Where does the impetus come from for most kids to get braces?

I grew up in a fairly lower-middle-class family, in a school district where I was surrounded by plenty of upper-middle-class kids. When I turned thirteen years old or so, it seemed like all the other kids at school started getting braces. I was envious and wanted braces too, because, first of all, this seemed like a rite of passage all the other kids were going through and I felt left out, and second, I knew these kids were going to have perfect smiles and I was not. I asked my parents if I could get braces, but they said braces cost thousands of dollars and we couldn’t afford it.

When I’ve told people this later in life, they’ve thought I was weird for wanting braces, because supposedly when kids are 13 they hate the idea of getting braces. Presumably they’re supposed to hate it because braces are uncomfortable, and make you look like dork and result in teasing. However, 1-2 years of discomfort seem like a small price to pay for perfect teeth (which you’d think an adolescent would be very interested in having,) and I never heard anyone getting teased about having braces, which makes sense, because all the kids had them.

For a while I thought it was too late for me, because I assumed you could only get orthodontic work done as a kid. During my adult life, however, it seemed to become more common for adults to get orthodontic work done too, so once I had enough of my own money, I got Invisalign. It did a decent job, though I still don’t have perfect teeth, because my maxillary canines have a fang-like appearance which, I only had pointed out to me recently by a dentist, is the result of the way they’ve worn against my lower teeth over the years. So I was wondering what my teeth would look like if I’d gotten braces at 13, which led me to reconsider the question of why I didn’t.

Of course, the proximal reason is that my family didn’t have the money. But even if we had, I don’t ever recall our family dentist when I was a kid saying I needed braces. I just wanted them myself, for cosmetic reasons. But “my kid needs braces” seems to have entered the popular lexicon as a cliche about family budgetary woes.

So why do almost all kids of at least a certain minimum level of means these days get braces? Presumably the kids themselves aren’t asking for them, because supposedly they don’t like them. Is it because dentists are telling all these parents the kid needs braces? Or is it because parents themselves are pursuing them, because they want to give their kids the best shot at success by ensuring they have a winning smile?

I think the dentists are telling the parents that the kids need braces, and the parents want to give their kids the best shot at success by ensuring they have a winning smile. Also, if a child’s friends all have braces, the child is likely to want to jump on the bandwagon even if their smile is already normal.

I have two daughters. One clearly needed braces: her teeth were very visibly crowded, her adult canine hadn’t descended, etc. The orthodontist reported that she’s got more of a U-shaped or even V-shaped upper jaw (hello, ape ancestors) than the typical human parabola-shaped upper jaw. You can’t tell from her face or even her profile, but it certainly affected her teeth. She had to have two removed and also endured some horrible chain apparatus to pull one tooth down into place.

My younger daughter has typical parabola jaw shapes on top and bottom. We did get the hard sell for braces due to ‘slight crossbite.’ She and I talked about it, and beyond the cosmetics of forcing one tooth to fully descend that had not (her sister’s same tooth was the one with the chain treatment, so clearly that descent issue is genetic), she didn’t feel there was any need for braces and I didn’t either.

I definitely felt the second time around that we were getting pushed hard to get something that was not medically necessary. With the first daughter, even I could see that we’d better find the money somehow.

Everybody else was getting them.

California, 1970’s, upper-class kind of town. I don’t remember what discussion there was, if any… once they tried fitting me with bands, the orthodontist said I had really big teeth, so there may have been crowding issues.

In my childrens’ case, all had bite issues or (2) incisors that stopped well above the gum line. Six kids, seven sets of braces so far,* almost entirely for physical adjustment purposes, cosmetics being secondary in all cases.

(The second-to-last set came off today, which was a joy, because it reduces by 50% the number of times I have to go see the practice’s butt-fugly logo. Which a tech today had in one-foot form across the back of her lab coat. In sequins.)

  • First set, short-term for front-teeth bite correction. Second set on now, for mandibular alignment and slight cosmetic fix. Also an eighth set - oldest daughter got adult braces last year to fix some front-gap issues.

These days I hear that kids want braces because all the other kids do and you can get them in cool colors. When I had them it was the Mark of Cain.

I wore braces for two years as a teen (put on in '78, taken off in '80). The reasons:

  • Of my four “first premolar” teeth, only one (upper right) ever developed as an adult tooth. The other three were still my primary (baby) teeth, and, as my dentist explained to me, the primaries were actually larger than the adult teeth would have been.

  • I have a small mouth, and so, due to the crowding caused by the bigger primary premolars, my teeth had become very crooked.

The dentist pulled all four of my first premolars (including the one “adult” tooth), and then the orthodontist installed braces, both to straighten my teeth, as well as to, over the course of two years, pull the remaining premolars and molars “forward” one slot, to fill in the gaps from the removed teeth.

Despite being down four teeth, my mouth was still too small for my wisdom teeth, none of which ever fully emerged, and I eventually had to have those removed, too. So, I’m down to 24 teeth, instead of a normal compliment of 32.

Edit: For the record, I’d guess that maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the kids in my class had braces (this was an upper-middle-class neighborhood). And, I hated them, though I certainly did like the eventual results.

The orthodontist suggested that I get braces to relieve crowding of my front teeth. The issue was cosmetic, since my bite was perfect. In fact, fixing the crowding would have destroyed my bite, so it would have had to be rebuilt. My parents offered me the choice of whether to have braces. I seriously didn’t care about having a perfect smile, so I declined. Recently, my dentist started putting the hard sell on me about how my crowded teeth were somehow a health issue, but when I pressed her, she basically admitted that she wanted me to have them done for cosmetic reasons (for me – I’m sure for her it was for financial reasons). Since I still don’t care about having a perfect smile, I moved on to a new dentist.

