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Braces: just a scam?

I had braces for exactly 2 years, from ages 14 to 16.  The "Brady Bunch" had an episode about Marcia getting braces and how she had to adjust to them, accept them.  I suppose I thought they might just be a rite of passage.

Our 13-year old's dentist suggested we have an orthodontic consultation.  "The 45-minute consultation is free," the scheduler told me, "and we will walk through the doctor's recommendations, and all of your options and costs."  From the moment we set the appointment, it felt like a bit of a sales pitch.  My daughter was taught how to scan in at the front desk computer, brush up, and where to sit, "for the next time".  From my waiting room chair, I saw an endless stream of teens scanning themselves in, brushing teeth, and sitting to wait for the doctor.

 The doctor and the assistant were super smooth and fast-talking.  They were uber friendly and joke-making.  The recommendation: extraction of 4 teeth to make room then braces, no headgear, for 24 months.  The cost: $6855.

I had to ask: "How medically necessary is this recommendation?"  I was told the overbite causes the gums to stretch, thin and unnecssarily recede, causing problems later.  Also, the misalignment of teeth will lead to wearing down and erosion of tooth in the wrong places.

Hm.  Interesting.  OK, then.  I mean, if it is medically necessarily, wouldn't we pursue all avenues to pay $6855 for a new set of teeth?  Shining, shimmering, splendid?

Before we commit, I thought it'd be best to shop around.  While I loved this little boutique ortho clinic, it was certainly worth seeing what else was out there.  I rang up a dental chain and quickly asked what the cost range would be for a 24-month stint.  Answer: "about $4800".  A considerable savings, wouldn't you say?

Have you ever received a recommendation for you or your child to have braces, but forgone the recommendation?  Did you decide to pursue the braces?  Did you decide on braces sooner or later?


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Get a second opinion. Braces are sometimes a godsend, but sounds like you got both a slick salespitch instead of a calm, professional opinion AND that sounds on the pricey end. My son's are costing us about $3000, which includes headgear, though not the extractions. He did have to have four permanent teeth extracted, but that was handled by an oral surgeon and wasn't part of the services offered by the orthodontist.

We went to Dr. Crowe at North Portland Orthodontics at the referral of our dentist because our daughter had pretty bad crowding. We have seen her about twice a year for two years. She has done imaging in the office and referred us back to our dentist for a pull a tooth and then wait and see course of treatment (drift orthodontics) and has told us that our daughter may never even need braces, if the teeth self-correct with room and time. Oh, and she hasn't charged us a single penny and won't unless hardwear becomes necessary. I couldn't recommend her or her office more!

Uncle kito regrets not getting them. His mom asked if he wanted em and he said no, but thinks he just should've been told he was getting them.

There's no question our daughter will need them, but her mouth is still a bit immature. We'll probably just go with whomever our dental insurance and dentist refers us to.

That said, the interesting thing about braces is that the results aren't quite as permanent as they'd have you believe. My teeth (even though I wore my retainer and had the lingual bottom retainer in longer than I even needed to) moved back somewhat after 4 years of adolescent braces. I had it confirmed by a dental technician than the results are only semi-permanent and theoretically, you should get braces again, as an adult every 10 or so years (not gonna happen!).

Similar experience: the full schtick from 5th-11th grade. Lovely teeth in that senior yr yearbook photo. Perfect. Fabulous. Amazing.

27 years later? Lower teeth are squished, misaligned, imperfect. Damnit.

Braces/retainer/neckgear/lingual arch retainer caused gum recession, requiring grafts.

Even still:
Not going to shell out $ for a course of grownup orthodontia. Pfft.

My kids? Maybe. But later. Maybe.

Here's the thing. The first thing people notice is your teeth. Basically. In my opinion it's extremely important from the standpoint of good oral hygiene, as well as giving a good first impression. I mean, when you talk, people look at your mouth. That being said, orthodontia is a business just like anything else. Some prices will be higher, some not as high. Different places make their own prices, the same way stores do. It's smart to shop around.

