When Kirti Khullar’s domestic help returned after her annual leave, she was shocked to see her employee wearing braces. As a 37-year-old surviving on the meagre income of hired help, Khullar wondered why she had decided to take this step. With some probing, it came out that the influence of her friends and a desire to perfect her smile for social media selfies had led her to the clinic of a quack dentist located in the bylanes of Andheri in Mumbai, who promised to do an efficient job at the ridiculously low price of Rs 35,000.
Once she overcame the shock, Khullar who had worn braces as a teenager realised that her employee was being taken for a ride and decided to take her to a better dentist. “Initially, I wondered why she felt the need for braces at this age and at her present stage in life. Then it dawned on me that she’s earning her own money, and this was perhaps a long-held desire she felt she could finally fulfill,” explains Khullar.
A paucity of knowledge about cosmetic orthodontic procedures coupled with the lack of funds and the fear of what people will say, ensured that braces were relegated to a cosmetic procedure pursued only by teenagers with crooked teeth. Things have come a long way since then, with a significantly larger proportion of adults now opting for these procedures, compared to adolescents, according to a study published in the International Journal of Dentistry and Oral Science in 2020.
Dr Karishma Khosla, Senior Dentist at Dr Khosla’s Dental Clinic, Safdarjung Enclave, Delhi, and Gurugram, shares, “Over the past few years there is greater awareness amongst adults regarding orthodontic correction. Most adults thought that once they crossed their teens that orthodontic correction of misaligned teeth will not be possible. There was also great hesitation in getting traditional braces due to poor aesthetics of metal brackets and wires, and due to a number of food restrictions with traditional braces. With the advent of clear dental aligners, there has been a huge increase in the number of adults wanting to get their smiles corrected.”
Invisible aligners, a popular variant of which is known as Invisalign, have certainly proved a game- changer. Priyank Kapadia from Pune shares that his protruding teeth had robbed him of the courage to speak to girls. Even those he met through his parents for matrimonial purposes, would reject him for his acute shyness. Then at age 32, emboldened by ads he saw of actress Parineeti Chopra flaunting her 1000-watt smile after an Invisalign treatment, he decided to correct this problem.
In a matter of just eight months, not only had his teeth retracted, the shape of his mouth and jaw had changed, giving him a more chiselled appearance and in turn the confidence he lacked when it came to approaching members of the opposite sex. Dr Brij Sabharwal, private dental practitioner and Past President Indian Dental Association, Delhi, explains, “More and more people are gravitating towards ‘invisible’ braces. They are also a more comfortable and hygienic option for the patient, require shorter and fewer appointments and their results are very promising. It is easier to get used to wearing options like Invisalign, as it fulfils almost all the patients’ aesthetic demands, while providing the same results.”
Though traditionally braces were used as corrective devices for problems relating to a bad bite, gaps in teeth and other issues; with the advent of globalisation and in more recent years, social media, they are increasingly being used for cosmetic purposes. Dr Namrata Rupani, Founder and CEO of Capture Life Dental Care in Hyderabad, highlights, “Social media has played a huge role in increasing the popularity of cosmetic orthodontic treatments in India.
From celebrities to social media influencers, the rise in the acceptance of adult orthodontic procedures is largely due to the understanding of their long term dental benefits.” She asserts that this awareness has helped remove the stigma of wearing braces. “Even in social circles, wearing braces and aligners is considered fashionable, which is why cosmetic dentistry is a growing dental segment,” she asserts.
Cosmetic orthodontics may suddenly be considered de rigueur but Dr Khosla offers a word of caution against using DIY aligners without the supervision of a trained clinician, as these can do more harm than good.
No matter what your age or intention may be, achieving the perfect smile must be left to the experts.
Why more adults opting for cosmetic orthodontic treatments:
✥ Desire to improve the appearance of one’s teeth
✥ Influence of social media
✥ Improvement in technology such as adoption of artificial intelligence and 3D printing, which have made orthodontic treatments faster and more accessible
✥ Advent of clear dental aligners like Invisalign which are nearly invisible and can be removed while eating and brushing, leading to no food restrictions and better oral hygiene
✥ Awareness of the benefits of orthodontic procedures in maintaining overall oral health
✥ Quick way to change facial appearance as the cheeks, jawline and mouth also undergo changes
✥ Desire to be considered fashionable by wearing braces, especially invisible aligners, in their social circles