The History Of Orthodontics 1: The Pre-Modern Era

The desire for white teeth and a nice smile is completely vestigial, and goes back to the time when teeth were weapons, and healthy teeth were a sign of virility and ability to fight- thus it is as old if not older than language itself. This should mean that we can find instances of people trying to augment their teeth throughout history and lo and behold: ancient tribes filled and shaped their teeth to what they found attractive, tooth fillings and jewellery worn on teeth is rife in the ancient world, and prosthetics were used since ancient times as well? But what of braces and orthodontics?

Ancient Braces

It turns out that this theory spreads out to orthodontics as well. People have been trying to rectify the alignment and position of their teeth in order to appear more attractive, and to have an easier time in life, whether it be chewing, attracting mates or appearing fearsome. Here are some of the finds of what would later on become the science of orthodontics.

Greek Relics, Roman Ruins

One of the first instances of orthodontry, as with so much of our modern lives, can be traced back to Ancient Greece. Several tombs were found with metallic bands wrapped around the teeth of their inhabitants. These bands were tied together, or sometimes tied to the teeth with strings made of plant matter. This is clearly the theory of orthodontics being used with primitive tools: the metallic band served as the brackets, and force was exerted on to the teeth via the ropes of plant matter that were woven through the bands through special, tiny holes drilled into them. These thus pushed teeth from a given angle, rectifying their position and shepherding them into a healthier form.
The Romans, as with almost everything perfected the simpler models that the Greeks were using. Roman cemeteries reveal corpses that wore what can no doubt be called orthodontry. The same steel bands were used, as individual teeth were not yet moved individually, but instead of plant matter, the wires were also made out of metal, thanks to the much more advanced metallurgical skills of the Romans. This is basically a primitive version, in practice and in theory, of the modern “train track” braces that we use today. 

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