Anyone have experience with Dr. Kuperstein of Parkside Orthodontics? She's been recommended to us.

I took my son to her for a second opinion. She seemed fine (her opinion matched that of two other orthos) and her office was pleasant.

I know other families who use her and are happy.

I rarely look at people's teeth, much less 1st thing. Just sayin'

I had braces in middle school, and went to Dr Rensch and Dr Dugoni in NE. (I can't believe they are still practicing!) They were great, and I am very happy with my teeth almost 20 years later.

I notice people's teeth right off, and I think straight teeth have become something of a class marker. Crooked teeth say lower class and less privileged upbringing, which doesn't necessarily reflect on who you are as an adult, but I do think it can make you stand out in some situations or with particular groups.

ED is absolutely right that teeth are a class marker. They are one of the big ones. I suspect that people who think they don't look at or notice other people's teeth are surrounded by people whose (possibly straightened), clean, cared for, white teeth don't draw attention to themselves. But if they were to encounter an individual with discolored, rotting or extremely crooked teeth (think Shane McGowan) they would notice, all right. I'm not saying this because I think everyone needs orthodontic care - I don't. But right or wrong, teeth do influence the ways people are perceived, greatly.

"lower class"? Isn't that just a bit snobby?

Snobby or not, it's true and we all know it. :)

I hadn't realized my crooked teeth said to the world that I'm from a less privileged or lower class. Call me naive. My daughter has quite crooked teeth as well, but for now we are prioritizing a stellar education over braces. I guess I should re-think my priorities.

In a choice between a stellar education and braces, education wins. I don't think anyone here would argue with that.

I don't "know that" and I find it hilarious that a place supposedly so NOT concerned with class distinction, superificality or materialism actually is frequently consumed with it.

I'd say ratty, faded clothes also indicate "lower class", but I notice PDX seems pretty comfortable with that. In fact it's largely a badge of honor in this town. Not to mention, the median household income in Portland (and Oregon as a whole) is less than $50K per year---which is pretty close to "poor" right there.

Not to mention, whether it does or it doesn't, the implication of "I'm better than someone else" that "lower class" implies is quite distasteful. When I see people who are or might be less well off than my family, I don't consider myself "better", I consider myself fortunate and think about how to help others. Not "eeeewww, crooked teeth!!! Must be an icky poor person!!!".

I'm frankly SHOCKED given that this a blog where normally I'm one of the more right leaning posters (and for the record, I'm a Dem, just sometimes I find some ideas move a bit to the extreme for my personal views).

As for stellar education---one can provide that for one's child through public schools, as well. In fact really, there are only two "stellar" non-post secondary schools in Oregon (and even then it's debatable): Catlin Gable and OES. And even some of THAT'S debatable. "Stellar" is Andover or Miss Porter's, not your local Catholic school.

I'm seriously stunned by what are thinly veiled, very bourgeois comments on this.

Orthodontia is not just cosmetic; my teeth were horribly misaligned and I suffered serious injuries from biting my tongue, cheek, and my bottom teeth hitting the roof of my mouth. I also couldn't chew food property. I wore braces for several years starting at age 11 and required two rounds of extractions. As painful as it was, I am so grateful my parents made my oral health priority. I can guarantee it was a financial stretch for them, but I cannot imagine going through my teens and into adulthood with horrendously crooked teeth.

I'm crossing my fingers that my two children do not experience the same oral issues that I endured because I know the cost of orthodontia has sky rocked. Nevertheless, if it is a health issue (NOT cosmetic), we will make treatment a priority.

So zumpie, you mean to tell me that when you've ever encountered someone with a big overbite or protruding teeth, you didn't stop for a moment to wonder why they had never had them fixed? And then THAT thought didn't lead you to assuming it was likely due to a lack of resources available to afford braces? Really?!? I'm not saying there has to be a negative view of them because of it; I'm simply stating that it's just an inherent thought process like anything else. If orthodontia or dental care were cheap, one probably wouldn't associate it with class, but more of a choice. It just is what it is.

