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Archive for Tuesday, March 21, 2006

No shame in a tin grin

Gamut of new colors, styles make braces more bearable

March 21, 2006

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Metal-mouth. Circuit board. Railroad tracks. Grill.

Teens who wear braces still hear the names, just like they did in the 1950s.

But these days, it's more in jest. And some braces-wearers even like the look.

"The geeky part of it is gone," says Brendon Clark, an eighth-grader at Southwest Junior High School who recently got braces.

Teasing about braces might be out of fashion because even the bullies are getting braces.

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, 3 million teens in the United States and Canada wear braces, up about 30 percent in the last decade. And orthodontists say they're seeing a similar increase in adults who are looking to straighten their teeth.

Both Clark, 13, and his mother, Tami, are part of the trend.


Tami Clark, left, and her son Brendon Clark, 13, don't just share a familial smile - they're both currently sporting braces. As technology has made braces more fashionable and less of a hassle to maintain, the number of North American teens and adults wearing them has increased by 30 percent in the past decade.

Tami Clark, left, and her son Brendon Clark, 13, don't just share a familial smile - they're both currently sporting braces. As technology has made braces more fashionable and less of a hassle to maintain, the number of North American teens and adults wearing them has increased by 30 percent in the past decade.

Tami Clark had her braces put on a year ago. Both she and her son have opted for the colorful version of their braces' elastic bands - Tami recently chose green for St. Patrick's Day, and Brendon chose black and blue, one color each from his junior high and his future high school.

Tami Clark says she rarely gets odd stares from others looking at her braces.

"At first, I thought I would," she says. "I've run into so many adults who have braces. It's actually something you can find comrades with."

Less hassle

Getting braces is becoming less inconvenient than it was in the past, says Shelly McColm, an orthodontist who practices at 12 W. Eighth St.

Yes, they're still pricey, with the average cost coming in around $5,000, according to several sources. And you still have to avoid eating sugary foods and treats like popcorn that might end up sticking in the metal.





Brace yourself: Famous people need straightening out, too

¢ Celebrities who have been seen wearing braces as adults include actor Tom Cruise, actress Ashley Judd, singers Gwen Stefani, Lil Bow Wow, Lee Ann Womack and NFL quarterback Brett Favre. ¢ Characters in TV shows with braces have included Tootie in "The Facts of Life," Denise in "The Cosby Show" and Lynn in "ALF." ¢ More recently, Miranda in "Sex and the City" had to sport braces because she pressed her tongue against her teeth for too many years. When her pals asked if she was in pain, she responded, "I'm a 34-year-old woman with braces, and I'm on a liquid diet - pain doesn't begin to cover it." ¢ In an episode of "The Simpsons," Homer must help negotiate with his employer for a new employee dental plan because daughter Lisa needs braces. The episode's mantra was, "Dental plan ... Lisa needs braces." ¢ "Braceface," a cartoon that originated in Canada but now is shown in the United States, features the main character Sharon Spitz, a 14-year-old girl with braces.

But thing are getting better. The average time with braces for McColm's patients is around 18 months, which is gradually decreasing as technology has improved. And industry advances have meant braces are less cumbersome and less painful than in the past.

"Adults who had them when they were younger say it's easier now," McColm says.

That's been the experience of Tim Stauffer, a Kansas University junior who's been wearing braces for four months.

He wore braces when he was a teenager. But he didn't wear his retainer, a piece of plastic or metal that holds teeth in place after the braces are removed, so his teeth reverted to their previous positions.

"I'm telling everyone I see, 'Wear your retainer,'" Stauffer says.

He says he hasn't seen any negative side effects of his tin grin.

"The stigma that comes with braces is such a self-imposed one," he says. "People think they're going to make fun of you. But if you're willing to laugh at yourself about it, it's no big deal at all."

Fashion advances

In addition to the advances made on traditional braces, alternative methods have been introduced.

Sharon Spitz, a 14-year-old girl with braces, is the main character in 
the cartoon "Braceface."

Sharon Spitz, a 14-year-old girl with braces, is the main character in the cartoon "Braceface."

One, Invisiline, uses a series of clear, traylike aligners to gradually bring teeth into place.

Another, lingual braces, are metal aligners placed on the inside of teeth, to avoid the metal-mouth look.

And for those just wanting to hide their traditional braces as much as possible, there are ceramic brackets that blend in better with teeth than metal.

But many children and teens don't mind the look of metal braces, especially now that they can change the color of their elastic bands every six weeks or so.

"I like the light colors," says Casey Hutchins, a seventh-grader at Central Junior High School. "The dark colors make your teeth look dirty."

Morgan Rego, another Central seventh-grader, says he just smiles with a shiny grin when his peers make fun of him for having braces.

"If you have braces and glasses, they think of you as a geek or a nerd," he says. "And then they have to get them, and it's funny."

Comments

nefball1031 8 years, 9 months ago

i have braces and they suck. oh yeah it'll be 20 months. that was january. everyone i know who's had braces, it's longer than they say it will the. the length they tell you, add 3-6 months onto that.

Alison Roberts 8 years, 9 months ago

20 months.. thats all? I had braces for 5 years.. FIVE YEARS.

but now i love my teeth.. but I do have a regret... when they tell you to wear the retainer after you get your braces off... do it.. your teeth WILL go crooked.. especially if you still have your wisdom teeth. luckily its only my bottom teeth and its not that bad.

keshia2006 8 years, 9 months ago

i don't think it matters how long you have them, you forget about them after wearing them awhile. plus look at the positive side of things, your teeth will look great after having them on. it pays off i believe. i'm 20 and have had braces for 6 months now. when people make fun of me because of my age and braces, i just tell them to look in the mirror, smile, then ask themselves if they are happy or not with their crooked teeth.

Lynn 8 years, 8 months ago

Braces can be a very positive thing. If you're an adult who has braces or is considering getting them, www.ArchWired.com is a great place to start. The website has a ton of great information and a very active Metal Mouth Message Board.

Anyway, I should know. I had braces for 3 years as an adult. It's nice to finally have straight teeth!

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