From Antiquity to 1850

Even in ancient times you can find occasional references to orthodontic advice. Abnormal teeth were described as early as 400 B.C by Hippocrates. Celsus (25 BC – 50 AD) recommended the removal of milk teeth to allow more room for the remaining teeth and advised re-aligning crooked teeth by using finger pressure. Galen (129 AD – 199 AD) suggested filing teeth that were too close together. It is quite remarkable that the practice of removing milk teeth and grinding the remaining teeth is still in use today.

Such advice was only taken up again when medical literature from the antiquity period was re-discovered during the Renaissance. In 1619 Fabricus described how to extract teeth where there is acute overcrowding in the mouth – even this is an accepted practice today. In 1728 the Frenchman Pierre Fauchard, one of the founding fathers of orthodontics, described the use of an external ivory bracket for the correction of crooked teeth. In 1750, the English surgeon John Hunter described a fixed brace that consisted of a metal bracket and ligatures.

But, right up until modern times, people suffered far more as a result of the painful consequences of dental caries and paradentitis than they did from crooked teeth, something that presumably was rarely seen as a problem at that time. As a result, we seldom find any information about this in this period.