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History of Retainers

History of Retainers

Let's first begin with a brief synopsis about orthodontics and it's beginning. The straightening of the teeth dates back to ancient times. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence from corpses and mummies showing efforts of trying to band and pressure the teeth into movement. About the time of Christ, finger pressure to move teeth, was recorded by Aurelius Cornelius Celsus. Other Roman writers were also recording various ways to implement the moving and straightening of teeth.

Orthondontia did not begin to make speedy advancements until about the 1700's. As we know, George Washington was known for his wooden teeth. Many dentist and doctors of science at this time were beginning to exhibit more interest in the field of dentistry. A few of the names given credit to the movement of teeth were: Dr. Norman Kingsley with his bite jumping appliance; French Dentist Pierre Fauchard published his book,”The Surgeon Dentist; Frenchman Etienne Bourdet for removing teeth to correct overcrowding and Scottish Surgeon, John Hunter was accredited for describing dental anatomy as we know it today.

While there are many men recorded helping the advancement of orthodontics, coining the term”Orthodontia” was attributed to Joachim Lafoulon. In the mid 1800's, there was an artist,writer and dentist Dr. Norman Kingsley who wrote the first article on orthodontics. Later in the early 1900's was another leader in pioneering orthodontics, Edward H. Angle. Mr. Angle was instrumental in the diagnosis and terms we know today. He also contributed greatly to the designing of tooth anatomy and braces for correction. Another well noted contributor is a dentist named J.N. Farrar,whose talent was designing braces and the use of force to move teeth.

The first known Doctor to have used retainer in his methods was Dr. Norman Kingsley, with his “Bite Jumping Appliance”. Some experts consider him to be one of the first prototypes of functional removable appliances. Others must be noted, such as Dr. Pierre Robin and Dr. Viggio Andresen. Dr. Andresen used a temporary plate for mandible manipulation and later succeeded in treating his own daughter with a Hawley appliance or retainer. And now we have the beginnings of our many designs of “Retainers” as we know them today.

Dr. Alfred Kingsley in 1858 popularized the “Hawley Retainer” which was named after Dr. D.A. Hawley, who wrote about removable holding appliances. The removable retainer was used to, as the name implies, to hold or retain the teeth. This is a constant now in the post treatment of patients who have worn “Braces”. Retainers are extremely important in maintaining the correction of teeth. Most all Doctors of Orthodontics now advocate the wearing of retainers full time for at least 6 months if not longer. This method allows the teeth to settle and maintain the alignment of the teeth.

Since the beginning use of the Hawley Retainer which consisted of wire plastics. The retainer has evolved into many styles for retaining and funtional uses. The first few weeks after the removal of braces are particularly critical for maintaining the tooth treatment. The teeth are held to their form and what is known as “settling” and the occlusion is allowed to adjust to the corrected bite.

As the 20th Century has continued with new innovations and styles, retainers have reduced in size and thickness, can be made with any color of acrylic, can correct small movements of the teeth, are more comfortable and all types of accessories can be added for required function. In case you didn't know ….your retainer is custom made by real live human hands. So far there are no machines manufactured with a reasonable cost to custom bend wire to your own model. With the exception of the advanced innovation of Zia Chisti and Kelsey Wirth, graduate students of Stanford University to perfect the clear plastic retainer that created a pull down plastic retainer that was durable and incased the entire arch. Both students had worn braces and had complaints which led them to the plastic aligner. These aligners are the new technology which in some patient cases replace the movement of the teeth using no braces. A diagnosis from a certified orthodontist can guide you with what treatment would best suit your needs.

One thing is guaranteed....after all the work the Orthodontist has performed, the only way to preserve that beautiful smile is to wear your retainer for always. After your Orthodontist has reduced your retainer wear, it's always a good habit to continue wearing your retainer at least 2-3 nights weekly. This is the best insurance you can have. Believe me, I know. I still wear my retainers!

With great regards to all who read this and big “Kudos” to all the work from your Orthodontist!

— Gail Transou
President and Owner of Ortho Depot, Inc.
Established in 1995