Not all dentists push all children. My dentist told my mother I could get them if she wanted. I have a very slight bit of crookedness on the bottom row. But when I smile I only show the top row, and they are straight and perfect. I’m lucky. So I never got braces.

I did have to get all four of my wisdom teeth removed, though.

I never got braces, since I was marginal, but it probably would have saved me money if I had.

On the other hand they told me that my younger daughter would need work ten minutes after she was born. Not just braces - she had teeth growing sideways.
Fine now after buying the orthodontist a new car.

Lots of my friends had them (early 90s) but my teeth were “good enough” that the issue never came up. I have a slight overbite and one slightly-crooked tooth on the bottom; I had surgery to remove the gap from between my two front teeth (what’s that called, frontal frenulectomy?), and had the wisdoms taken out before they erupted.

So I had work, just never braces. I saw many dentists when I was growing up, and not a one suggested it.

Since this is IMHO, I got braces somewhat later (16) because one of my teeth got lost on the way in and tried to figure out it’s own path. My ortho actually took pictures of my mouth at one point to submit to a journal or something. At least, that’s what he told me.
You wanna be a star, don’t yas?

My recollection of my middle to upper middle class school is that most kids who got braces, maybe 2/3, had jacked up teeth. Maybe it was still cosmetic in a lot of those cases but there’s, “Oh, your teeth look fine, you don’t need braces,” and, “Oh, hmm, yeah, uhh, no, those look, those look OK, you don’t, you don’t need braces, really.” Mine were the latter. I’m sure I could have functioned just fine with my strange tooth but it looked really bizarre.

I had big old horse teeth, though I honestly don’t remember being particularly self conscious about them. Which is odd because I was mortified about pretty much every other aspect of my appearance. At any rate, about 1/3 of the kids got them at that time and I just thought it was the "cool " thing to do. Like it somehow made me a “real teenager”. It was my parents decision anyway. Afterward and for the next thirty years or so I enjoyed displaying a great smile. Now I’m wearing braces again due to tooth loss fucking up my perfect smile. This time I was very much selfconscious about my teeth.

I don’t know on what planet braces were ever cool. It was a necessary evil but certainly not something to be desired. There was some teasing but at least I wasn’t alone. There were enough kids with braces that had them so I didn’t feel targeted.

I have two daughters. One needs braces the other doesn’t. Neither of them want it.

Not all orthodontists push them needlessly. When I got braces, I really did need them: I had enough of an overbite that my lower teeth were biting into my upper gum. Some years after I got them off from correcting that, some of my lower teeth shifted noticeably crooked. We went back to the orthodontist, and he said that he could adjust them if the cosmetics were important to us, but that it wasn’t likely to get any worse and we would be fine leaving them as they were. Which we did.

I would have assumed that most kids get braces because their parents tell them they’re going to get braces. What kid wants braces? I mean, if your teeth aren’t really all that crazy…I can totally see it if your grill is all jacked up.

One of my front teeth on the bottom is a little bit crooked. I remember my mom asking me if I wanted to get braces. I said no. Not because I didn’t want to deal with braces, but because even as a little tike I was a cocksure bastard. I figured that if someone didn’t like me because I have one slightly crooked tooth, they could screw right off, and I told her as much. Apparently she was satisfied with my reasoning.

I needed braces because my adult lower lateral incisors (the teeth on either side of the two center teeth) never grew in. Baby teeth fell out and the spaces got filled by the adult teeth that decided to show up and do their jobs. :smiley:

But that in itself wouldn’t have been enough to get braces. The problem was that because those teeth weren’t there, my lower jaw was becoming too small in proportion to my upper jaw. That was serious enough to get the braces, because it would quite possibly lead to chewing issues and whatnot down the line if not corrected.

My braces weren’t just for straightening the teeth, but also slooooowly moving the lower teeth around to make spaces for two fake teeth (which are really natural looking bridges with the support “wings” flush against the neighboring teeth’s backs). If it had just been a cosmetic issue, I wouldn’t have had them.

I had braces (plus a palette expander and rubber bands towards the end) for a little over 6 years. In my case, my teeth were seriously messed up, and it was causing bite problems, etc, in addition to looking bad. Lots of kids I’ve known who’ve gotten them seem to have perfect teeth already to my eyes, and they don’t keep them on as long. I think it comes from parental guilt - they look around and see all the other kids whose parents were wealthy enough to give them better teeth, and they worry their child’s future will be messed up because of it.

As for the whole whether it’s cool or not - to me, it seemed like if you were a Cool Kid and you got them, it made you even more popular, whereas when the nerd got them his nerdiness increased exponentially. Such is middle school.

I am impressed with the extensive use of dental jargon in this thread by presumably non-dentists. All I remember is I needed braces for my buck-teeth, and wore them for two years in high school; headgear, rubber bands, and zits. That’s what all made me a hit with the ladies.

My 16 yo daughter got hers off a couple months ago, since her teeth looked like Mater from Cars beforehand. I would not say she “wanted” them, but she is happy with the result. My son does not want them and may not need them.

I did not have braces and would have pitched a fit if anyone had suggested them. I wore glasses, was asthmatic, was in “gifted”, and was clumsy. I didn’t need braces, too. I mean, really.

Lucikly, my teeth were considered fine. They’re straight. They were near-perfect.

If I’d grown up fifteen years later, the dentist probably would’ve put me in braces because I have a very, very slight overbite (my bottom teeth slot in right under my uppers). You can’t tell from the outside that I have an overbite, but maybe adjusting the bite would’ve made my jawline more prominent. However, as I understand it would also have hurt like a mofo, so I’m good with what nature gave me.

Well, I WAS good with what nature gave me. I now need about $10K in work done, and that gives me chest pain. However, none of it is cosmetic, so I guess that’s a good thing.