Generations of Smiles

The Birth of Modern-Day Orthodontics

From Hippocrates and Aristotle who first recorded tooth irregularities to modern day first- and second-generation orthodontists like Dr. Yan Razdolsky and Dr. Elizabeth Razdolsky Michalczyk who work to preserve patient smiles, the study of dental orthopedics and development of treatment options has come full circle to create a better aligned and healthier Forever Smile. In this first of a three-part series, we will explore just how orthodontics has evolved through the generations to impact how our dynamic father / daughter duo work side by side today.

“It is fascinating to learn just how quickly the study of Orthodontics has emerged,” said Dr. Yan Razdolsky of Forever Smiles Orthodontics. “In what is truly a very short time in history, something so incredibly important to the health and well-being of human life has come forward all because a handful of dentists wanted to standardize the teaching and practice of the specialty.”

The Lost Generation (1883-1900) so called due to the disillusioned, directionless, and cynical spirit of many post WWI survivors, can remarkably be the generation credited with discovery of modern-day Orthodontics. Reportedly penned by Gertrude Stein, this “Lost Generation” introduced us to Edward Angle, the father of modern orthodontics who brought us the first school of Orthodontics in the world.

Founded in 1899 to educate four dental professionals of the time, The Angle School of Orthodontia included course study in histology, anatomy, biology, and physiology over a period of 3 to 6 weeks. The four graduates in turn taught seven more students with each graduating class expanding on the Angle legacy. Today, we can trace the origins of American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), the largest professional member organization in the field, and American Board of Orthodontics (ABO), the certifying agency for doctors specializing in the field all to Edward Angle. Dr. Yan is an ABO Certified orthodontist, and he and Dr. Liz are active members of the AAO which has grown to include more than 12,000 specialist members in the US, Canada and abroad!

Notable orthodontic innovations of The Lost Generation:

  • First use of intermaxillary elastics
  • First School of Orthodontics
  • Birth of American Association of Orthodontists and American Board of Orthodontics

“Being a board-certified orthodontist means that I not only straighten teeth, but I work to correct problems with a patients bite,” said Dr. Yan. “There is so much to patient orthodontic treatment that impacts breathing, speech, sleep and more. I love what I do knowing that it helps so many people with issues they otherwise may not know they have,” he added.

It is a very laborious and involved process to become ABO certified and only 25% of orthodontists are ABO certified according to Dr. Yan. In addition to an extensive interview process by an esteemed panel, applicants must provide detailed case reports for a broad range of patient issues to affirm their expert knowledge in treatments, clinical skills, and orthodontic judgment. Additionally, they are held to a much higher standard of care through continued certification, education, and professional collaboration.

The Greatest Generation, also called the GI Generation (1901-1924), was so coined by Tom Brokaw in tribute to the hard working, resilient and gritty Americans who lived through the Great Depression and fought in WWII. For this generation, orthodontics was still in its infancy. For working-class parents of this generation, fixed braces demanding extensive medical treatment and made from expensive materials such as gold wire were simply too expensive for the general population.

Notable orthodontic developments of The Greatest Generation:

  • Manufacture of Standardized Appliances
  • Removable Lingual Arch
  • Craniometric Measurements & Classification of dental development
  • 1920 Introduced Stainless Steel to make orthodontics more affordable

One orthodontic historic note was the rise of a prominent American Orthodontist, Calvin S. Case. Case had several divisive professional views from orthodontic pioneer Edward Angle, but none more so than that of extraction vs. non-extraction. Case argued in favor of tooth extraction in some orthodontic cases to account for the aesthetic appearance of the whole face. Angle was stanch in treatment to include retaining a full complement of teeth. The debate split the orthodontic community for several decades and even with today’s research and study remains unresolved. Dr. Yan has published articles and delivered numerous case studies on extraction vs. non-extraction. He asserts that each patient’s treatment must be addressed on a case-by-case basis as the science behind a healthy smile truly demands it.

“The approach to patient orthodontic treatment is a very complex issue. We have countless research articles which often contradict each other in their findings because every case is so unique,” said Dr. Yan. “I myself have conducted several case studies throughout my career and have learned that only through treatment of the patients unique underlying issues can we hope to ensure them a true Forever Smile.”

Indeed. Our early American generations of dentists brought to us an opportunity to fulfill our desire for learning about how orthodontics effects our human condition. In our next issue of Bracket Chatter, we will discover just how that thirst for knowledge became the driving force behind the amazing technological advances available to us today to help patients achieve a beautiful, healthy smile.