5 things I learned when my daughter got braces at 15.

Orthodontics Australia
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When I was a kid, the thought of getting braces was like social death.

When the prettiest girl at school turned up one Monday with her head in what looked like a metal cage the rest of us were frozen with fear. For two years her lovely face was in some sort of tooth detention unit.

Those of us with an overbite or crooked teeth decided to keep our mouths shut, lest we face the metal face fencing. Of course when the braces came off, the suffering was worth it. Her teeth were straight. Her smile was radiant.

Although she had endured some pretty awful brace-ism. That’s the term for the ridicule people with braces can experience when unkind people are mean to them.

The culture around braces back then reflected the social stigma and the pain kids with braces in my era were subjected to. Merciless taunts like ‘metal mouth’, ‘brace face’ and ‘railway tracks’.

When my daughter got braces at 15 I was worried for her, and then delighted to discover that sort of ‘brace-ism’ of my generation wasn’t there. And because of that, and how much better the materials are now and the variety of options available for people needing their teeth fixed, my daughter Sophia WANTED to get braces. She actually begged me. As you can see in the photo above, she got them.

The whole experience was a real learning curve for me. Here’s what I found:

1. Braces aren’t just metal anymore.

In the past braces were made from stainless steel and attached to the front surfaces of the teeth. Now you can have ceramic braces that are clear, and you can even have something called lingual braces applied to the back of the teeth. You can have tooth-coloured brackets. You can even have coloured bands if you want something funky. Braces are a little more fashionable now, which just makes the process of getting them so much more appealing.

And then, of course, there are the hugely popular clear aligner treatments as alternatives to braces. They work for a lot of people’s teeth, but not necessarily for major corrections, where traditional braces work best.

Ceramic braces are a good option for crooked teeth. Image: Getty.

2. The cost didn't kill me.

My next stumbling block was the cost. Everyone makes jokes about how much braces cost, and with five kids I did worry about how I was going to come up with the money if they'd all need them (they didn't).

My orthodontist was understanding enough – he created a payment plan so I could pay over the duration as each procedure was performed. There are a lot of visits, but I reasoned that the thousands I'd spend then would save my kids from having teeth issues later in life.


3. A good orthodontist is good for a reason.

A good orthodontist really makes sure that everything is tracking well and that you know what lies ahead, both physically and financially.

My daughter’s orthodontist was incredibly gentle. He was an older man who I later discovered had put braces on the teeth of three of my cousins. I had no idea that he’d been looking in the mouths of my family for over three decades! Now that certainly made me smile.

But as well as having that good word of mouth, he's a registered specialist orthodontist. There's a difference between a registered specialist orthodontist and a dentist who offers orthodontics. According to Orthodontics Australia, an orthodontist studies an extra three years to specialise in that area. Some dental providers around Australia offer "orthodontics services", which might mean they've trained in short courses or weekend workshops, but are not registered specialist orthodontists and therefore don't have the deeper know-how. If you're not sure about whether your local orthodontist is a registered specialist, check at Orthodontics Australia's website.

4. We never felt left in the dark about the process.

After the first consultation we had a really clear idea of what lay ahead for Sophia. Her canines had no room to come down so her teeth needed to be moved apart to make way.

She had a space-creating appliance that was adjusted over regular intervals for one and a half years. Then, once the right amount of room was made in her mouth, she could get her braces for nine months.

By the end of this process her canines had been repositioned. Fascinating stuff!

5. Teeth naturally just want to move.

The orthodontist told me that teeth are always on the move. I didn’t know that - I always thought that the were in a fixed position.

This necessitated the use of a retainer after my daughter's braces came off – something she pops in at bedtime for the rest of her adult life.

She’s 20 now. A beautiful vibrant girl full of confidence with a perfect white-toothed smile.

With the help of her orthodontist, I have given her incredible teeth. DNA and Dr Cavallaro. Now that's a legacy for life.

orthodontics australia
Sophia after having braces. Image: Supplied.
Orthodontics Australia

Orthodontics Australia is the Australian Society of Orthodontists’ (ASO) public information and advice channel. Orthodontics Australia is on hand to help consumers understand their orthodontic treatment options, the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist, and to find the most qualified specialist practitioners providing orthodontic care in their area. Whether you’re considering braces or clear aligners, looking for a registered specialist orthodontist or want more information about the results you can expect to see along the way, the reliable and accurate resources found on the Orthodontics Australia website will give you the confidence to take the next steps to achieve the smile you’ve always wanted. There's no substitute for a specialist. Find your specialist orthodontist at: orthodonticsaustralia.org.au

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