Although archaeologists have found what appear to have functioned as orthodontic devices in the tombs of the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, prototypes of what would eventually evolve into modern-day orthodontic braces were first described in medical books in the 1700s. In 1819, Christophe-Francois Delabarre invented a wire crib that is considered the first modern orthodontic device.
The term "braces" first came into use during the early 1900s. The first 20th-century devices were, however, markedly different from modern-day braces. The materials used were often determined by the patient's budget or the dentist's personal preference. Gold was the best material because of its flexibility, but it was also the most expensive. Some of the alternatives were copper, zinc, wood and ivory.
The development of invisible, or clear, braces began in the 1970s, but it wasn't until the 1990s that clear braces became widely accepted by the orthodontic community.
As of 2015, more than 4 million people in the United States are being treated with orthodontic braces or retainers.