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The Fascinating History of Clear Aligners


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The field of orthodontics appears to be some kind of modern invention, but you’ll be surprised to know that orthodontics in fact has a long and fascinating history. Many ancient cultures developed very advanced techniques for preserving and straightening teeth alignment.

In this article, we’ll discuss the history and evolution of braces, and the invention of clear aligners (it isn’t as far back as you think).

Many ancient civilizations used braces for teeth

Very few things are as desirable as a healthy tooth and an attractive smile. Even our ancestors longed for it.

Many ancient civilizations aligned their crooked teeth with crude form of braces. These braces were also used to preserve straight teeth among the dead and the highly revered afterlife. The ancient world used the following materials to make their braces: catgut, metal, and gold. As human knowledge and technology evolved, more materials were used, including steel, silver, platinum, brass, copper, ivory, and wood.

The following are ancient civilizations that used braces:

  • The Egyptians. Many archaeologists have discovered the remains of Egyptian mummies. These mummies had metal posts on their teeth affixed with cord made from catgut (horse or sheep intestine). The catgut cord may be compared to the arch wire in modern braces. The arch wire is the device that puts pressure on the teeth which in turn shifts them into alignment. The Egyptians took the afterlife very seriously, an indication that braces were mostly used on the dead rather than the living.
  • The Ancient Romans. The Ancient Romans were not one to be left behind in things like these. They were the first civilization to use braces for teeth alignment in living people. Researchers and archaeologists have found fine gold wire – also known as ligature wire threaded through teeth in several Roman burial sites.
  • The Etruscans. This culture used a kind of mouthguard to protect the alignment of the teeth on their dead subjects. The goal was to preserve the teeth for the afterlife.
  • Ancient Greeks. The Greeks have a long orthodontic history dating back as far as 1000 BC.
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Invention of modern braces

Modern braces were invented by Christophe-Francois Delabarre in 1819. The field of dentistry had evolved in the 1700s with tremendous advances including removal of wisdom teeth and custom mouthguards to manage overcrowding. It is important to note, though, that Delabarre created the precursor to braces as they are known today. He devised a ‘crib’ that fitted over the lower and upper teeth and worn for a long period, with the goal of straightening the teeth over time.

The invention of clear aligners

Clear aligners came on board in 1997! That’s quite recent, isn’t it? Zia Chishti, a Stanford graduate envisioned an invisible clear plastic retainer capable of performing the straightening action just as traditional metal braces without the need for regular or arch wire adjustments. Chishti collaborated with Kelsey Wirth to design and create custom clear aligner trays using computer software. The invention was named Invisalign. Although invented in 1997, Invisalign was only made available to the public in 2000.

There’s no doubt that orthodontics is the first true dental speciality

The title “Father of Orthodontics” goes to Edward Angle (1855 – 1930). Angle gave the original classification of malocclusion in 1899, and this classification is still in use today. He designed many orthodontic appliances and has contributed to the evolution of orthodontic treatment from a seemingly speculative process into a real science. Angle believed, without a doubt, that due to its complex nature, orthodontics required specialist training. This led to the establishment of the first postgraduate program devoted to orthodontics. Universities all over the world have adopted and continued this training since then. Specialists in this field are known as orthodontists.

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So, while the history of braces and clear aligners may date back to the ancient civilization, you can rest assured that modern braces are now made using the latest technology.

Beam clear aligners

Beam clear aligners have a mission to make dental care more accessible and affordable to all Australians. Beam clear aligners are your best bet for a perfect smile.

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