Ugly Betty gets her braces off – Did her orthodontist do a good job? – An orthodontists’ opinion about Betty’s big day

My wife and I (also an orthodontist) recently watched an episode of Ugly Betty in which Betty finally had her braces removed. I say “finally,” because she has had her braces on for a very long time (at least 4 years – and who knows when she got them on). This is unfortunate because it perpetuates the misconception that orthodontic treatment takes 4-5 years. This could not be further from the truth. In reality the average treatment time at Humphries Orthodontics is approximately 2 years, and often less, depending on the nature of a patient’s orthodontic problems.

(For those who don’t want to read my long winded diatribe there is a summary at the end)

Nonetheless, we were eager to see her smile without the braces (even though we have seen photographs of the actress without her braces). The first thing that caught our eye was a space behind her upper left lateral incisor. It becomes increasingly apparent on a big screen HD TV. America Ferrera has beautiful teeth and a beautiful smile but this was disappointing, especially since they say repeatedly in the episode that she has the “perfect smile.” We actually never noticed the space before since the retainer that she wears for her braces on the show masks the space. My first comment to my wife when they unveiled her new smile was, “her orthodontist didn’t do a very good job, they left a space distal to the upper left 2.” Leaving a space between anterior (front) teeth is certainly not ideal and not a fantastic result (as a side note there are instances in which this may be a part of the individualized treatment plan but would be later closed with restorative dentistry – bonding or a veneer).

One of the greatest aspects of the “braces removal” episode of Ugly Betty was that they alluded to the impact of a beautiful smile. They did this by showing a head trauma induced daydream in which Betty sees what life would have been like if she always had a perfect smile. Ultimately, an esthetically pleasing smile in conjunction with ideal function can lead to vast improvements in quality of life. This ranges from esthetic to functional improvements. Orthodontics routinely leads to a profound increase in self esteem. We often see teenagers transform before our eyes as their self confidence improves with a beautiful smile. Orthodontic treatment can also allow for more efficient and effective mastication. It is commonplace for adult patients to rediscover the joys of eating with an ideal bite. Orthodontics can also resolve issues causing problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), some of which can be very painful for patients. Orthodontic treatment can resolve crowding which can lead to localized or generalized bone loss and periodontal disease. Obviously orthodontics will not have the effect that was portrayed in Betty’s daydream but there are many benefits of orthodontic treatment and this episode certainly painted our profession in a good light.

We also appreciated that they had an appropriate plier for removing Ugly Betty’s braces. It is too often in television or movies that props are used for dramatic effect rather than accuracy (in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Charlie wore a face-mask and a headgear which pull in opposite directions and are never used in conjunction with one another).

We did have a few complaints in addition to the space. The episode made it seem like Betty just decided she was ready to get her braces off and so she called an orthodontist and scheduled the removal appointment. This could be misleading to people in that it is imperative to have regular orthodontic adjustments in order to achieve the goals of your individualized treatment plan.. My final complaint is nit picky but, they did not show the adhesive (glue) being removed after the braces were taken off of the teeth. This oversite was necessary for the story line and allowed the orthodontist to take off the braces outside of the office. Nonetheless that is the most time consuming part of having your braces removed.

Overall, having somebody in the spotlight wearing braces is certainly a great thing for the profession. The show sent a message that there is nothing wrong with wearing braces. We will miss Betty and her braces.

Here is a summary:

The Good

  • Betty got her braces off
  • They used an appropriate plier to do so
  • They episode where she gets them off focused on the value of a beautiful smile (although certainly over done for dramatic effect)

The Bad

  • She finished “treatment” with a space behind her upper left lateral incisor
  • She had her braces on way too long
  • You need to regularly see your orthodontist to complete treatemnt
  • The adhesive needs to be removed when you get your braces off
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