Braces: Vanity or Necessity?
Posted by Catherine Morgan on August 21, 2007
Braces: Vanity or Necessity? — by Catherine Morgan (cross-posted at BlogHer)
I have a feeling I am going to take a lot of heat for this post. I’m going to tell you about braces and orthodontics, but I’m also going to talk about my personal opinion, and that always seems to get me into some hot water.
I have been told on more than one occasion that both of my children need braces. But, I’ve never actually taken either of them to an Orthodontist. The reason I never took them was; I have heard from many friends that when you take your child to the Orthodontist it is “free”, but once you are there you are basically put on-the-spot to make a decision to get the braces, or be charged for the visit. So, if you decide to agree to a payment plan at that moment, you avoid having to pay the $150.00 (or so) consultation fee. Bargain. Personally, I don’t know one person that has taken their child to an Orthodontist and didn’t leave convinced they needed to get the braces. Since I didn’t have the money, even for payment plans, I figured avoidance of this particular office would be my best bet. I also think that even though my children’s teeth may not be considered “perfect”, they look just fine.
I’m not saying that I recommend this “avoidance” method for all parents, I know that there are many instances when braces are an “obvious” necessity. Basically, I have a two part problem with this whole “to get or not to get braces” thing. One, is the “money” factor, the other is the “guilt” factor.
I don’t have a problem with braces in general, but it seems to me that (practically overnight), necessity went from…baby teeth fall out, and permanent teeth are obviously “crooked”, to pull-out baby teeth and make sure the permanent teeth will be “perfect”.
The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland research firm, projects that the market for orthodontic devices will grow more than 6 percent a year to reach $3.7 billion by 2010.
Braces aren’t cheap, and dental insurance usually covers only a small part of the bill.
So patients predictably have questions about the expense.
Packard estimates that orthodontic treatment typically costs $4,800 to $5,200 locally.
As a single mother, I found this quote by “Packard”, a little offensive. Maybe I’m taking this too personally, but where does an orthodontist get off declaring what the “all-American family” should look like?
“The people that come to us are the ones that have three or four kids. Both parents work. Two of them are teenagers. They both need braces, and they don’t want to spend 12 grand for those kids. They’ll spend [$9,000] with us,” Packard said. “Our market is the general run-of-the-mill, all-American mom and dad who are trying to make a living and take care of the family.”
Am I not “taking care of my family” because I choose to wait and see if they will really need braces, or if I just can’t afford to get them braces? This is where the “guilt” thing comes into play.
For me, as a single mother, I carry around enough guilt. So, I wasn’t going to let my dentist (brother in-law) make me feel guilty over not taking my kids to the orthodontist. Not he or anyone else could tell me that not correcting the small gap between my son’s teeth, would definitely become a problem as his later teeth came in. I was also told that there wasn’t enough room in his mouth for all his teeth…So wouldn’t that make the gap close up? I’m told maybe, or maybe it will make all his teeth cooked. That was about ten years ago. Today my son’s teeth are perfect, except for a (very) small gap between his two front teeth. He looks fine (perfect to me), and I can’t see how him having braces would have made much of a difference.
When children’s front incisors come in, between the ages of six and eight, a gap can develop between the two central ones. This is called a diastema. Dr. Richard Marcus, a Toronto orthodontist and president of the Canadian Association of Orthodontists, says the gap may go away on its own when children reach 11 or 12. The eruption of the adult eye teeth (the cuspids) may push the front teeth together and close the gap. However, according to Marcus, if the gap remains after the eye teeth come in, it will generally not self-correct, and patients who dislike their appearance should consider treatment. — read full article
Like I said, this is just my opinion, and based only on my limited experience. Since I know that many parents will need more information than just my personal opinion, let me give you some of the actual facts. I would say the best place to start would be with the American Association of Orthodontists, and here are some statistics that might be interesting to you.
Here is an ABC report on the controversy over the age that children should be getting braces…
Studies say there is no benefit to getting braces at a young age, but there are some exceptions.
A new study by the Cochrane Library found children who had their teeth fixed in stages starting at seven to 12, did not fare any better than those who had their teeth fixed later from 12 to 16.
And, I found this information from Reader’s Digest Canada “Does Your Child Really Need Braces?”
An estimated 300,000 Canadian children are currently seeing an orthodontist, and the numbers have risen in recent years. The American Association of Orthodontists reports that the number of North American kids and adults getting orthodontic treatment nearly doubled to 4.4 million in 1996, from about 2.5 million in 1984.
Are our teeth getting worse? Probably not. But we are an increasingly looks-conscious society. And the availability of dental insurance has made orthodontics more affordable for some. As a result, orthodontists are making more money.
A study in the Journal of Clinical Orthodontics found that the average net income of American orthodontists who own their practice rose to $300,000 in 1998, from $102,000 in 1980. That shows a 50-percent increase when inflation is taken into account.
But, why should you get your child braces?
Orthodontic treatment can address a variety of dental problems — from crowded teeth to more significant defects that can make it hard to bite, chew or speak correctly.
Orthodontists say straight teeth are less prone to decay and gum disease.
And of course, there are the benefits that come with good looks.
A familiar sentiment for many parents, who’re willing to spend thousands for braces to prevent their child from ridicule or being ashamed of their appearance. But, how much do braces actually boost the self-esteem of a child?
One recent 20-year study found that children who had braces didn’t grow up to have better “psychological well-being” than those whose teeth remained crooked.
I would love to hear how other mothers feel about the topic of braces, and the necessity of them for our children. Is it really so important that every child have perfect teeth? Or is it just important for families that can afford it to have children with perfect teeth?
And off topic but (I think) a related issue…
What if your doctor told you that your child was going to be an inch smaller than the average adult? But, if you act right now they could give your child hormones to make sure he/she will be the size society finds acceptable?
What if your pediatrician told you that your daughter was going to be flat chested? But, you could get special implants for her that could gradually increase in size during adolescents so your daughter will feel she “fits in”, and eventually have them them the perfect size.
Do we end up with a society with one “acceptable” look?