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Braces of Orthodontic Overkill

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"... and here's little Katty Vance in her first year here. Doesn't that oil-derrick in her mouth make her look adorable?"
Hilary Locke, Sequential Art

If some character has teeth in need of orthodontic correction, it's pretty unlikely you're going to see them in regular, boring old braces. After all, we see those all the time in Real Life — how dull and boring! Instead, poor crooked-teethed Alice or Bob is going to be saddled with this monstrous orthodontic device that sticks out of their mouth, takes up half their face, and brands them as a nerd/dork/geek for the rest of their formative years. Yes, be prepared for the be-headgeared character to be a stereotypical nerd, or at least take on a few nerdy mannerisms. No popular or cool kid ever has to wear one of these ridiculous things.

Due to the rather blatant character attributes the headgear usually implies and orthodontic technology having improved significantly since the nineties,note  this is now more or less a Discredited Trope - possibly also due to the fact that so many kids spend at least some of their adolescence wearing some kind of brace these days. It's rare to see such headgear now except for the sake of a one-off gag. Curiously, regular braces are still somewhat rare on TV. Guess they must all have the invisible kind.


Compare and contrast Pubescent Braces and British Teeth.


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  • This Altoids ad.
  • In this commercial, a woman named Sarah chooses to refinance her house with the Amerisave Mortgage Corporation. The narrator assures us that she will not regret this decision the way she regrets purchasing a "do-it-yourself orthodontics kit," the elaborate contraption of wires and rubber bands she wears throughout the commercial that renders her unable to speak or eat properly.

    Comic Books 
  • Aversion: Stargirl, of the Justice Society of America, got braces in the second issue of her solo series. She still has them to this day, though they're typically only drawn in during close-up panels.
  • Smile (Raina Telgemeier), the graphic autobiography by Raina Telgemeier, talks about the various dental and orthodontic procedures she went through when she seriously damaged her teeth in an accident. As such, the procedures are realistic such as she has to wear an external frame at one point, but only when she was in bed. She did have to wear a variant brace at one point that included a rubber band inside her mouth that was diagonally positioned from one side of her upper jaw, to the other side of her lower one. However, most of her braces were reasonably subtle in appearance and once she finally dropped her false friends who continually teased her about them, the real friends she later gained didn't notice anything after a while.
  • The French comic Titeuf has Jean-Claude, a boy with a brace so invasive he is incapable of normal speech (and is reduced to sputtering saliva).
  • Averted in the comic version of W.I.T.C.H., in which Hay Lin gets regular braces, and even gets to customize them!

    Comic Strips 
  • Inverted by body-modification fan Pierce from Zits, who gets disheartened when his orthodontist (the main character's father) tells him he can't have more metal added to his teeth/face.
    Walt: [facepalm] Pierce, as your doctor I prefer that you don't perform freelance orthodontia on yourself.
    Pierce: Even if it's just decorative and not structural?
  • Jason from FoxTrot once tried out braces, and actually tried to build them up into a working radio. While still wearing them.
    Marcus: Where should I solder on the volume knob?
    Jason: In series with the amplifier, silly.
He also went around dressed as the Terminator, on grounds that he's now technically a cyborg.
  • Monroe: In the episode Monroe and Tinsel Teeth, Monroe's family gets him braces for Christmas, and those become the source of his issues for that episode, culminating in Dylan using him for some kind of experiment involving them.

    Fan Works 
  • Starbound: Inverted or averted in the originalnote  version of chapter 6, where Miyuki got a set of (regular) braces magically form onto her teeth as Cool and Unusual Punishment for answering a riddle wrong, as Konata commented that they enhance her moe factor. Rokuna was also said then, rather than when she debuted, to already wear them, which would avert this trope even further, as would the fact that teeth themselves are rarely shown canonically. (Still excruciatingly painful for Miyuki, though, seeing how little tolerance she already has canonically for dentistry in general.)

