Country music fans noticed something different about Faith Hill’s smile a few years back when she showed up for the Country Music awards.
The popular singer wore braces, adding her name to the growing number of adults who decided to straighten their teeth through the traditional “mouth hardware” usually associated with children and teenagers.
There may be a good reason behind the trend.
A smile plays a critical role in how we feel about ourselves and how others see us. When people have an extreme overbite, crooked teeth or some other problem with their teeth, they hide their smiles. I’ve had patients who literally have forgotten how to smile after years of trying to conceal unattractive teeth. The result is they can be seen as less friendly and less approachable. Meanwhile, research shows that smiling can have an impact on numerous aspects of a person’s life, including their mood and how well they handle stress.
Adults whose teeth could benefit from braces often don’t think about that option. Even when they do, they are discouraged from following through because of dubious information that they have come to regard as fact.
A few of the myths that cause many adults to hesitate include:
• Braces are just for kids. That’s simply not true, and hasn’t been for awhile. About 27 percent of people seeking orthodontic treatment in the U.S. and Canada are adults and the number has been growing, according to a study by the American Association of Orthodontists.
• A referral is needed. While a dentist can refer a patient to an orthodontist, it isn’t a necessity. Often, dentists don’t bother to suggest an orthodontist to adults because they assume their patients don’t want or need braces. We’ve also been conditioned by the medical system to assume we need a referral to see a specialist, but that’s not so for orthodontics. You can make the decision yourself and it won’t affect your coverage if you have insurance.
• Braces need to be worn for years. Many patients tend to overestimate how long they will wear braces. It varies based on how complicated a particular situation is, but usually people will wear braces between six months and two years. Treatment did take longer in the past than it does today, but technology has helped accelerate the process.
• Braces are ugly and everyone will stare. This is another example of how things have changed. Braces are much smaller than they once were and ceramic, tooth-colored braces are available. Another option is clear, removable aligners such as Invisalign. Invisible braces attached to the back of the teeth also are available.
Anyone who’s unhappy with the way their teeth look shouldn’t let misinformation get in their way of improving their smile. The process is much faster, easier and more comfortable than the myths would have you believe.
Dr. Leslie Pitner, author of Improve Your Smile, Transform Your Life: A Life-Changing Guide to Orthodontics for Adults,is an orthodontist with a unique educational background that includes the study of art and psychology.