Healthy teeth and an attractive smile have long been considered to be desirable. Across every ethnicity, there are many examples of how humans have sought to improve or enhance their appearance. Crooked teeth is definitely not a new phenomenon, with evidence of poorly positioned teeth found in Neanderthal skulls from over 50 000 years ago! Although the clinical skills to predictably correct tooth alignment are far more recent, humans have been attempting to straighten teeth for a very long time! Archaeologists have discovered Egyptian mummies with metal bands around teeth connected by catgut, which appear to be the earliest type of orthodontic braces! Hippocrates provided the first written description of tooth irregularities back in 400 BC.
Orthodontics: The Very First Dental Specialty
Edward Angle (1855-1930) is known as the ‘Father of Orthodontics’. Angle’s original classification of malocclusion (malocclusion literally means ‘bad bite’) from 1899 is still used today. Angle designed many types of orthodontic appliances and is largely credited with evolving orthodontic treatment from a speculative process into an exacting science. Angle firmly believed that due to its complexity, orthodontics required specialist training and he subsequently established the first postgraduate program devoted exclusively to orthodontics. Universities throughout the world have continued this training ever since with graduating specialists now known as orthodontists.
Orthodontic appliances and techniques have greatly improved over the past 100 years. Adhesive and digital 3D technology has further enhanced and refined contemporary clinical practice. Orthodontists certainly look beyond the mere ‘straightness’ of the teeth and are trained to holistically diagnose and treat the mouth as an integral part of the human face. The sleek braces used today are vastly different from the ‘metal bands’ of yesteryear and modern clear aligner treatment can now treat many types of orthodontic problems.
The Future of Orthodontics
All orthodontists have completed peer-reviewed scientific research as part of their full-time specialist training at university. These orthodontic research projects continue to increase the knowledge base in molecular and biomaterial science, genetics, engineering and human growth and development. In turn, this advancing knowledge will continue to improve the efficiency, delivery and effectiveness of orthodontic treatment.
Although modern technology has reduced the technical difficulty of providing orthodontic treatment, a correct and accurate diagnosis remains essential to provide an excellent treatment outcome.
A computer or 3D scanning device will never replace the complex reasoning skills of a human brain or the empathy of a caring clinician.
History has demonstrated that orthodontics is deserving of its own dedicated specialist training program.
A specialist orthodontist has the knowledge, clinical expertise and commitment to life-long education to provide the best orthodontic treatment for their patients.
In the words of the great Confucius: “Study the past if you would determine the future.”
Desmond Ong is currently a Clinical Academic in Orthodontics at the University of Queensland and an Orthodontist at Townsville Orthodontic Specialists.
Desmond has published over 15 clinical articles in various dental journals and is regularly invited to present his research and clinical lectures at national and international conferences.
Townsville Orthodontic Specialists
17 Martinez Avenue, West End, Townsville