Brace Yourself: The changing face of orthodontics

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“Brace-face, metal-mouth, nerd.” These are some of the not-so-kind words that anyone who has worn braces has been called at least once. But while the name-calling never lasts, evidence that your teeth were once lined with titanium train tracks does. Think about those high school photos that adorn your parents’ living room and make you cringe every time you go home for a visit.

If you dodged the braces experience as a teenager, you might consider yourself lucky. But the idea of wearing braces as an adult, can be even scarier. You’re a professional now and you don’t want to endure an adolescent right of passage after your 21st birthday – especially not if it could interfere with your career.

Fortunately, some orthodontists agree. Dr. Anthony Strelzow, who runs a practice called OrthoArts in Vancouver, has been applying braces for more than 30 years and prides himself on keeping up with the latest advancements in his field. He doesn’t think the desire for straight teeth should interfere with a person’s professional life. That’s why he specializes in lingual braces – braces that attach to the back of teeth and clear aligners – invisible, plastic trays placed over the teeth.

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“At OrthoArts, we work with a lot of people in the entertainment industry – actors whose headshots often determine whether or not they get job interviews,” Strelzow said. “Think about it, if you’re auditioning for a part and the character doesn’t have braces, it’s going to be hard to get that part. But with lingual braces, you don’t have to worry because no one will even know you have them.”

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Dr. Anthony Strelzow

While Edmond Thompson isn’t an actor, he opted for lingual braces because, as a banker, he deals with clients every day. He felt conventional braces would interfere with his professional appearance.

“When I began reviewing options for my orthodontic treatment, I was almost 21 and I wanted to pursue treatment that was a bit more discreet.”

Thompson said that having conventional braces in his twenties would have drastically impacted his confidence at work and in his personal life.

“It’s outstanding how much your smile can factor into your overall confidence level,” he said.

These out of sight, out of mind-style braces have been around since the ’70s, which means you could have had them in high school. But before you call your parents out for ruining your teenage image, you should know that they weren’t always a comfortable option. Today, the technology has improved. The brackets are custom-made and fit snugly and smoothly to each tooth.

“There’s no difference in comfort level between conventional braces and lingual braces,” Strelzow said.

“Once you get used to them, they are quite comfortable,” Cathy Wood said, one of Strelzow’s patients.

Wood paid for her kids to have conventional braces and, after seeing them through the process, decided to get them too. But she works in the mining and resources industry and talks to people regularly as part of her job. Conventional braces weren’t an option.

“I’m out in the public eye, so I wanted more of a discreet measure of getting my work done,” Wood said. “I was extremely satisfied.”

On top of professionalism, lingual braces have an added safety benefit over their conventional counterparts – especially for patients who play sports.

“Lingual braces are a great option for both athletes and musicians. As you can imagine, it’s really hard to play instruments with reeds and mouth pieces when you’re wearing conventional braces,” Strelzow said. “And taking a hit to the face during a soccer game hurts more when you have braces on the outside of your teeth.”

Braces can be traced back to as early as ancient Egypt. But, of course, orthodontic techniques have evolved significantly since then. From applying pressure to the teeth with one’s fingers to binding teeth with gold wire to a variety of other metal and even wood contraptions, orthodontics have really evolved. Strelzow sees lingual braces as the next step in this evolution.

“If a new piece of equipment can improve a patient’s comfort, straighten teeth and minimally disrupt his or her life, it’s a positive advancement,” Strelzow said. “Lingual braces allow our OrthoArts team to cater to the unique needs of every patient.”

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