Braces take time, money and commitment, but many 50-somethings are grinning and bearing an uncomfortable regime. Daniela Soave explores the reasons behind this mid-life enhancement
I’ve noticed that an increasing number of people my age are sporting the same accessory. Some flaunt it more obviously than others. It’s expensive, it can be life-changing, and it’s no passing fad. Once you’re part of the club, you’re in it for a good nine months at least, often longer: sometimes there is no escape for as long as three years.
It’s a luxury of sorts, but it’s also a commitment. If we had been offered this accessory when we were teenagers, we’d have run a mile – who wants to look like Ugly Betty? Yep, I’m talking about orthodontic braces. Seriously. It’s a growing 50-something must-have.
It’s no longer enough to have your teeth whitened; now everyone wants a flawless smile. And if you’ve got the cash and the commitment, it can be yours. You’re 50 and you feel like a teenager? There’s nothing like a dental brace to cement the notion.
“More of us are having cosmetic dental work,” says dentist James Main of Main Dental. “The difference with this generation of 50-somethings is that we don’t accept our lot. There are a lot of celebrities our age who look wonderful and that gives us something to aspire to.
“If you’re not happy with your teeth at 50, why put up with it for another 30 years? What it boils down to is whether you can afford to have the work done.
“We’ve been lucky to have grown up in the best economic conditions and now that the kids have left home we have a lot more disposable income, and the desire and the impetus to get something done.”
The cost of braces
Braces help encourage teeth to grow straight by applying continuous, slow pressure, causing the teeth to move into position. There is a range of types, from the traditional metal train track that fits over the front of your teeth to tooth-coloured ceramic brackets that can be used instead of the metallic variety to almost invisible lingual braces that fit behind the tooth.
Lingual braces are the most expensive. A full smile at the London Lingual Orthodontic Clinic could cost in the region of £11,000. This is because fitting requires a great deal of technical expertise. Metal brackets are bonded on the inside of the tooth, with all parts of the brace, including wires, hidden behind it.
Train tracks come in at around the £3,000 mark, with ceramic braces costing somewhere between the metal and lingual. If you only want a brace for upper or lower teeth, the outlay will be considerably lower.
It’s not just the financial commitment you have to consider. Dental braces come with a degree of discomfort, usually in the days after initial fitting and when the braces are periodically adjusted.
And you have to be uber-scrupulous about oral hygiene. The Edinburgh Orthodontics practice says it is crucial to be meticulous about brushing your teeth, as gums can become inflamed and puffy. Your brace is an ideal place for plaque to collect, and this may damage your enamel if you don’t get rid of it.
Likewise, fizzy drinks and sugary foods can do equal damage and are to be avoided.
That’s just the start of the list of foods to be avoided. There’s also chewing gum, toffee, crusty bread and crunchy apples. Fruit juice can damage your braces, so that’s out, too.
You might develop a lisp. And kissing can be a whole new experience. See what I mean about commitment?
Even when you’ve achieved that perfect smile and waved goodbye to your braces, it’s not the end: teeth tend to move throughout your life, so it’s advisable to wear retainers occasionally, usually at night, to keep your teeth in line.
When it comes to braces, the saying ‘no pain, no gain’ could hardly be more true. But as James Main says, “Like anything worthwhile, it’s worth doing properly.
“My argument would be, what’s your life worth to you? We have a mental image of ourselves, of who and what we want to be, and we’re not stopping. We’re the generation that’s not going to grow old gracefully.”