Aligned with the times
Braces, in one form or another, have existed for over 5000 years and have been discovered in their rudimentary form within the skulls of ancient mummies. These early braces were constructed from animal skins and other grizzly materials, and whilst, by today’s standards these are crude, it is interesting to note that the desire for straighter, better aligned teeth is by no means a contemporary one. The journey from Egyptian ‘cat-gut’ braces to invisible braces in Luton that are available today was a long and strenuous one – with each generation making use of the materials that were available to them to refine the designs of braces which are available today.
French front-line of braces
One of the most important periods in the design of braces came between 1728 and 1757, when French dentists and innovators, Pierre Bourdet and Pierre Fauchard, wrote two books about dental alignment entitled ‘The Surgeon Dentist’. This book was revolutionary for its time and featured many previously unknown methods of dental alignment including multiple bizzare head braces which were designed to push a patient’s teeth into their correct position. These headbraces were never continued, thankfully, due to their largely cumbersome and uncomforbale nature – but were revolutionary in pointing the design in the direction of where we are now.
20th Century smiles
During the 20th Century, the design of braces changed radically throughout two world wars, as new materials became readily available and medical science came on leaps and bounds. The first ‘modern’ braces which were referred to as braces, utilised gold which was wrapped around each individual tooth. Gold was used for it’s malleable nature, although it was too weak and it ‘melted’ over time, which resulted in the braces becoming loose, often having a detrimental effect on the patient. However, in the 1970s with the advent of stainless-steel, everything was radically changed and braces became far more comfortable and started to take far less time to work. In 2000, NASA first replaced common steel-wire braces with heat activated nickel-titanium alloy wires. These allowed for an increased focus on making braces more discreet, and helped pave the way for the invisible braces available today.
To infinity, and beyond
Contemporary invisible braces were first introduced in 1986, when Unitek contracted the company Ceradyne to produce a strong ceramic material which could be utilised within braces to make them less detectable. Ceradyne introduced the use of a TPA (Transpalatal arch) designed initially by NASA, and the two companies began to develop the first invisible brace – which was first launched in 1987, and instantly became vastly popular. Treatments of this nature can be massively positive in boosting the self-esteem and confidence of those who seek them – specifically within the demographics of teenagers and young adults – as it allows them to undertake essential dental realignment, without attracting any unwanted attention from their peers or colleagues.
The design of discreet braces continued to be developed and refined over the years, and eventually developed into removable plastic retainers which have now also become vastly popular.