    Films — Animation 
  • In Finding Nemo, the character of Darla has braces that wrap around her face. Somewhat justified in that her uncle's a fairly incompetent dentist.
  • In Coco, one of the skeletons going to cross the marigold bridge to the Land of the Living is wearing rather enormous braces that fit his huge jaw. It's mentioned that his photo is on the ofrenda of his dentist.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The live-action musical film of Little Shop of Horrors has a kid in headgear so complex she cannot talk. It looks like the Reverse Bear Trap from Saw. Amusingly, those braces were fitted by doing something to remove the jaw.
  • Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle: Teenage Natalie had outside-the-face braces. Even after the Flash Back, which showed that despite this she grew up to be a super-hottie, she still had the klutzy geekiness and was an unpopular girl at heart.
  • Sixteen Candles: Joan Cusack's character wears a monstrous orthodontic appliance throughout the film that comically interferes with her attempts to drink from a water fountain and a can of beer.
  • In the second The Brady Bunch movie, Jan had the braces and the headgear.
  • Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has them in flashbacks. His father was a very strict dentist, and the constant denial of candy was a major development point in his newly made up backstory. "Present" Willy has aggressively perfect teeth, though, so they did the job.
  • Lane's fix-up date in Better Off Dead is with a girl wearing hideous orthodontia. Fortunately, she doesn't want to go out with him, either, so she just gets him to pay her what he would've spent on the date.
  • In Addams Family Values, a Alpha Bitch at summer camp wears these, but only at night.
  • Robbie's braces in Poltergeist II: The Other Side are relatively normal... until they try to electrocute him.
  • Shirley in Brazil has a comically oversized dental contraption.
  • The Harry Potter-cosplayer-with-a-traffic-cone-for-a-wizard-hat underage drinker in Hot Fuzz certainly qualifies. Although his bracers look pretty standard on a surface level, the gleam of metal when he opens his mouth is so bright it makes a sound and blinds an unprepared Sgt. Angel.
  • Early in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, we see Ron and his dog Baxter both sleeping with headgear on (excessive in that he's way older than most headgear-wearers, and dogs don't usually get orthodontics.
  • The main character of There's Something About Mary wears quite prominent braces in the teenaged prologue though it turns out that Mary was quite attracted to guys with braces at the time.

  • Played with in How To Rock Braces And Glasses. The braces the main character gets are pretty standard metal ones, but because she's a superficial teenaged Alpha Bitch, she acts like they're this Trope. Because now her life is over.
  • In one Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, Greg gets one of these. He later vows never to use them after Manny tries them out, to not let his already unpopular social life go down the toilet.
  • N.E.R.D.S.: After getting thirty-two extra teeth removed, Jackson receives a set of braces and headgear that attracts metal objects, prevents him from wearing a football helmet (getting him kicked off the team) and worst of all turns him from Mr. Popular to a social outcast.
  • Subverted in Smile. The main character goes through a mound of trouble with her teeth and gets braces to make a new batch of two front teeth.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Eerie, Indiana: In "The Retainer", Marshall's friend Steve Konkalewski is required to wear one for a while. It allows him to read the minds of dogs, who are revealed to be plotting the eventual overthrow of the human race.
  • When Marcia Brady needed (regular) braces, an entire episode of The Brady Bunch was devoted to her overcoming the angst and insecurity of wearing them. Three seasons later, Jan was seen wearing them without any explanation as to how they got there. Same with Bobby and Cindy the following season.
  • In Pushing Daisies, Chuck apparently wore these as a kid, which is why she's so good at understanding mumbled speech. Somewhat subverted in that she wore them as a form of birth control.
  • One episode of Kids Incorporated had Renee needing braces. After spending an entire episode angsting, she got an invisible set.
  • Bailey Pickett of The Suite Life on Deck wears an old-fashioned head-mounted retainer to bed.
  • The title character of Ugly Betty, which gets pretty bizarre as she keeps them during the show's entire run. You really have to wonder if her dentist is just a con artist.
  • Grace on Will & Grace mentioned that between her braces and scoliosis brace, she looked like scaffolding growing up.
  • Averted for the most on Even Stevens. Ren wears braces, but this fact is hardly ever brought up (the unobservant likely wouldn't even have known). However, in the episode where she gets her braces removed, the kid after her at the orthodontist's office has one of these monstrosities on.
  • Miranda wore braces in one episode of Sex and the City, after learning she was a tongue thruster. She had her braces removed by the end of the episode once she decided that being a tongue thruster was the lesser of two evils. Although the braces she wore looked normal, it's worth mentioning because she was in her mid-thirties, making her older than the usual children/teenagers you normally see wearing braces on TV.
  • In the first episode of Police Squad!, Detective Drebin goes to shake down a nefarious orthodontist. The patients in his waiting room are actually sitting in order of the ridiculousness of their appliances: from the first patient with simple braces, to the last patient wearing a giant vice clamp on her head.
  • A recurring character in You Can't Do That on Television was a dentist who put kids in these. Subverted in one case, since the braces weren't meant for Orthodontic correction, but to prevent her from kissing boys.
  • In "The Paper Route", a third-season episode of The Middle, Sue is expecting to get her braces off. Instead, since they've overcorrected her teeth, she's forced to wear headgear full-time.