Actually, no, I don't. I'm really not especially that focused on people's teeth (unless they flash me a huge smile of missing ones or something). And I certainly don't judge them for it.

And what's interesting is that I'm someone who's really into clothes and decorating---and notice THAT way before.

I think you're missing the point, zumpie. I don't see anyone here arguing that, oh my goodness, we MUST get braces for our kids lest they be mistaken for "lower class." I don't see anyone saying that poor people are icky. People are merely pointing out that, in the society we live in, good teeth (healthy, white, relatively straight, all of them present) are a class marker. They just are. It is a fact. It doesn't mean someone with bad teeth isn't as inherently worthwhile as someone with good teeth. It just means that it will be easier for the person with cared-for teeth to maneuver through certain aspects of life, such as job interviews.

As for the stellar education, I don't know or care where chc is sending her kid to school. But for plenty of people, prioritizing a stellar education may mean stretching to make mortgage payments or rent on a house in a decent public school district. Not sending the kid to OES.

@zumpie, I have a really hard time believing that you don't notice teeth. Or that you dont make assumptions based on it. Wow, you are one in a million!
Mentally class marking is different than "judging" them. For me, it doesnt necessarily mean i think less of them. I know some of the coolest people, yet because I happen to know their social/financial circumstance, i know they would be considered lower class. It's not necessarily an opinion. I know you probably want to think of yourself as the politically correct, neutral type person but that's really hard to do, unless you're raised in a cave somewhere. I mean, that recent story about the actress who dressed up in blackface for Halloween. Were you also one of the people going: "huh??what????What's wrong with it???? I don't get it???? It's just a costume!!!"?

Not even remotely an analogy: blackface is based in racial bias and demeaning another race. I find it just as offensive as the way Asians were portrayed by Caucasians on film a generation or so ago.

How would someone who doesn't buy into classism possibly find blackface okay? If anything, someone who does would be more likely to shrug their shoulders about it.

Under the argument of making it easier through job interviews---teeth then go with a myriad of other physical factors that might or might not be held against the applicant: weight, overall physical appearance, birthmarks, tattoos, etc.

Unless we're discussing something really extreme (and by extreme I mean like the teeth equivalent of a cleft pallet), I'm just don't really notice it. And find it weird that a city supposedly so not into appearances would.

I think it's important to note that the original poster was asking about forgoing braces, not forgoing all dental hygiene. It seems there's a consensus here that *really* bad teeth are noticeable and can stall a job search or hurt your life chances generally.
Personally, I knew a woman at my last job who had one crooked tooth in front. I never noticed it until she pointed out that she never smiled wide because of it. I hope people like her realize that not everyone is super focused on teeth.
One of my kids has straight enough teeth that braces haven't been recommended. My middle child has a very crowded lower mouth currently. We are doing homeopathics for other issues which may help his jaw grow into his teeth. Perhaps this would be a less expensive alternative for people to try first? I would probably not get his teeth altered unless it was imperative for health/teeth-safety reasons.
Dr. Weston Price had a lot of ideas about why our modern diets harm our teeth, so my child's teeth have been a call for us to watch our diets more stringently, which, if not cheap, at least kills several birds with one stone and is thus an efficient way of using financial resources.
I hope these ideas prove useful to the original poster.

Zumpie, why do you keep trying to generalize everyone in Portland??? I've been here my entire life and I'm not the neo "portlandia" type that seems to be the new thing. In fact I am so different from the supposed hipster, green, ├╝ber-liberal stereotype. So please be careful before you lump us all together and then try to figure out why many if us don't fit into

Not lumping all Portland (though we are generally a town known for bad clothes, by the rest of the country)---but stunned that a supposedly progressive blog talks about "markers of lower class" and fail to see how snobby and hypocritical that is.

