Archaeologists recently confirmed that people have coveted a killer smile since the dawn of civilization. They found mummified ancients buried with what looked like crude metal bands wrapped around individual teeth. Archaeologists have surmised that catgut, a type of cord that is made out of exactly what its name implies, closed gaps between teeth in much the same way as today’s orthodontic wire!
Even Hippocrates and Aristotle ruminated about ways to straighten teeth and to fix various frustrating and unsightly dental conditions. While Greece was in its Golden Age, the Etruscans (the precursors of the Romans) were burying their dead with appliances that were used to maintain space and prevent collapse of the dentition during life. Then in a Roman tomb in Egypt, a researcher discovered a row of teeth bound with a gold wire — the first documented ligature wire!
However, despite all this evidence and experimentation, no significant events in orthodontics really occurred until the much later, in around the 1700s (although dentistry as a whole made great advancements in the interim). It should be noted that in medieval times, specialized barbers often performed dental “operations”, extractions, and procedures such as bloodletting. Three cheers for the 21st Century!
Amazingly, NASA was responsible for the invention of one of the late 20th century’s most dramatic orthodontic breakthroughs: heat-activated nickel-titanium alloy wires. At room temperature, heat-activated nickel-titanium arch wires are very flexible. As they warm to body temperature they become active and gradually move the teeth in the anticipated direction. Because of their high-tech properties, these wires retain their tooth-moving abilities longer than ordinary metal wires and need less frequent attention from the orthodontist. Many orthodontists now employ heat-activated wires in their treatment plans.
It’s enough to make all of us former “metal mouths” seethe with resentment when we see all of these young whipper-snappers with their “barely there” braces. They will never know how good they have it……
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