    Music Videos 
  • In the music video of "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry, her character (Kathy Beth Terry) has this most of the time. She Cleans Up Nicely, though.
  • The video "Hobo humpin' slobo babe" by Swedish group Whale. Singer Cia Berg wore regular braces, but looked somewhat unusual since she wore them on both upper and lower jaw, and she was 30 at the time. A rumour stated that the braces was a forfeit for some kind of bet between her and her then husband (also a member of the group), allegedly about oral sex. Weird rumors like these were pretty much par for the course for Whale, and was their standard way of doing cheap promotion.
  • The music video for "Every Morning" by Sugar Ray features a girl with headgear (and a neck brace). Could be justified since the video is set up like a period piece — a roller rink in the late 1970's — so clunky old braces would be the norm.

    Web Animation 
  • Nutty from Happy Tree Friends gets a pair of these in the episode "Chew Said a Mouthful", though in his case it's to keep his jaw in place after he breaks it trying to chew a jawbreaker.
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: Judith Dinsmore wears these all the time. They consist of a ring around her mouth.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Digital Series: In the webisode "Tip Toppings", the cashier at a frozen yogurt shop has braces with a ring going all around her head, making her talk with a pronounced lisp and spluttering a lot.

    Web Comics 
  • Sequential Art: Kat had them in grade school. Art describes an old yearbook photo as looking like "a bear trap with whiskers."
  • S.S.D.D.: a flashback panel to Norman's teen years showed him wearing one. Considering he's a huge rabbit with buck teeth that stab him in the chest whenever he sneezes they apparently didn't help. This scene later gets a bit of a Cerebus Retcon: They weren't routine orthodontics, but likely part of the reconstructive surgery he had to go through after the car accident that killed both his parents.

