CHINA: Better Brace Yourself!

Fake it til’ you make it. Teens in Asia are taking that concept literally as they apply fake braces on their teeth as a fashion trend. This curious fad first started in Southeast Asia, and it is now taking Asia by storm, making its way into many Chinese teenagers’ mouth. With the help of promotional blogs and application tutorial videos, kids can be the brace-face they’ve dreamed to be.

To Westerners, this is arguably the strangest fashion trend, but there is a very logical explanation. Despite Asia’s economic rise, buying braces is still considered to be a privilege amongst wealthy families. Just as being “plump” was thought to be attractive in China before 2000 because it was a sign of prosperity, braces have also become a status symbol for those who are rich enough to buy them. So beyond just wanting to be cool, there is also a desire to be (or seem) wealthy. Kids want to emulate people they admire. And in China’s money-driven culture, they admire the rich.

The market for this trend is mostly online. Fake-brace vendors do most of their promotions on blogs, where they display a plethora of design choices for kids to browse through. Each set is sold for the cheap price of $100. Once they order it, kids can watch tutorial videos online to learn how to apply the braces on themselves.

Nevertheless, there is a price for being cool. These braces are non-medical so there is no regulation on the production or the application procedure. As a result, fake braces are dangerous. They can come loose, slip the throat and cause mouth sores. Additionally, the wire may contain lead, which is particularly toxic to children. These braces have already caused two deaths in Thailand.

The Thai government issued a ban on the braces, but China still hasn’t. Beijing should take immediate steps to ban these braces and warn their citizens about the dangers of using them. It is no surprise that people would go to such lengths to be viewed as wealthy, but to risk serious injury and even death from a set of fake braces is not something anyone should risk.

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