The Love Island Effect? Why are more grown-ups getting their teeth straightened?

According to the British Orthodontic Society (BOS), three quarters of their members say they’re seeing more grown-ups coming through their doors.  Once seen as a treatment for teenagers, more and more adults are now wearing braces.  A  recent BBC news article reported that Orthodontists say grown-ups are flocking through their doors for teeth-straightening.  As Zen is a specialist orthodontic practice, we have been treating a high volume of adults since we opened in 2011 but we have noticed an increase in recent years.  So what’s motivating more people to chase the perfect smile?

Here is an excerpt from William McLennan’s BBC article:

Some say the gleaming smiles seen on Instagram feeds and reality TV shows are behind the rise, while others say it’s just become more socially acceptable for adults to wear them.

But what do the people wearing them say?

‘Celebrities made it cooler’

Lucy Setter was 27 when she had her braces fitted.  She said watching a wave of flawless selfies scroll across her Instagram feed helped to persuade her to take the plunge.

“Perfect pictures of people are being put up all the time and I thought: ‘I can’t smile because of my teeth’.”

She found an orthodontist who offered an interest-free payment plan and, in November 2016, put down an £800 deposit, followed by £135 monthly payments.

Now 29 and a mum-of-four (she gave birth to twins shortly before the braces were removed in October 2018) Lucy said she was “a lot more confident now”.

“I used to smile with my mouth shut. I’m a lot more confident now. It’s in all aspects of my life. In an interview, or something like that, it makes me confident.”

It helped that celebrities such as presenter Fearne Cotton, who posted about her own braces in 2016, had “made it more cool” she said.

‘It’s not a vanity thing’

Hannah Bailey, 31, has wanted to straighten her teeth since she was a child, but said she could only now afford the fees.  “I avoid smiling, I hold my hand up to my mouth when I laugh, so it will be quite life-changing.”

The self-employed childminder, is part-way through a six-month treatment.

Despite being self-conscious about her teeth as a teenager, the fear of braces drawing unwanted attention turned her off, she said.

Since having them fitted, the response from friends and family had been overwhelmingly positive, she said.

However, she fears some people will view her decision as vain and similar to having plastic surgery.

“It’s strange. As children you are encouraged by dentists [to have your teeth straightened], but when you are an adult people think it’s a vanity thing.”

While she understands how “textbook perfect” celebrity smiles can inspire self-consciousness, Hannah says they did not influence her.

“What I’m going for is straight teeth, not the Hollywood smile.”

Neil Hillyard, 52, was in his mid-forties when he had braces fitted.

After getting fed up with crowded teeth that had been “bugging him for a while”, in 2013 he decided: “If I don’t do it now, I’m never going to do it”.

“Now you can walk into an orthodontic practice and it’s very accessible and very socially acceptable. There’s a lot more opportunities than there was twenty years ago.”

According to the BOS survey, he is not alone in having treatment in his forties.

It said 80% per cent of adults with braces are aged between 26 and 55, although women make up the vast majority – 80% – of cases

Mr Hillyard said he had been “well aware that it was very unusual” for men to have braces and felt “terrified” beforehand.

“But once I got over that, it wasn’t a barrier at all,” he said.

Mr Hillyard, who went on to start the UK Adult Braces blog, said having orthodontic treatment was “one of the best decisions he had ever made”.

“The thing that really surprised me is: no one cared less. I thought everyone would notice. No one really mentioned it, but when you brought it up they chatted quite happily and said they wish they had the confidence.”

What do the professionals say?

Nina Shaffie, an orthodontist at The Sandford practice in Bexleyheath, said she had “seen a sudden rise in adult patients”.

While she feels the “archaic stereotype that braces are for teenagers is finally being broken down”, she also believes “increased integration of social media into our daily lives” and interest in reality TV shows had contributed.

Adult patients often came in “requesting a certain celebrity’s smile”, she said, and mentioned programmes including Love Island, The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea.

Hours spent browsing Instagram images of people with the “perfect body image” created a “warped perception of reality”, she warned, with people unaware of the hours spent trying to capture the “perfect selfie”.

BOS board member Mr McCallum said greater awareness and more discreet braces had also driven the rise.

Previously, adult braces were only used by those with a “very complex problem”, but today people simply wanted to change the appearance of their teeth, he said.  New treatments, including transparent, removable devices, were more socially acceptable, he said.

At Zen, Dr Callanan listens carefully to our patients concerns and aspirations for their smile.  He then recommends an individual treatment plan and explains carefully what each patient can expect.  If you would like to have a consultation with Dr Callanan, please click on the get in touch button below.

You can read the full BBC article quoted at


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