The History of Braces

Nowadays, braces are commonly used to correct dental misalignments. However, braces have not always looked or performed the way that they do today. Here is a bit of information about braces to help you understand how orthodontia has progressed over the years:

Braces in Ancient Times

Some of the first artifacts of braces have been found in the tombs of mummies from ancient Egypt. Pieces of cord that were formed from animal hides were attached to the teeth in a manner that is similar to the way that an orthodontist today would attach the brackets and wires of modern braces. This design was already in place over 3,000 years ago!

Archeologists have also discovered proof of orthodontic practices in Greece. Grecians, known as ancient Etruscans, applied guards around the teeth of a deceased person to prevent them from collapsing as time progressed. The installation of this ancient orthodontic appliance occurred during a death ceremony that was used to prepare the body for life after death.

Braces for Living People

In ancient Rome, the first attempts at straightening the teeth of living people were recorded. One practitioner, Aulus Cornelius Celsus recorded his experiments with straightening the teeth using force applied by his own hands. Celsius would apply realigning pressure at particular points along the palate.

Archaeologists have also discovered teeth wrapped in gold wire among bodies in Roman burial grounds. The wire was used to apply pressure to the teeth in a manner similar to the pressure offered by Celsus’ hands.

No Braces in the Dark Ages

After the collapse of the Roman Empire and before the establishment of the French and British Empires, there were no orthodontic discoveries recorded. This period of time, known as the Dark Ages, discouraged intellectual progress, including advancements in orthodontics.

The Renaissance

In the early 1700s, a book was written by a French dentist named Pierre Fauchard. One section of the book detailed multiple ways to realign the teeth, including the use of a device that Fauchard invented called a “bandeu.” This contraption had an appearance similar to a mouthguard. However, it was made of metal and included holes that were strategically placed to fit around individual teeth to help reposition them. Fauchard also used orthodontic procedures, such as operations that included the use of forceps to force teeth into realignment. The repositioned teeth were then bound to two adjacent teeth to keep them in place.

Later in the 1700s, another Frenchman named Pierre Bourdet authored another book on dentistry.  Bourdet’s writings included suggested improvements on Fauchard’s bandeu appliance. Bourdet also suggested wisdom teeth removal to help prevent dental crowding that could cause crooked teeth.

Braces in the 1800s

Initially, wires were used to bind teeth together in sets of two to hold them in place. Elastic ligatures were added to the alignment system in the mid-1800s.

In the late 1860s, the dental dam was invented. The dam, which was a slender strip of latex, was wrapped around the teeth to prevent the gum tissues from being damaged as orthodontic work was completed. Dental dams are still used today.

Modern braces are initially seen in the early 1800s, but the term braces was actually introduced in the 1900s.

Braces in the 20th Century

Although early dentistry often used gold in orthodontic applications, stainless steel became popular in the 1970s. Additionally, during this period, dental adhesive came into use to affix brackets to the teeth.

Lingual braces were also first used in the 1970s. These braces moved teeth as effectively as traditional braces, but the brackets were attached to the side of the teeth that is next to the tongue. As a result, the lingual braces were not easily seen in the mouth.


The 20th century also heralded the use of clear and tooth-colored applications to make the alignment process more discreet.

Braces in the 21st century

Nowadays, there are more alignment options than ever, including braces with self-ligating brackets and clear plastic aligners. Self-ligating brackets hold the archwire of the braces in position without the aid of elastic bands, and clear aligners are transparent plastic trays that fit over the teeth to move the teeth into proper alignment.


To have your teeth assessed and aligned using modern braces, schedule an appointment with our office.