And are you saying that although you aren't politically progressive or green (both of which, BTW, I am) or hipster (which I'm not)---that you're okay with classism and inspect the teeth of others to ensure they're worthy or that you think that's shallow?

Which was, BTW, my entire point.

One should, obviously, seek the best for one's children----but doing so just so they won't be "marked as lower class" is completely vile on so many levels I don't even know where to start.

Not to mention, 1 in 6 Americans now live in poverty, with a disproportionate number of those being children (and from what I understand, Oregon being slightly above that average). So there are probably going to be more, not fewer people with that "marker of lower class". And I certainly won't be judging them or their parents.

It's especially weird given that many moms who post here will probably struggle to afford braces and might not even consider them (there are plenty of posters on the Oregon Health Plan, kids in Headstart and public assistance, which would certainly qualify them as "lower class").

So no, I don't think I'm generalizing----I think I'm pointing out that it's weird to be progressive and still view poor people as "lower class". And even if you're a far right conservative, it's still wrong to view poor people through that lens

Wow, I wasn't trying to stoke the fires of class warfare here in my original comment. The poster asked if it was worth it to spend money on braces, and my point is that it may be for additional reasons even beyond health reasons. We invest in many aspects of our children's upbringing to help them fit into society, whether it be clean clothes or a good education or straight teeth.

@zumpie, the point isn't that I think poor people are lower class, or that I "judge" people for being inferior if they have crooked teeth, but that I and many people notice how someone's teeth look. Perhaps you never notice teeth and you've never made any observation whatsoever--let alone a judgement--about a person's teeth, but most people do notice teeth and it makes an impression on some conscious or unconscious level, rightly or wrongly. Maybe societal standards for dental hygiene will change if poverty makes braces less attainable for more and more families, or we could find ourselves looking at a new class divide, between those with straight and crooked teeth.

As far as your assumptions about what type of people read this blog and live in the city of Portland and whatever anti-bourgeois, progressive ideals we are all supposed to live up to, just remember that it's not just blog readers here but the general American populace that our children will eventually deal with. Class matters, and class markers matter, even if we all wish it didn't in our progressive ecotopia.

I lived in several different states and large cities. Still find calling poor people "lower class" and worrying that someone might someday mistake my children for the evil poors to be completely offensive and bourgeois.

And very, very weird for a blog with a significant "lower class" readership.

In the middle of reading The Glass Castle, and I read this interview with her today. Her remarks about braces, halfway through, reminded me of this umama conversation: http://conversationsfamouswriters.blogspot.com/2005/10/jeannette-walls-glass-castle.html

Hmmmm, she was white, educated and attractive. She grew up in a family that was more bohemian/dysfunctional poor than struggling through the cycle of poverty many Americans have so much difficulty extracting themselves from.

She also went on to have a brief TV career, so I'd hardly say braces were as much about "lower class" as they were about furthering her physical appearance. To say nothing of, I'd tend to think parents who raised you in Dorothea Lang style squalor, in the 1970's, probably you carry a few more scars than crooked teeth.

To say nothing of, it's a memoir in the misery lit genre. Memoirs are, by definition, not completely factual (in fact many of them prove to be completely fabricated). It also seems to be a bit of Walls's own navel contemplation.

As I noted, I'm not against braces in the least. I just think, particularly on a blog where many of the readers confess themselves to be low income (and ask about free services), it's weird and hypocritical to get snobby about people being "lower class".

Pulling teeth in children has a very high chance of causing TMJ problems, as it happened to me. Orthos are there to sell you on their services which are in 99% of the cases medically not needed. Overbite cases can be better handled by moving the lower teeth forward, and this ortho has no idea how the soft tissue will reform after the extractions, he's playing russian roulette with your child's health and facial structure, all for a huge profit. I have several videos posted related to this, ccarrieb on youtube.

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