by Christopher Piehler

According to the FAQ on the AAO Web site, “One in five orthodontic patients is an adult.” The same AAO FAQ goes on to estimate that, “Nearly 1,000,000 adults in the United States and Canada are receiving treatment from an orthodontist.” Well, as of this Saturday, make that 1,000,001.

After months of agonizing over whether I wanted to spend more years of my life with an alien presence in my mouth, and wondering whether I could afford it (while reveling in the irony that the editor of an orthodontic magazine can’t pay for orthodontic treatment without sacrificing luxuries like food and shirts), I have finally bitten the bullet and started down the long and winding road to straighter teeth.  

As the AAO FAQ rightly points out, I am far from alone in my desire to improve my teeth long after high school graduation. As more aesthetic brackets, wires, and aligners hit the market, more and more orthodontists are tapping into the adult market, where patients are both more compliant and richer.

I believe I am part of a growing trend, a sort of evolution in dental aesthetics, if you will. In my grandparents’ generation, dentures were a fact of life. (Remember that commercial where the grandmotherly woman soaked her false choppers in what appeared to be a tumbler of Sprite?) Among my parents’ age cohort, keeping all your teeth is commonplace, with the odd cavity, tobacco stain, or chip from biting off too many bottlecaps adding some local color.

But now, in the era of at-home bleaching kits and snap-on veneers, having anything less than a perfectly straight, gleaming white smile suggests the same disdain for personal hygiene once shown by the failure to bathe. So maybe I’m giving in to peer pressure. Maybe all the advertising got to me. Or was it the massive grin of Tom Cruise, who openly admitted to having orthodontic treatment in his thirties, that convinced me that a slightly askew smile was the only thing keeping me from my dream of riding a motorbike with Katie Holmes?

Whatever the cause, we’ll all have to wait 2 years to see the effect. And that’s enough about me. Please enjoy the issue, which features people as diverse as an orthodontist/State Senator (page 14) and a guy who makes retainers by day and fangs by night (page 38).