A trend is growing in Southeast Asia that has potential health risks and involves dentistry. People are buying fake braces and getting them adhered to their teeth. These braces serve absolutely no function other than looking funny and ruining oral health, but they are nonetheless very popular among teens from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Although it may be hard to understand why this is happening, I will talk a little about the causes of this new trend, its development and its risks.
To most orthodontic patients, the concept that someone would wear braces without medical benefits, just for the sake of wearing braces is mind boggling, if not downright scary or even insane seeming. But really if you give it the spin it needs it all makes sense, and that spin, as it is so frequently is one of class. Wearing braces in a poor country is a class distinction, especially in countries where braces are not worn by the majority, and where there is no public health care, or if there is orthodontics are certainly not on the list of free procedures. Thus the coveted shiny metal accessories become a status symbol; they show that the child in question comes from a relatively wealthy background and can afford to have their teeth taken care of. The implications and benefits of this should be quite obvious.
Is it dangerous?
9 out of 10 times they are just a little dangerous. Having braces increases your risk of developing carries and tooth decay, and can dry out your mouth and lead to damage or inflammation of your soft tissues as well. This is not life threatening in anyway, but it certainly does seem like a high price to pay for something that is completely frivolous and serves no function but a social one, but crazier things have been done to fit in, especially by teens, the biggest market for these accessories. But they are potentially even more dangerous though, as the people who are adhering them have no idea what they are doing, and do not know anything about teeth, braces or dentistry. This has caused the suffocating death of at least 2 students in Thailand.
All in all this is a potentially dangerous trend, with no health benefits but possible negative outcomes. It is unlikely to spread to Europe and be adopted by teens here, as they usually can afford braces, or public health care can provide them, so we do not need to worry about that here, but the teens in Southeast Asian countries are putting their teeth in potential danger.