Ugly Betty or Discreet?

By Flora Chigwedere

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Iguazu Falls. Breathtaking is an understatement. Water gushing from above, spraying everyone in close proximity. They seemed to go on and on for miles, falling 2.7km along the Iguazu river. I had seen pictures and read about the falls before I visited them, but the experience was over and beyond what I expected. The Iguazu falls can be seen on the Argentine side, the excursion took a whole day and this also involved a speed boat ride which took us up river, right up to where the water falls over the highest cataract which is 82 meters high, 'Garganta del Diablo' or the 'Devil's throat'. It was an exhilarating experience.

On the next day, I crossed over to Brazil, as the falls sit on the boarder of the two countries. This too was fantastic, the panoramic views were great and I also went on a helicopter ride which allowed views over the falls. On entering the national park in Brazil, I paid for my ticket, and the lady that served me smiled. I noted she had braces – the 'Ugly Betty' metallic type braces which we rarely see anymore in England. From the ticket office, I took a stroll to a kiosk to buy a bottle of water and the young lady who served me said something in Portuguese, I didn't understand her, she smiled trying her best to communicate in English. And guess what – she too had braces, the same metallic type. Maybe they are sisters I thought to myself and brushed it off as a coincidence. I went to board the bus which took us to closer the falls, the bus driver had metal braces, and the bus conductor had metal braces. Our tour guide had metal braces. When I went to sit down for lunch, my waitress – yes, you guessed it, she had metal braces too! I started to feel like I was in a 'metal braces colony'. No word of a lie – at least a third of the Brazilians I interacted with in the few hours I was in Brazil had metal braces.

Metal braces are a rare sight in England and rarely used by London Dentists. We have gone the exact opposite way – when people consider having braces here, it is all about being discreet, you don't want anyone to know you are undergoing orthodontic treatment. Being seen with a mouth full of metal is almost taboo.

This got me thinking – Is it the social stigma? Are we generally more secretive in England? All of the marketing we do towards braces is about 'hidden braces' 'invisible braces' 'clear braces' 'tooth coloured braces'.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world, it is fashionable to have big metal braces – the bigger the better! I wondered to myself, as I watched the self assured Brazilians with their metal braces, smiling with a confidence undeterred by the fact that they were wearing metal braces, whether this trend of going back to basics would ever do a full circle here in England.

I guess programmes like Ugly Betty have made people realise there is no harm in having the big metal braces. Betty's character makes us realise it is all about the confidence and the personality exuded beyond the braces that counts.

But for now, as everyone around me wants to go invisible, I think it best I listen to the needs of my patients. There are now so many options available for 'Invisible' braces, one is spoilt for choice: Invisalign Braces, Lingual Braces, Clear Step Braces, Inman Aligner are all popular choices.

Invisalign is by far the most popular, although the Lingual braces are fast catching up.

It is National Orthodontic Week – 22 February 2011 to 29 February 2011. The London Dentist Covent Garden Dental Spa will be hosting an open day which will give people the chance to come in and discuss their treatment needs with us. There are only a few slots remaining, so if you are interested, please call us so we can see if we can accommodate you on the day.

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