The ‘selfie generation’ is embracing braces as the ticket to an attractive smile. But parents are facing financial pressure to pay for them.
The ‘selfie generation’ is embracing braces as the ticket to an attractive smile. But parents are facing financial pressure to pay for them.

Selfie generation braces for winning smiles

The 'selfie generation' is embracing braces as the ticket to straighter teeth and an attractive smile.

But while teenagers no longer consider braces an embarrassment, their increasing popularity means more parents face financial pressure to pay for them.

With the cost of braces costing up to $10,000 even reimbursements under private health cover can leave a significant hole in the family budget. Australian Society of Orthodontists spokesman Dr Robert Schwartz said that while braces were costly, they were a good investment not only in a child's appearance but their long-term dental health.

"They are more affordable than they were 10 or 20 years ago and less noticeable," said Dr Schwartz. "As well as metal braces, there are porcelain varieties now and they even come in different colours." He said braces had become more prevalent, particularly among young girls sensitive about their appearance.

But Dr Schwartz said it was not only the "selfie culture" driving growth in braces but more awareness of the impact of misaligned teeth and over bites on overall health. "Bite problems and protruding teeth can impact on dental hygiene and also be related to other medical conditions such as sleep apnoea," he said.

 

New research reveals that attitudes have shifted significantly in recent years and the majority of Aussie kids now want
New research reveals that attitudes have shifted significantly in recent years and the majority of Aussie kids now want "train tracks" on their teeth.

While Medicare does not cover dental care, major private health insurers are seeing solid growth in claims for braces and other orthodontic treatments under policies covering extras. For example, the number of Medibank and ahm customers claiming for orthodontics increased by an average of 6.5 per cent each year between 2012 and 2019.

Medibank chief customer officer David Koczkar said the insurer had a range of extras policies that covered orthodontic treatment.

"We find that customers with young children tend to move to a higher level of extras cover, so they can serve their waiting period, before they begin orthodontic treatment for their child," said Mr Koczkar. One if its most popular products was Top Extras 75 where customers can claim up to $2400 per person (lifetime limit applies).

Consumer watchdog Choice cautions that not all extras policies are created equal with some only covering a couple of hundred dollars worth of orthodontics, while a few premium policies will pay over $2500.

Extras policies that include cover for orthodontics typically cost around $1600 a year for a family extras policy - more if your household income is higher than $180,000, due to the lower government rebate. And over three years you might expect to pay $5000 in premiums. Australian Society of Orthodontists' Dr Schwartz said parents should have their children's teeth assessed by an orthodontist between the ages of 7 and 8 to see if braces were needed. "Early intervention can shorten the time braces are required," he said.

He said braces were now considered "cool" among young people rather than something to be sensitive or ashamed about. "There is no longer a stigma attached to them," he said, adding they can even be fun. "Coloured bands can be attached to the braces to coincide with different events such as the Olympics."

 

Taylor Gilmour with her colourful cool braces. Picture: Ellen Smith
Taylor Gilmour with her colourful cool braces. Picture: Ellen Smith

Children usually have to wear braces for between 9 and 18 months depending on their condition. They usually do not interfere with sporting or other activities, but foods such as boiled lollies or other hard foods should be avoided to prevent the braces slipping off the teeth. The Australian Society of Orthodontists says teens may notice a slight difference in their smile at four weeks, but generally it takes two to three months for braces to begin noticeably straightening teeth. As with all orthodontic treatment, every person's bite and circumstances are different - meaning the time it takes for braces to start visibly aligning your teeth will differ as well. People with slightly crooked teeth will probably notice a difference sooner than those with a severe teeth misalignment.

The society also warns there is no quick fix for your children's teeth cautioning against a number of companies which are now offering teeth straightening orthodontic products direct to the consumer without also offering any in person consultation with an orthodontist or dentist.

Originally published as Selfie generation braces for winning smiles



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