Asian Teens’ New Fashion Trend: Fake Braces

Asian Teens' New Fashion Trend: Fake Braces

In America, teenagers have historically viewed having braces on their teeth as a social stigma, with putdowns like “brace face,” “metal mouth” and “train tracks” being par for the course. However, in certain areas of southeastern Asia, teens have begun to regard the orthodontia as a status symbol embodying style and wealth — which isn’t surprising, given how much money legitimate braces can cost. But in Thailand, Indonesia, China and Malayasia, legitimate braces are not what many teenagers (mostly girls) are buying. Cash-strapped kids are opting instead for fake braces applied in beauty salons or sold in do-it-yourself kits with brackets in the shapes of popular characters like Hello Kitty and different colored rubber bands to match their ensembles.

Reportedly inspired in part by local celebrities like Indonesia’s Andika Kangen and Thailand’s Earn the Star and American starlets like Gwen Stefani (who sported cosmetic braces briefly in the ’90s) and Katie Perry (who wore fake braces in an ironically un-glamorous fashion in the music video for “Last Friday Night”), these Asian teens are shelling out around $100 for a set of braces — likely less than 10% of what the genuine dental ware would cost.

But the fad is not without its dangers. Even braces installed by dental professionals can have their share of negative side effects — headaches, jaw pain, tissue damage, irritation, tooth decay and underdeveloped roots — so imagine what damage knockoff braces installed by beauty salon workers can do. Thai authorities have issued warnings that fake braces can cause infections, blood poisoning, nerve damage and choking; some even contain potentially poisonous lead. To date, so-called “fashion braces” have been blamed for the deaths of two Thai teens who succumbed to complications from infections, prompting Thailand’s government to ban the product. In Indonesia, however, fake braces remain legal, despite the health threats.

(Sources: The Associated Press, Vice, Venus Buzz)