional braces
  5. Self-Ligating Braces
    • Do not require ligature elastic
    • Generally smaller and less noticeable than traditional braces
    • Can be more comfortable and reduce treatment time
  6. Clear Braces
    • Made of clear ceramic material
    • Less noticeable than metal braces
    • More expensive than traditional braces
  7. Damon Braces
    • Similar to self-ligating braces
    • Use a sliding mechanism rather than elastic ties
    • Reduce the amount of force needed to move teeth and can be more comfortable

Patients have different preferences and needs, and it’s important to consult with an orthodontist to determine which type of braces is the best fit for their unique situation. The use of braces has become increasingly common and convenient due to advancements in technology used by orthodontists. Today, orthodontists use X-rays and other computer-assisted technologies to create customized braces that fit perfectly in a patient’s mouth.

By wearing braces, patients can experience several benefits such as a more functional bite, reduced risk of sleep apnea, and prevention of
malocclusions. These modern technologies make the process more efficient, accurate, and comfortable for patients seeking orthodontic treatment.


The history of orthodontics and braces is a fascinating journey that began 3,500 years ago in Ancient Egypt. From there, the knowledge and practice of orthodontics spread across the Greeks and Romans, and finally arrived in the modern era during the French Renaissance.

In the 20th century, with the help of advancements in technology and the contributions of key figures like Edward Angle, orthodontics evolved into a field of astonishing developments. With the use of computer-assisted technologies, orthodontists can now model a patient’s teeth and create customized braces that perfectly fit their unique dental needs.

Today, there are several types of braces to choose from, each with its own unique features and benefits. Whether you opt for traditional metal braces, clear aligners like Invisalign, ceramic braces, or lingual braces, you can be sure that they will improve your smile and overall oral health. With the continued advancements in orthodontics, the future looks bright for those seeking to improve their dental health and aesthetics.