Orthodontic appliances, study models (2), Unitek, [Australia], 1987
Until the 1940s, orthodontists used large forces and unwieldy mechanical devices to make teeth move in the desired way. During the 1940s and 50s Percy Raymond Begg, an Adelaide orthodontist, developed a completely new approach to moving teeth. He worked out how to use gentle forces in a more effective way. He decided to use lightweight stainless steel wire and worked with Arthur Wilcock, a metallurgist in Victoria, to develop the best kind of wire for the technique.
In the first half of the 20th century, getting orthodontic braces on your teeth was a dramatic affair. Gold or platinum wires were attached to the teeth and would often be connected to headgear that forced the teeth into place. The orthodontist had to make regular adjustments, and patients had to put up with a good deal of discomfort. Treatment was only available to those wealthy enough to afford a mouthful of precious metal and many visits to an orthodontist.
BeggÂ?s new technique removed the need for headgear and allowed more efficient tooth movement with less discomfort and fewer visits to the orthodontist. It was also simpler and more affordable, as fewer components (and no gold or platinum) were needed. Begg caused a sensation when he published his new technique in America in 1956. By the 1960s about half of the orthodontists in the USA were using the technique.
BeggÂ?s technique was taught and used all over the world. At the end of the century it was still being taught, and it formed the basis for refinements and advancements as new technologies arose. Teenagers around the world have Begg to thank for starting the trend towards more affordable and accessible orthodontics.
Angelique Hutchison, Curator
The Begg technique was developed by Percy Raymond Begg in Adelaide in the 1950s. The Beddtiot technique is a variation of Begg's techniue.
The study models were made by Unitek, which became a subsidiary of 3M in 1987.
The wire was probably supplied to Unitek by A J Wilcock of Whittlesea in Victoria, which developed the wire that Begg needed.