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The risk of braces: Study finds dental correction doesn’t always yield the expected confidence boost … Are the benefits worth the health risks?

Orthodontic treatments are anything but cheap, but many parents are convinced that scratching together the money for braces for their children will make all the difference to their future confidence levels. After all, it just doesn’t make sense that the kid with the ugly, crooked teeth will grow up to be as confident as the one with the perfect, straight teeth, right?

Actually, as surprising as it might seem, that simply isn’t true. A study by researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia has found that forking out the money for braces for your children will not necessarily provide the confidence boost that you might expect. In fact, people who did not have braces fitted when they were younger actually exhibited a pattern of higher psychological scores in four different areas than those whose parents did find the money to give them braces. (Related: Kids are doing DIY braces on YouTube and the results are scary.)

Braces are not necessarily the key to happiness

The study, which was conducted by scientists from the University of Adelaide’s Dental School, included 448 Australian participants who were 13 years old back in 1988/9. The researchers monitored the group all the way until they were 30 years old in 2005/6, by which time over 33 percent had received orthodontic treatments.

This study was only the second in the world to examine the link between braces and future confidence and happiness. Surprisingly, people who had not received orthodontic treatments in their youth consistently ended up being happier and more confident than those who had. (Related: Everything you need to know about self-confidence.)

Like those who did receive braces, the participants who did not receive orthodontic interventions exhibited varying degrees of crookedness in their teeth when they were teens, with some having only mildly crooked teeth, while others had extremely severe crookedness.

The researchers monitored four different areas of psychosocial functioning, all of which are known to correlate to future health behaviors and outcomes.

Dentistry Today reported:

The study looked at four psychosocial aspects: how well people felt they coped with new or difficult situations and associated setbacks; how much they felt that they could take care of their own health; the support they believed they received from their personal network; and their own level of optimism.

“My orthodontist recommended that I have braces fitted but I’m quite happy without them,” noted fourth-year dental student Alex Furlan, who was never fitted with braces. “I’ve never felt the need to straighten my teeth — I can get on in life without having perfectly straight teeth.”

Study author, Dr. Esma Dogramaci, noted that while many people believe that braces are the key to feeling good about themselves and doing well psychosocially, this simply is not true. Surprisingly, a simple thing that really did make a big difference to future confidence and happiness was brushing teeth twice a day and visiting the dentist regularly.

Braces also pose significant health risks

Besides being really expensive and not necessarily providing a confidence boost in later life, however, braces can also pose real health risks.

The website warns that braces can increase jaw pain and headaches, damage tissue inside the mouth, cause dramatic root loss, and increase the chances of tooth decay. In addition, if the thin wires securing the brackets on the teeth break, these wires can scrape the inside of the mouth, causing cuts and bleeding. The glue and metal can also introduce toxins into the body.

As tempting as it might be to believe that braces will magically erase our children’s confidence issues this simply is not true. Instead, they carry serious health risks and are simply not worth their massive price tag.

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