During a recent visit to the fascinating orthodontic museum at the British Orthodontic Society in London, I was chatting to the Sophie, the curator, about the collection and we were discussing what the patient experience might have been like previously.

The image above is of an orthodontic welder that would have been used in the surgery to weld the bands closed and this would have been used whilst the patient was seated in the dental chair. Please correct me on any inaccuracies here but from what I understand, bands were formed by hand from metal ribbon around the tooth by the orthodontist and then taken to the welder to be made into band that would be used in treatment.

From a patient point of view, this must have been a thoroughly terrifying experience. Firstly, I would imagine the forming of the band in the mouth would have been fairly uncomfortable, not to mention that need to separate the teeth without the comfort afforded by the modern soft elastic ‘O’ ring separators we have today.

This band would have then been taken to the welder to be closed shut and the sound, light and smell of the weld taking place would have been quite an experience particularly once reclined in the chair and not aware of what was going on. Once cooled, the band would be reseated on the tooth and then presumably the process repeated again for each tooth that needed to be banded.

Prior to this, bands were on a screw thread mechanism which tightened around the tooth (much in the same way as the device they currently use to protect your tooth during a filling) and I would imagine this would have been very uncomfortable after a short while.

This is so very different to modern orthodontics where bands are pre-formed, close fitting and with none of the drama associated with using welding equipment in the surgery. Many adult patients do not get bands at all with each tooth bracketed which is even more convenient and comfortable.

In closing this article, I would really like to hear from anyone who may be able to put me in touch with someone they know who had orthodontic treatment over 50-60 years ago. I’m keen to write a series of articles based on their experiences as so much has changed in that time. You can contact me on the email address at the top of the page or on Twitter @BracesUK