It’s the 4th of July, one of our favorite holidays in the United States. Today we celebrate our nation’s birthday with patriotic outfits, fireworks, eating too much food, and hopefully spending time on a lake (if you live in Michigan). I am sitting on a dock in northern Michigan enjoying a beautiful day with my wife and my family as I write this post. The 4th of July is about more than bombs bursting in air, hot dog eating contests, and yelling “U-S-A, U-S-A” at any chance you get. The 4th of July is a time to remember the founding fathers of our country, and in the spirit of the founding fathers, I am going to give a short history lesson of orthodontics.
People have been moving, or attempting to move, teeth dating back to the time of the ancient Egyptians. Skulls have been found that have evidence of attempted tooth movement with catgut and crude metal bands wrapped around teeth. Ancient Greek Roman remains were found with appliances that were used to maintain spaces between the teeth, and gold wires to keep teeth bound together. We don’t know much about their mechanisms other than that they were crude and probably very ineffective.
It was not until Pierre Fauchard, a French dentist, published a book titled The Surgeon Dentist in 1778 that an orthodontic appliance was well documented. Fauchard devoted an entire chapter of his book to an appliance known as the “Bandeau,” which was essentially a horseshoe made of gold that went around the teeth and was used to expand the arch. Although very crude, a modification of the Bandeau is still used today.
Several men deserve the title of “Father of Modern Orthodontics.” Norman Kingsley and J. N. Farrar wrote important texts outlining how teeth should fit together and how they can be fixed. However, there is one man who is the true founding father of modern orthodontics. In the early 1900s, Edward H. Angle came out with the classification system that we use today to describe how teeth fit together (the Angle Classification), and designed the orthodontic bracket that set the foundation for the orthodontic brackets that we use today. Edward Angle also founded the first school of orthodontics, founded the American Society of Orthodontics (which eventually because the American Associations of Orthodontics), and also created the first orthodontic journal. Because of Edward Angle’s achievements, orthodontics became the first recognized specialty of dentistry.
Without Edward Angle who knows what orthodontics would be like today. Maybe we would not have the amazing technologies that were built upon his inventions and maybe everyone would be walking around with crooked teeth and not so beautiful smiles! So while everyone takes a moment today to thank the founding fathers of the USA, also take a moment to thank (or curse him if your teeth are sore) Edward Hartley Angle. Without Dr. Angle, you could possibly be enjoying corn on the cob, popcorn, and all sorts of hard candy on our nation’s birthday, but you would also not be on your way to a life with an amazing smile.