In the west, most people think of braces as a minor inconvenience at best on the road to nice straight teeth and a good smile. Do any of you see them a cool, trendy and maybe attractive?
Beauty (along with nearly everything else) is relative, and in Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, braces are considered super trendy and super illegal, thanks to the rich kids.
In cities like Bangkok braces can run up to $1,200, which is a little expensive for most Thai kids. But like everything else owned by the rich and powerful, braces suddenly have an air of wealth and status about them. That’s where fashion braces, or kawat gigi untuk gaya, come in. Running about $100, these braces are sold in markets, beauty salons, and online, and can be customized in all sorts of styles like Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty.
You don’t even need a dentist to wear fashion braces. Do-It-Yourself kits are extremely popular, despite the fact that they’re against the law in Thailand. In 2012, two teenagers developed deadly infections thanks to fashion braces. Authorities were also worried about the amount of lead found in the wires and were concerned kids might choke on loose pieces. Wanting to prevent any further deaths, the Thai government outlawed the practice, threatening to punish producers with up to six months behind bars. But that only gave rise to a thriving black market for braces.
Black market braces? Who knew...