Before Edward H. Angle’s time, orthodontic appliances were usually custom built for each patient out of metal stock. Various devices were crafted by hand, almost entirely of gold alloy. Although gold is malleable and fairly easy to work with, the constructed appliances often bent, became loose, and broke. They were thus time-consuming and frustrating.
Parts of Angle’s legacy are his creativity and business acumen. He invented various orthodontic devices and “mechanisms,” patented them (he held 47 patents), and worked with a manufacturer to produce and sell the devices. These devices were thus standardized and fairly durable, and could be used by practitioners with some degree of predictability and ease.
In this endeavor, Angle mainly worked with the S. S. White Dental Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia. Started by Samuel Stockton White in 1844, by end of the century it was recognized as the largest dental manufacturing company in the world. S. S. White was well known for the quality and breadth of the products it manufactured and sold, many of which were advertised in the pages of Dental Cosmos , a journal that it published. The company worked with Angle on his designs, manufactured the devices, advertised them, and then sold them to practitioners ( Fig 1 ). It did the same for the publication and distribution of Angle’s textbooks. In a broad sense, this established a productive working relationship between the producers of orthodontic goods and services and those practicing orthodontics, advancing both the specialty and the businesses that supported orthodontics.
Of course, other companies were involved in the manufacture and sale of orthodontic products. Some, such as S. S. White, have endured to the present time; others have come and gone; and many more were started over the years and are still in operation. As a good example, consider the beginnings and accomplishments of Rocky Mountain Metal Products Company (later, Rocky Mountain Orthodontics). Rocky Mountain offered its first products in 1933. It was started by a Denver orthodontist named Archie Brusse and run by him (until 1948) and later by his son, Martin, for 6 decades. Archie used stainless steel instead of gold and introduced this significant development at the meeting of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) in Oklahoma City in 1933. Over the years, the company introduced a spot welder ( Fig 2 ), preformed bands, a self-ligating bracket (patent filed in 1939), computer-aided diagnosis and treatment planning, stainless steel crowns, the NUK pacifier, a Class II correction device, and many other products. The company championed early treatment and partnered with Robert Ricketts (Bioprogressive Technique) and Robert Wilson (3-D Appliance System). The company claims that it is the oldest privately held orthodontic firm in the United States and the longest-running exhibitor at AAO annual sessions.