Braces have existed, in some rudimentary fashion or other, for thousands of years. The earliest recorded instances of braces can be dated back to the days of ancient Greece, around 100BC. Early braces were constructed using a cord made from animal innards, which was utilised in a way which is somewhat similar to that of the wires used to connect modern braces – although far less sanitary. Whilst this may sound grisly by modern standards, it is interesting to note that the desire for straight and healthy looking teeth is by no means a contemporary one – but rather something which has been refined over centuries of ingenuity. From the ‘catgut’ braces of the ancient Greeks and Romans, to the braces in Kings Hill that are available today, it is a desire which is continuing to grow and develop as we march forward into the age of technological prowess.
Braces through the ages
As time went on, each civilisation made use of the tools and materials available to them, to further the design of braces. There were many false starts, admittedly, and a great deal of trial and error. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the design of braces began to resemble those which are recognised today. One of the major progressions in braces came with the advent of the lingual brace by American orthodontist Kraven Curtz in 1975. Curtz operated from Beverly Hills, California and a number of his clients were Hollywood actors or models – and because of this he wanted to design a brace which would allow them to continue to work, whilst simultaneously undergoing essential dental alignment. Thus, the lingual brace was born – which was similar to conventional, fused braces of that time, with the primary difference being that the brackets and wires were fused to the backs of a patient’s teeth, so they were obscured from the front. Curtz’s lingual braces were by no means perfect, however they did lead to an increased focus on making braces less visible. This, in turn, paved the way for discreet dental aligners.
Clearly on to something
In 1997, Stanford university graduate Zia Chishti forever changed the world of conventional orthodontics, with his revolutionary idea – Invisalign. After witnessing at first hand the detrimental effects that orthodontics of that time could have on the user’s outward appearance, he decided to take matters into his own hands Despite having no formal orthodontic training, Chishti teamed up with fellow graduate Kelsey Wirth, and launched Align Technologies which created Invisalign. The basis behind the Invisalign method was to replace conventional orthodontic tools, such as fused metal brackets and wires, with a removable, plastic retainer. This retainer would be created from a patented, specialist plastic known as Smarttrack and would utilise specifically placed pressure points within it to gradually push the patient’s teeth back into their correct specifications when worn. As each Invisalign retainer would be custom fitted around the specific contours of each patient’s teeth, when worn it would fit so snugly over them that it would become practically invisible. Since its launch in 2001, the Invisalign method has grown to become one of the most popular forms of orthodontics across the world and has helped restore the smiles of over 7 million patients, with over 2.5 million of these being teenagers. The primary reason for its success within the demographic of teenagers and young adults is, unlike conventional braces, it uniquely affords them the ability to undergo essential dental realignment, without attracting any unwanted attention from their peers or colleagues.