October 1, 2015

Buried or Bold – Options for Braces Fit Any Fashion Statement

School is back in session, and millions of American teenagers are using the occasion to express themselves through fashion. For some pre-teen fashionistas, their dreams of being an icon among peers are temporarily derailed by having braces. Others have decided to embrace their orthodontia to make it part of their signature look. Whether they want to hide their braces or flaunt them, orthodontists have more options available than ever to help every patient be comfortable with his or her appearance.

girl with braces


Historically, braces have been viewed as yet another embarrassing teenage rite of passage. During a time that is already considered to be awaked, having braces adds yet another layer to a youth’s increasing sense of self-awareness. Fears of smiling with a piece of spinach stuck in the braces or getting wires crossed during that first kiss have become an accepted, although dreaded, part of the teen experience.

Fortunately, technology has advanced to provide teeth alignment devices that practically eliminate the teen orthodontia angst that was experienced in past generations. Patients who are self-conscious about having braces now have an option to wear clear braces. These braces are practically invisible, leaving little indication that the patient is wearing a teeth straightening device. Another option is ceramic braces, which blend in with the teeth so they also seem invisible. As well, some orthodontists can place braces behind the teeth to hide them from view.

Some patients who want to mask their treatment may be candidates for the Invisialign Teen device. This is also a great option for patients who may have trouble making some of the mouth hygiene adjustments required to maintain braces. Invisialign is a clear, removable aligner that is custom molded to fit a patient’s mouth. When worn correctly and as prescribed, Invisialign will gradually and gently move teeth into place without the use of unsightly wires and brackets. The aligners are removable, making it easier for patients to floss, brush their teeth and eat. The convenience of these aligners also eliminates the possibility of having food caught in the braces, which is not only embarrassing but also leads to plaque buildup and tooth decay. A consultation with an orthodontist will confirm whether or not a patient is a good candidate for Invisialign Teen.

While many teens are obsessed with hiding their braces, others are fully embracing them as a fashion statement. For these bold adolescents, there are hundreds of options available as the brackets, wires and retainers are now available in most any color imaginable. In addition to color options, teens have their choice of bracket shapes. Footballs, hearts, flowers and cartoon characters are among the many shapes that are currently available.

girl wearing braces

In recent years, the stigma of wearing braces has all but disappeared as it is becoming a more accepted part of a teenager’s appearance. This shift is especially apparent in the high fashion world. Just this year, New York’s Fashion Week spotlighted Charlie James, a 17-year-old model who was praised for flashing his smile with braces. As well, earlier this year CR Fashion Book featured Kitty Ayres on its front cover.  Ayres was specifically selected because she has braces and the magazine wanted to depict a typical American teenager.

Celebrities have also been making it more fashionable to have braces. Gwen Stefani, Faith Hill and even Beyoncé have been photographed on the red carpet proudly showing their “brace faces.”
Orthodontic devices have become such a fashion trend that Asian girls are using fake braces as a status symbol. In Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, the cost of having actual teeth aligners exceeds $1,200, so girls are purchasing fake braces for $100 to make people believe they come from wealthy families. These fake braces are available in an array of colors and shapes, including Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty.

While fashionable, these fake braces are extremely dangerous. The pieces can easily come apart, which poses a choking hazard, and the wires contain lead. Additionally, the fake braces will not fix teeth that need to be professionally aligned, while also causing problems with teeth that do not require the devices. These hazardous fashion statements have already caused the deaths of two teenagers in Thailand, resulting in the county to declare the sale, import or production of fake braces to be illegal.

Hide them or love them, there are teeth alignment options to fit any fashion style. The best way to determine the right option for your teen is to consult with an orthodontist since they are specifically trained to identify and treat teeth development and alignment issues. To find an orthodontist near you, visit www.mylifemysmile.org.

By Dr. Matthew Ng, DMD
Texas Association of Orthodontists


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