When I was a very young child, the only children I knew that wore braces were “the rich kids”. The field of cosmetic dentistry had not yet come to be and the cost of orthodontia was outrageous. Many of my peers had a crooked tooth or something else that would be “corrected” today. Most insurance companies didn’t cover the cost of braces for children and adults would never consider the possibility of adjusting their smile. Kids with braces were the exception, not the norm, and were sometimes bullied and called names like “metal mouth”.
My how times have changed.
Teens in Southeast Asia are wearing fake braces all in the name of style. Teens in Thailand, Indonesia and China are buying black market braces for about one hundred dollars. While this certainly seems odd to Americans, for whom braces represent the awkwardness of adolescence, the metal and tiny rubber band accessories have become a bit of a status symbol in the far East where dental care remains a costly luxury.
Asian teens can purchase non-medical fashion braces in local beauty salons. They can even buy cheaper pairs, which they can apply at home, from open-air stalls in local markets and, of course, on the internet. Apparently, these fake braces come in nearly every color and in cartoonish themes like Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse. There are several tutorial videos on YouTube that explain how to put them on your own teeth!
This fad is not without risks. Doctor-approved braces can sometimes pose health risks so it’s safe to assume that braces bought at the mall and installed at a bathroom mirror could be outright dangerous. Officials have warned that the wires on some of the fake braces may contain lead. The metal brackets can also cause sores on the gums and inside the mouth. At least two deaths in Thailand have been linked to the fashion trend. In one instance a seventeen-year-old reportedly contracted a thyroid infection from a poorly made pair of braces and her condition quickly progressed to fatal heart failure. In Thailand the production and sale of these braces is now punishable by up to six months in prison!
In my neighborhood, when they want to sport a status symbol, the kids wear shirts with a little moose on the chest that they get from Abercrombie or with a seagull from Hollister. I certainly hope they don’t make the installation of their own braces a fad in the States. We don't need another kiosk at the mall!
I suppose parents in Asia see some of the things that American teens wear and think they must be crazy, too.
What do you think about fake braces?
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