Adults looking for dramatic makeovers have something to smile about
For most American teenagers, there’s one rite of passage that can be as traumatic as the end result is rewarding not sex, but good ol’ dental braces. But with more choices and many affordable financing options, there is a growing trend in adults getting braces to correct crooked teeth and cavernous gaps.
They’re in good company: Some of Hollywood’s most famous ladies all had braces as adults, including Janet Leigh, Linda Evans, Diana Ross, Carol Burnett, Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Cruise. And the wildly popular Ugly Betty has brought even more mainstream attention to the reality of braces for the over-18 set.
But you don’t have to be a “metal mouth” like Betty to fix that bite. Other choices include lingual (behind the teeth), ceramic or clear braces and the ever-trendy Invisalign brand.
Oak Lawn-area dentist Paul C. Dunn has been practicing orthodontics for 32 years. While he estimates that only about 5 percent of his braces patients are adults, he says that the number increases every year. “Some have had braces before and other are first timers,” Dunn says.
Steven Boening had worn braces three times before getting his fourth set at age 35 after determining that veneers weren’t practical.
“My teeth were getting very spaced out and veneers were going to be about $15,000 just for the front teeth,” Boening says, so braces were a relative bargain at $5,000.
His entire bite was becoming misaligned and he was banging up his front teeth more than he should, “but vanity was the big reason,” he admits.
Oddly enough, most people don’t even notice that Boening has braces until he points it out.
“Once they do know, they react positively and usually want to know more because they have been thinking about getting them, too. They always want to know my orthodontist’s name and how much I paid.”
Boening, a vice president for the Bank of New York, speaks for a living and admits it does take a little time to adjust to the new apparatuses taking up residence in his mouth.
“When I am doing a training class I really have to focus on speaking, but sometimes I still sound like Jan Brady.”
Twenty years ago, when attorney Carl Johnson decided to get braces at age 40, it wasn’t particularly common to see adults with silver smiles. As a child, his parents couldn’t afford to buy him braces, so after furnishing them for both his sons, Johnson realized it was finally his turn.
“I felt out of place in the office full of teeny boppers, so I learned to joke about being the oldest living person to wear braces,” Johnson says. “However, when the braces were removed and my picture joined the wall of smiley young faces, I was pleased.”
For adults with average dental problems, Dunn says to expect to wear braces for 18 to 24 months. He also advises that patients do their homework before investing in braces: “Interview several dentists before you decide and be open and honest about what you want.”
In the end, that will leave everyone smiling.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 16, 2007.