Orthodontics is a special field of dentistry that deals with jaw alignment and malpositioned teeth, which is a very common issue, and treatment can take months or even years, as the patient must wear braces to straighten the growth of selected teeth, or if the problem is jaw misalignment, this might require surgery. The history of orthodontics is quite interesting.
Orthodontics is hardly new to humanity. Indeed, around 400 BC, Hippocrates described dental irregularities and 3 centuries later, Roman doctors recommended that certain milk teeth be removed to prevent tooth overcrowding. This shows us that orthodontics was being practised 2,000 years ago, and if we fast forward to the mid-17th century, Fabricius described the extraction of teeth as a treatment for overcrowding, as dentists began to understand jaw alignment and develop treatments for such conditions.
18th Century Timeline
There were significant developments in the 18th century, with the following events:
- 1728 – A man named Pierre Fauchard published what was to be the first accurate description of dentistry, which included tooth overcrowding and jaw misalignment. Although dental corrections were carried out before this date, Fauchard was the first person to record details of such treatments.
- 1722-1766 – The physician of Frederick The Great, Phillip Pfaff wrote a book entitled “Treatise on the Teeth of the Human Body and Their Diseases”, which denied that milk teeth have roots (later proved to be incorrect), and even warned against the use of hard toothbrushes, understanding the damage that was caused.
- 1775-1790 – The surgeon master of the British military, John Hunter, discovered that
- milk teeth actually do have roots, and, more importantly, he discovered that tooth overcrowding was caused by tooth movement.
Modern Day Orthodontics
Finding the best orthodontist in Sydney, for example, is not difficult with a Google search. You can find one that would have a state-of-the-art clinic and the best orthodontists who can diagnose your condition and recommend treatment. Tooth overcrowding is quite common and for a young person, this can be very troublesome, which is why a person with tooth malposition or jaw misalignment should see a specialist.
In the early 19th century, Joseph Fox penned “Natural History of the Teeth”, which focused on dental irregularities like malpositioning, and he classifies various ailments and recommended treatments, describing dental devices that can be used in treatment. The mid-19th century saw a man by the name of Edward Angle introduce a new technique in orthodontics, plus he was the first to classify bite abnormalities and he introduced photography into orthodontics, a very important step.
The 20th century saw some amazing developments in orthodontics, with the steel wire brace that exerted pressure on specific teeth to change the direction of growth. In the 1950s, many universities recognised orthodontics and opened courses to teach this discipline and that has led to the level of specialists that we have today.
One of the benefits of having regular dental check-ups is it gives the dentist an opportunity to assess tooth positioning and jaw alignment, and if there are issues, the dentist would refer you to a local orthodontist.
The history of orthodontics can help us learn how to better care for our mouths and what to do.