Remember Those 80s Braces? How Times Have Changed!

By Jane Duncan, freelance writer

February 22 2021

Around four million Americans are currently wearing braces, reports the American Association of Orthodontists, and that figure has roughly doubled since 1982.
If you thought that was good news for kids growing up in the 80s, though, think again! Braces had at least double the ‘cringe’ factor they do in the media today, with kids being forced to wear one basic type of apparatus - a metal bar that led many to be teased with terms like ‘Jaws’.

The metal-mouthed villain Jaws (Richard Kiel) in the James Bond movie Moonraker

Today, of course, braces are almost a ‘cool’ accessory, and they come in a variety of colours and styles. If you have just been told you need to wear orthodontics or you simply wish to sport a perfect smile, then thank Stallone if you weren’t born in the 80s.

Nothing Was Hidden

Today, both pre-orthodontics and brackets can be placed in strategic places of the mouth - so much so that orthodontists can use expanders and other apparatuses that require few or no brackets. Therefore, most of the time, kids can avoid looking like Ben Stiller in his teens.
Another popular choice for teens involves having their brackets placed on the inner side of the teeth - thereby making them invisible.
Finally, those who can afford it are opting for Invisalign/transparent apparatuses that are worn as trays, varying in size over the months until teeth are completely straight. With Invisalign, it is easy to clean teeth, look as perfect as Molly Ringwald, and evade the painful comments that come with wearing a mouth full of metal.


Veneers Were Non-Existent

Veneers, now a ‘must-have dental accessory’ for celebs and influencers, actually hail back to the 1920s, but it was not until the late 1990s that they began to really gain favour, owing mainly to the fact that new-fangled veneers are finer and more natural-looking than the bulkier originals.

Today, it is possible to have veneers fitted for a super straight, white smile, without grinding existing teeth down out of existence, thanks to super-fine materials and strong bonding glue. Veneers still need brushing and flossing (since cavities can form on teeth or beneath the gum line), but they don’t require much more fuss than that. They do require twice-yearly visits to the dentist for maintenance, but you will probably agree that this beats twice-weekly visits for painful bracket tightening.

Boy in baseball cap wearing teeth braces

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

Braces Are Back

Today, some celebrities (think Miley Cyrus, Dakota Fanning and Tom Cruise) are openly rocking braces at red carpet events, since 80s nostalgia is bigger than ever, and those wearing orthodontics for a short time often opt to use this accessory as an ‘embellishment’. This, of course, is hard to believe for someone who is still a little traumatized from being teased as a kid in an 80s high school.

Today, you can choose from brackets and rubber bands in all colours, with some fashionistas rocking rainbow-hued brackets or bands in neon blue, green or yellow. 

The 21st century has ushered in an era of diversity and political correctness. While this may be annoying if you’re into dark humour, it certainly is a relief for anyone who doesn’t fit into the norm - including children who have to wear braces.

Today, there are so many options for straightening teeth - including invisible options - that we have come full circle and halfway up, with braces now being seen as a cute homage to one of the coolest decades of all time.