The Very First Set of Braces in the Early 1900s
The braces of the early 1900s were dramatically different than the braces people think about today. Dentists would individually wrap bands (materials varied) around each tooth. The bands would then be connected by a wire. The wire could be adjusted to apply pressure to the teeth in hopes of slowly moving them into proper alignment.
There was no set standards in terms of what type of materials were used when the very first set of braces came into existence. Some dentists used ivory, while others used wood, copper or zinc. The materials that were used were completely dependent upon the dentist‘s personal preference, the patient‘s budget, and what was available in the geographical area at the time. However, there was one material preferred by dentists all over the world; gold.
Gold was preferred by many dentists because the material is extremely flexible when heated. The gold could be shaped and molded to wrap around the teeth. Materials such as wires, bands, clasps, and spurs were made out of 14K and 18K gold.
While gold was preferred it was not commonly used for a number of reasons; mainly the price and frequent adjustments that were required. Gold was extremely expensive even in the early 1900s, and not all patients could afford the added expense. In addition to the price of gold, patients who had gold braces required frequent adjustments from the dentist as the material would often start to grow soft due to body heat.
Patients who couldn‘t afford to purchase the gold used for the braces would often have to use the dentist‘s second choice of material; silver. Silver was significantly cheaper than gold, but not as flexible. However, it was preferred over the alternative materials such as ivory and wood, which were extremely difficult to work with at the time.
Brace Application Techniques Improve in the 1970s
Orthodontic techniques stayed relatively the same until the 1970s when numerous breakthrough techniques were discovered. The biggest breakthrough technique was the use of a dental adhesive to hold dental brackets to the teeth.
A dental adhesive was placed on the surface of the teeth where the brackets would be “stuck” directly to the teeth. This technique replaced the need for dentists to wrap individual wire around each tooth to keep the brackets in place. In addition to the dental adhesive, tie wires and elastic ligatures were often used to keep the braces tight and in place.
The use of stainless steel, instead of gold or silver, was a part of the improved dental techniques used for braces in the 1970s. Stainless steel was becoming popular in the 1960s, but it wasn‘t until the mid-1970s that dentists started to embrace the material into their dental practice. Stainless steel was a relief to both patients and dentists; patients were happy because it reduced the cost of braces, while dentists liked it because it was extremely flexible and easy to manipulate.
The 1970s also saw the first attempt at ’invisible’ braces. People wanted an alternative to the unsightly wires and head gear. Dentists in Japan and the United States started to experiment with the possibility that dental braces could be applied to the insides of the teeth, instead of the outside. Placing the brackets on the inside of the teeth allowed people to get the benefits of braces without having to have people see the physical braces on the teeth.