Are Braces Superficial?

Many people think that getting braces is a completely superficial thing to do and tend to belittle the braces themselves by saying they’re “just for cosmetic reasons.” As someone who has had the joy of having had them, I have to say that this is kinda sorta maybe definitely inaccurate. To show you why, I’ll share my perspective and why saying “just for cosmetic purposes” trivializes everything going on when a person chooses to get braces.

Braces and Self-Confidence

Smile discrimination is real. People see and make judgements (often out of your favor) based on the attractiveness of your smile. Were smile discrimination not real, people in public (especially in visual media and public representation roles) would have considerably more misaligned smiles.

Off-color or crooked teeth can be the cause of people losing opportunities or never even being considered for some roles–from employment to dating. Really bad for the self-esteem. And people whose smiles aren’t optimal know this and find ways to compensate for their less-than-stellar teeth.

In my case, I would speak with my lips covering as much of my teeth as possible and only smile with a closed mouth—especially in pictures! I always looked extremely awkward because I would stifle my laughter or curb my enthusiasm during times when I should have been showing great joy in case someone was looking. Wouldn’t want to be caught being ugly. (I also made it a part of my personal brand to convince people and myself I didn’t care how I looked and would don hobo-chic to drive the point.)

More or less how all my photos looked as a young’n. Sheer dental discomfort.

This actually took a toll on my personality. I’m not shy, demure, or sheepish. Any adjective that is synonymous with those do not describe who I truly am. But those all became words associated with me because I wanted to avoid criticism for my teeth. Ironically, after getting comfortable with people who I knew would not make fun of me, I would let my big personality shine through (with as closed a mouth as possible). Everything I experienced was through a veil of self-consciousness.

I was self-aware enough to know that before and during the time I had braces. After they came off though, I could FEEL the self-consciousness shedding like snakeskin or feathers during a molt. Every day, I grew bolder than the day before. I became the man I should have been ages ago. I feel confident. I am certainly not perfect, but I feel that I don’t have to apologize for existing “uglily” and perhaps being an eyesore. Even if I’m not considered attractive to a person, I can accept that it’s an overall thing and not be worried that it’s specifically on account of my teeth.

On the other hand, you really learn how to strike a pose and make your face express itself in interesting ways when you don’t permit your mouth to be a part of the equation. Tyra said it best when she taught America and the world how to “smile with your eyes.”

Braces and Oral Health

Image courtesy of Ludosphère
Image courtesy of Ludosphère

Braces have far more benefits than only cosmetic enhancement (though I would be lying if I said I cared about them all as much as I did the better-looking teeth!) When your teeth are properly aligned, they are easier to keep clean and you can more than likely stave off would-be issues that come from overcrowding, gaps, or misalignment.

In my case, aside from also being crowded, my teeth were worn down because of the misalignment of my jaws and how my teeth touched. They should have contacted in the spaces meant for them. Instead, they ground one another and the friction began weathering them down which, I’m told, made it more difficult to chew (I had never noticed). They also led me to favor one side of my mouth over the other (which I had noticed but thought was normal). Had I not gotten braces, that might have become a major problem later on in my years.

Also, the awkward positioning of some of my teeth made flossing a nightmare! In one spot, my teeth were angled at such a way that caused them to shred floss lines. Not a good look at all!

Having gone through the daunting journey of braces with the support of my orthodontists and the promised future of more ease, I can now say that my teeth are more uniformly white, and easier to clean. I can use a normal toothbrush to reach all of my teeth and normal floss without having to make odd adjustments to the routine.

Now, as long as I remember to keep up optimal brushing/flossing habits and wear my retainer all the time, I can be completely carefree just opening up and being myself.

Braces: Polishing it Up

Braces are far from being a superficial procedure. People get them for various purposes that I don’t think you’d call foolish. Some include social mobility and comfort in one’s skin. Others include oral health and protective measures.

I understand why some people would see straight teeth as something that one shouldn’t concern themselves over and think it only superficial, but think about it this way: So much of our lives have to do with our mouths. We talk, laugh, smile, chew… wouldn’t it be great to invest in making sure you can do all that as comfortably as possible for as long as possible?

Sage Nenyue

Sage is a twenty-something Millennial who lives with his partner and two cats in Recife, Brazil. He graduated with a Bachelor's in Communication Studies (Media Studies) from The College of Wooster and now teaches English to some of the most wonderful people you will ever meet.