The Father of Modern Orthodontics: Edward Hartley Angle

The Emergence of Orthodontia

Dr. Edward Hartley Angle has stimulated more progress and dichotomy in the field of orthodontia than any other individual in relative history. In fact, most people consider him the father of modern orthodontics.

By the 20th century, Dr. Angle dominated the emergence of “orthodontia as a science and a specialty.” He established the first educational program to train specialists in orthodontics, and developed the first prefabricated orthodontic appliance system. 

Owing to Dr. Angle’s contributions, dentists like Dr. David Blaustein are able to perform more advanced, modern orthodontic treatments like traditional braces and Invisalign® clear aligners.

A series of documents from the hand of Dr. Angle is contained in the Angle Archives. It’s an invaluable, four-volume source-book that gives new meaning to the early history of orthodontics. Learn more about Dr. Angle and the impact he made in the field.

From the Beginning 

Let’s start from the very beginning–Edward Hartley Angle, MD, DDS was born on June 1, 1855 in Herricks, New York. He grew up on a small farm in northeastern Pennsylvania alongside six brothers and sisters. 

Dr. Angle’s childhood revealed an aptness for tools and machinery, and it also shaped how he analyzed things–unknowingly molding him into the father of modern orthodontics. 

  • 1878

He graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Dentistry after 18 months of study. 

  • 1885-1886

He took a faculty position to teach comparative anatomy and orthodontia at the University of Minnesota, while also maintaining his private practice of dentistry. 

Subsequently, Dr. Angle was appointed professor at Northwestern University, the Marion Simms College of Medicine, and the Washington University Medical Department.

  • 1887

Dr. Angle was the younger speaker on the Ninth International Medical Congress convened in Washington, D.C. 

He also published a 14-page paper in a textbook by Loomis Haskell, which eventually became known as his first edition in Dr. Angle’s very own famous book.

  • 1888

He was elected as the President of the Minneapolis City Dental Society after he published his textbook’s second edition.

The following years, Dr. Angle published various editions of his textbook and the 1890’s became an important leap in the development of orthodontics. 

This innovative doctor had given malocclusion, or the misalignment between the teeth of two dental arches, the distinction it greatly needed. This allowed modern dentists like Dr. Helios Houenou to provide full-arch replacements for patients missing a full arch of teeth.

Becoming the Father of Orthodontics

The 1900’s were a pivotal point for Dr. Angle’s career, as he established the Angle School of Orthodontia in St. Louis, Missouri. With Dr. Angle, orthodontics became a feasible specialty and it received a new reputation. 

He organized and classified abnormalities of occlusion, designed appliances for their treatment, and devised several orthodontic operations. Through a series of accomplishments, books, and pamphlets, Dr. Angle fundamentally invented the systems that are now widely used–thus naming himself as the father of modern orthodontics.

Thanks to Dr. Angle’s endeavors, orthodontics paved the way for dentists like Dr. Todd Martin to successfully perform life-changing surgeries like dental implants.

Dr. Angle’s Appliances

During his remarkable existence, Dr. Angle was credited with introducing the following upper and lower jaw functional expanders to the field of orthodontics:

  • Expansion Arch Appliance–allowed tipping movement and provided poor control of individual tooth position.
  • Pin & Tube Appliance–consisted of bands, vertical tubes, and a pin attached to the teeth to secure function.
  • Ribbon Arch Appliance–crafted with a vertical bracket soldered to a band, allowing rotation to be possible.
  • Edgewise Appliance–allowed tooth movement in all three planes of space by adding bends to the rectangular arch-wire.

A Legacy Left Behind

From renowned medical textbooks to fundamental oral appliances, Dr. Edward Hartley Angle made a significant impact in orthodontia. His mark touches on how aspiring dentists learn and what modern dentists can achieve. So hats off to Dr. Angle, without him, the field of orthodontics may not have come this far.