Ivory Appliance

Ivory appliance

LDBOS: 038

This ivory appliance is the earliest appliance in the museum’s collection. Carved from a single piece of ivory, it was positioned behind the teeth and held into place with caps over the molars. It has four holes drilled into it and in one can be seen the remains of a wooden stick. This is a hickory wood stick and these would swell with the saliva in the mouth and push the teeth into a new position.

The appliance dates from about 1860 when orthodontics was only practiced by a few dentists. There was no training in orthodontics available at that time but some of the dental textbooks did include chapters on the growth of the teeth with suggestions of appliances to straighten teeth. Ivory plates are mentioned in Sir John Tomes book, A System of Dental Surgery (1859). He notes that his colleague William Anthony Harrison recommended their use with wooden sticks. Tomes preferred the use of metal plates with silk threads tied to the teeth to pull them into position.

View all