Brace yourself for a real mouthful

Adults are enduring the railway track look to straighten their teeth, Anna Maxted reports

FOR MANY people, wearing a dental brace was a misery of adolescence. As if acne wasn't enough of a setback, we were expected to attract the opposite sex with our mouths full of scrap metal. While we fantasised of drowning our orthodonist in a barrel of pink, foul-tasting, quick-set material, our parents told us how lucky we were. They never had this opportunity and now it was too late for their teeth. Well, they wouldn't get away with that line nowadays. In the past 15 years the number of adults wearing "train-track" braces has more than doubled.

Hilary Reade, 55, is happy to be sporting a full-metal bracket. She says: "All my life I have been extremely conscious of how ugly my teeth are. I never showed my teeth in photographs. From when I was a teenager I learned to smile with my lips closed. When your teeth are extremely crooked you lose confidence."

She assumed she was doomed to a life of grimacing until, 18 months ago, she visited a new dentist for a check-up. "I was saying how fed up I was and that I wished I could have had some treatment." To her surprise, he suggested she book a consultation with an orthodontist.

"The first time my husband came with me for moral support," says Mrs Reade. "The orthodontist said I would have to have a fixed appliance, and would I feel embarrassed because it was more often for teenagers?

"It didn't worry me at all. I thought, I may as well get on with it and have it done properly. I run a playgroup, so I'm in contact with children and parents. The children have never mentioned my teeth and as for the parents, they are extremely interested to know how I am getting on. I have never had anyone saying, 'Good heavens, fancy having that done at your age.' "

Mrs Reade is in good company. According to records of the Dental Practice Board for England and Wales, in the year ending March 1994, around 10,000 adults completed courses of appliance treatment. The DPB concludes: "As a course of orthodontic treatment lasts on average about two years it can be estimated that around 20,000 adults at one time are undergoing active orthodontic treatment." These figures only relate to NHS patients, who, says Chris Kettler, secretary of the British Orthodontists Society, make up a small minority of adult brace-wearers ,as the vast majority prefer to go private.

Mr Kettler explains: "If you can get it done on the NHS, you pay the maximum charge of pounds 300, but I think it would be very hard to find a dentist who would do it for you, partly because adults prefer to have so-called 'aesthetic brackets' - ceramic brackets - which are clear and tooth-coloured and not stainless steel. They are much more expensive to provide and more expensive to use, because they tend to make the treatment take longer. So no one will make these available on the NHS, because you can't charge extra."

He also points out that when patients fork out private fees of approximately pounds 2,000, they are far more likely to remain committed to the treatment, which, with frequent orthodontic visits and a ban on certain foods, demands dedication.

Rebecca Gould, 27, isn't exactly overjoyed with her fixed brace, but the Holy Grail of straight, evenly spaced teeth has kept her going.

She says, "I've always hated my wonky teeth, but I also hate dentists, and as a teenager I point-blank refused to see an orthodontist. Now I've just about managed to overcome my fear, hence the iron jaw."

This is a familiar story. According to Mr Kettler, a fair number of young adults now opt for train-track treatment, whereas 15 years ago they were "very, very few. If they hadn't had it done as children, they were likely to leave it."

Improved standards of dental health and a sharper awareness of personal appearance are obvious reasons for swelling numbers of adult brace-wearers. A less obvious reason, Mr Kettler says, is the financial acumen of North American orthodontists: "In the 1960s most found themselves short of work because there had been a drop in the birth rate about 12 years previously and there were far fewer child patients, so they pushed it at adults quite hard. I'm sure some of that has come across to Britain."

But the zeitgeist and pushy dentists take joint second place to health and vanity. Mr. Kettler says: "I don't think braces are a fashion statement. People are not doing it because it's the done thing. They are doing it because they want a result."

Consequently, when the perfect smile of Cindy Crawford was briefly wired up with stainless steel to advertise the glamorising qualities of a brown, sugar-laden soft drink, the mature brace-wearers of Britain were not magically transformed into fashion victims. As Mrs Reade says: "A fixed brace looks extremely unsightly," and no amount of metallic supermodel grinning will alter this fact. Yet the stigma of resembling Jaws from the James Bond Movies when you're old enough to remember Sean Connery with hair does not seem to be an issue. Mr Kettler says: "Some people are concerned that they'll look odd, but because more people do it, it's entirely acceptable."

The experience of Paul Bamberough, a 37-year-old secondary school teacher, bears this out. He suffered a fixed brace to prevent his teeth from becoming distorted, and is now wearing a "single line" retainer brace to complete the job. Given his occupation, one would assume that a brace would render him fair game for mickey-taking, but no. He says gratefully: "The younger people have been curious but not really much more than that."

Suggested Topics
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments