Man has long been fascinated by the inner workings of their own body, but it wasn’t until we had evolved a bit socially that we could do anything about learning about said inner workings. You see, early man (‘man’. Early man wasn’t really someone you would recognize today as a man, if that makes sense at all) didn’t have all the free time that we have in a day. The average person in America works an eight-hour day, maybe throw in an hour or two for transport and chores, and they have the rest of their day free to do whatever they’d like. If you don’t notice, most of us also don’t do any sort of agricultural work, either; the vast majority of us, in fact, work doing something else, something that may be more profitable and something that doesn’t require hard labor out under the hot sun.
Once we got to the point where, as a society, we were working more on a basis of trade, with a system of agriculture that included things like manipulation of local water sources to better provide our craps with water while not requiring a lot of extra effort, we were able to turn our pursuits to other things, as a species. One of those things, for example, was the study of medicine as well as alchemy. However, the study most pertinent to this discussion was orthodontistry, the study of the alignment of teeth.
It’s hard to place exactly where and when the idea came from, but it is accepted that the first written account (at least the first written account we know of) came from ancient Greece during the days of Aristotle. In that day, philosophers were discussing pretty much everything, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. They discussed various ways in which one could, theoretically, realign the teeth, as well as the reasons for doing so, and the costs and benefits of such a procedure. However, there’s no evidence that any of them attempt a foray into being professional orthodontists; as with many things done by philosophers, it was a lot of talk, with very little action. It would be years before someone would actually attempt any of the things they had discussed that would, theoretically, realign the teeth.
The first people to actually attempt such a thing were the people who also brought us the love of cats (okay, maybe that’s a bit of a sarcastic stretch)l the Egyptians. They attempted to realign the teeth during life, but it’s what they did to their deceased that is even more interesting. Once their family members and leaders were dead, they put various devices, made from gold alloys and from an archaic substance called catgut, which was used in place of rubber today (and yes, catgut is what it sounds like. They put dried cat intestine in the mouths of their deceased). These devices were made to attempt to realign the teeth, it’s true, but they also served another purpose; in death, they preserved the mouth in a way that it could be considered functional, had its owner not been deceased and all that. This was due to their religious beliefs, and their belief that you needed a body in working order for the afterlife, which is the same reason that they invented and mastered the act of mummification.
Of course, we’ve got much better teeth realigning treatments today, including things like custom-made invisible braces for teens and adults. It’s been a long time since we’ve tried to treat misaligned teeth with something like catgut, and I’m sure we’re all a lot better off for it.
Although metal braces are the standard when it comes to treating teeth today, I’d like to highlight Invisalign braces, if I may, as they are the most scientifically advanced method of treating realignment issues. Invisalign braces are the newest thing in the correction of teeth alignment, and it’s really an interesting piece of work. They’re essentially two hard plastic braces that can be slipped on the teeth and just as easily be removed, and will slowly realign the teeth. When you’ve had them in for two weeks, you switch to the next aligners in the series, and so on, until your teeth are as straight as you please.
So, be glad you live today, and not about two thousand years ago, or you might be having your misaligned teeth treated with the sun-dried pieces of cat intestine. Truly, modern orthodontics are a (sterile) marvel, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.