The only thing worse than having braces is needing braces.
This is the creed of metal-mouthed teenagers and adults alike. Despite the eventual aesthetic benefits, it takes years of pain and expense to use braces to correct your teeth. The amount of time braces stay on depends on the state of your teeth. Those who can afford orthodontia will sport them anywhere from nine months to five long years.
The price of braces has dropped significantly since the 1960s. However, the average cost remains around $5,000 for a full treatment. This cost is equivalent 10% of the pre-tax income of many family homes. The price is especially steep when more than one child needs them.
Dental insurance can offset the costs in some cases. The rate at which insurance covers orthodontics has increased the number of people who can afford to have braces. However, most insurance only covers around 20% of the total cost of braces.
Then, and now, braces are a luxury item.
Yet, straight, white teeth remain a priority among many Americans. Many believe that those with straight teeth will be more financially successful compared to others. This is partly because the expense of braces suggests that only those with extra money to burn can afford them. This class divide tells people that their smile is representative of their status in society.
With the pressure on, some people have started to turn to DIY braces.
DIY braces are just a small part of the DIY beauty scene. Wearing glasses without lenses and making your own mud mask is relatively harmless. But the rise in the number of people trying their hand at orthodontics is causing serious damage to people’s mouths.
A recent video on YouTube demonstrates how you can bypass four to eight years of education and become your own orthodontist. In the viral video, the star laments how the costs of braces has prevented her from correcting her teeth. But she offers a solution.
She advocates using small rubber bands (usually used in hair styling) and fitting them around your teeth. She explains that this will hurt for a few days but that it is worth the pain. She also tells her audience that they too can have straight white teeth if they do not give up.
This video has struck a chord with teens who feel the pressure to have the straight laced, all-American smile but cannot afford the cost of the devices needed to get them there.
Today, it appears the class divide is felt as acutely by teenagers as it is by their parents.
The trend has become so popular that the American Association of Orthodontists issued a warning to the public last year. Its goal was to warn consumers against using these rubber bands.
Orthodontists did not issue this warning for their own benefit. In fact, orthodontists are not worried about the loss in patient revenue from this hack. In fact, many say that the damage caused by DIY braces will cost more in the long run than braces themselves would have.
The dangers of DIY braces sound painful at best. As it turns out, moving your own teeth not only damages your teeth but your roots, gums and bones, too. This is because the rubber bands cut off the blood supply to your gums which leaves them open to irritation and infection.
But the question remains: is orthodontia worth the hype? The answer, according to dentists and orthodontists, is yes. Especially compared to the alternative.
The reason that braces are safer is because of the evidence-based, precise and controlled manner in which orthodontists work.
When a patient gets braces, they often spend years with these devices on. This is not so that the orthodontist can make extra money for a vacation home. This is because the teeth and gums are sensitive and need to be manipulated slowly and with care.
Over the months and years that patients wear braces, orthodontists will carefully control the movement of the teeth through small, regular adjustments. Orthodontists keep the shape of the mouth in mind when making alterations. The adjustments also help redirect the roots of the teeth so that they can grow in the right direction.
At the end of the day, DIY braces say more about society than just its desire for a perfect smile. That those with imperfections are willing to endure pain and suffering for straight teeth suggests that the pressure on teenagers, and adults, to look beautiful is more than skin deep.