Braces over the years: How they’ve changed

15 September, 2017

Today, if you were asked to think about braces, Invisalign braces might come to mind. As one of the leaders in breakthrough orthodontic technology, Invisalign is becoming a more popular choice with orthodontic patients every year, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the clear retainers were your first thought.

10 years ago, if you were asked to think about braces, you’d be more likely to imagine the “classic” braces – otherwise known as “train tracks”. These metal wires running across the front of the teeth were a source of dread for many teenagers who were facing dental treatment just a few years ago, and it didn’t take long for braces to become synonymous with the word “geek”.

But what about before that? How about if we asked you to think about what braces were like 50 years ago? 100 years ago? How about 1000 years ago? The history of braces goes further back than you may think, and they’ve come a long way in that time.


That’s right – orthodontics can be traced back to as early as the Ancient Egyptians, over 2000 years ago. Archaeologists discovered mummified Egyptian remains that had a cord made from animal intestines wrapped around their teeth. In fact, the method the cord was wrapped wasn’t too different to how we attach wire braces today.


Eschewing the traditions of using wires and cords, an Ancient Roman man dedicated to researching medical developments made records of his attempt to move and align his teeth manually – by regularly applying finger pressure. According to his records, the extended pressure resulted in the movement of his teeth.


Upon opening Roman tombs, archaeologists found some bodies with a small gold wire attaching brackets to their teeth.The wire was bound to the teeth in a clear attempt to close up gaps in the teeth. Again, this isn’t too different from our modern methods!

1770 – 1900

Though the term “braces” wasn’t coined until 1900, the beginning of detailed, extensive research into orthodontists can be traced to the 1770’s. Medical books such as “The Surgeon Dentist” and “The Dentist’s Art” dedicated chapters to exploring the different methods that could be used to straighten teeth.

As time went on, dentists and other medical professionals worked hard on perfecting the method of aligning teeth. Between 1800 and 1890, advancements such as wire cribs, gum elastics, and X-rays were used to refine the process of teeth straightening. All of this led to dramatic breakthroughs in orthodontic procedure during the 20th Century.


At the beginning of the 20th Century, a variety of materials were used to construct braces – all dependant on what the dentist preferred, what the patient could afford, and what was available. Popular materials included ivory, wood, copper, zinc, and silver, but gold was considered the best material by far thanks to its flexibility.

The downsides to working with gold were the sheer cost of it, coupled with the fact that it grew softer as it adjusted to the body heat of the patient, and would require frequent trips to the dentist.

In 1970, stainless steel started to become the most popular choice for material when it came to braces. For patients, it reduced the cost significantly. For dentists, it was easy to work with and in abundant supply.


Today in 2017, Invisalign is one of the most popular options when it comes to braces. The higher price tag is often made worth it by the discreet appearance and more comfortable feel. But how did they come to be?

 In 1997, Zia Chishti, a Stanford University graduate with no dental or medical training, realised that when he neglected to wear his retainer, his teeth began to shift back to how they had been before his braces. When he put his retainer back on, they slowly began to move back to their post-brace positions. With this knowledge, he and another Stanford grad with no dental experience, Kelsey Wirth, devised a method that combined 3D computer technology with clear retainers, and Invisalign was born. It became available in 2000, and it didn’t take long for dentists and orthodontists all over to begin using the technology in their practices.


Looking toward the future, plenty of orthodontic developments are already on the horizon. Advancements such as Damon Braces with a self-ligating wire already mean a quicker process with fewer visits to the orthodontist, and the iTero Element 3D Scanner is making waves in removing the need for uncomfortable mouth molds and making way for a 3D scan that will show you exactly what is happening in your mouth.

With so much coming up in the world of braces, now is the time to stop sitting on the fence. If you’ve been unsure about braces, book an appointment at our Perth orthodontist to find out the best path for you and your smile.