    Web Videos 
  • In the Smosh sketch "Super Virgin Squad", among the eponymous trio of Super Zeroes is Paulie, who has braces with headgear, giving him the power of a super-strong bite... and making him The Unintelligible.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Last Exit to Springfield", the family discovers that Lisa needs braces. After she's initially offered practically invisible ones, the dentist finds out the Simpsons don't have a dental plan anymore (thanks to Mr. Burns) and heads straight for the type of obtrusive orthodontic headgear known only to cartoon nerds complete with the admonition, "These predate stainless steel, so you can't get them wet." The storyline played Lisa's humiliation for all it was worth, from Bart calling her a "freak" to Lisa herself reenacting Jack Napier's discovery that he has become the Joker ("The mirror!...THE MIRROR!") in Batman (1989) - as if you didn't feel sorry enough for her already. Strangely, in this episode, Lisa's braces get less and less obtrusive in every scene in which she appears. At first, she can't even conceal them by closing her mouth, but later she can, and eventually, they're only slightly more noticeable than ordinary braces.
    • The big-ass orthodontic headgear made another appearance in a Simpsons comic Halloween special, as an attempt to become unappetising to monsters.
    • In another episode where a school dance is held at Springfield Elementary, Milhouse's date to this dance wears orthodontic headgear. Yes, she's on the awkward and ugly-looking side.
    • In the episode "Bye Bye Nerdie", the clunky headgear is seen on a character on the bus who is wearing a "Frankie Says relax" shirt (who, in a bit of Hypocritical Humor, tells a nerdy new girl she'll never fit in.) A quick flashback scene later in the episode shows Smithers used to wear clunky braces back in grade school.
    • One episode revolves around Homer and Marge being framed for a murder committed by a man wearing a giant set of braces, and ending up on death row. It turns out it was a new reality show from Fox.
  • An episode of Cow and Chicken had everyone (even Earl, who already had regular braces, and an old man with no teeth) being terrorized by the "Orthodontic Police" (Red Guy in disguise) and forced to wear various orthodontic devices, all of which were obtrusive and exaggerated-looking. Some of them even came with belt harnesses. At the end, Supercow beats the crap out of Red Guy and straps him into an even bigger brace rig, which doubled as a cellphone tower.
  • Shannon from Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones?, in a partial aversion. That is, she appears to be relatively well-adjusted socially and there is a pseudo-80s feel to the show as a whole. Her braces are the least of her problems: she's also missing a leg and has a rather odd-looking metal prosthetic. This is implied to be the reason Robot Jones is attracted to her.
  • Darren wore these in the first season of As Told by Ginger. Since that show didn't do the Not Allowed to Grow Up thing typical to most cartoons, he gets them removed at the beginning of Season 2, becoming a hottie overnight.
  • Stan's sister, Shelly Marsh, from South Park. People making fun of her headgear is a Berserk Button for her even though no one ever really makes fun of or mentions her headgear, she just assumes everyone does.
  • The Fairly OddParents:
    • Timmy's friend, Chester, wears what look like regular braces. However, in an episode set in the skate park they kept getting damaged and replaced with ones that did unusual things on occasion, such as sprouting swingsets. Given that the replacements were crafted by AJ, it's somewhat justified.
    • Also Vicky's little sister, Tootie.
    • In one episode, Dr. Bender's Angry Guard Dog is shown wearing a pair.
  • Averted in Kim Possible. Kim had regular braces in her tween years, not orthodontic headgear. (Disney tries to be enlightened about such things.) Funny enough, the same goes for Ren Stevens, portrayed by Christy Carlson Romano, the voice of Kim Possible.
  • In All Grown Up!, Chuckie wears regular braces, though he's still socially awkward.
  • Jimmy's retainer in Ed, Edd n Eddy, which is apparently of the non-removable sort. It's at least simpler than most cartoon orthodontia; It's merely a ring hovering around his head. It's revealed in a flashback that it's the result of his teeth being damaged after he bit into a bowling ball disguised as an ice cream cone during a scam.
  • In an odd inversion, Little Shop, the Animated Adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors, features a Barbaric Bully wearing orthodontic headgear (probably a reference to the equivalent character in the film being a sociopathic dentist). He's the kind of guy you do not want to cross in a dark alley.
  • Played with in, of all places, Braceface. The series revolves around this whole trope: although her braces look as physically normal as those in reality, the title character gets into bizarre and awkward situations when the braces tend to magnetize various objects.
  • Played with in the animated version of W.I.T.C.H.. Hay Lin's new braces become a plot point for the episode "T is for Trauma": Nerissa is able to convince Hay Lin that her normal-looking braces are ugly, leading to a Heroic BSoD for Hay Lin. Hay Lin's boyfriend Eric tells her that the braces don't detract from her looks at all, and even implies they look cute on her ("They're so shiny!"). Then Hay Lin happily glomps him.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door:
    • The dentistry-obsessed villain Knightbrace uses his orthodontic headgear as a Precision-Guided Boomerang. In his debut episode "Operation: T.E.E.T.H.", he also completely fills Numbuh Four's mouth with braces by force, essentially attaching a metal brick to his teeth.
    • One of the Delightful Children (Lenny) wears gigantic orthodontic headgear under his football helmet.
  • Played with in My Gym Partner's a Monkey, where school bully Bull Sharkowski has to wear headgear that's essentially reverse-SCUBA ear (gill) muffs.
  • Leela from Futurama is shown to be wearing normal braces in a flashback to her childhood, but she still had a very nerdy and awkward appearance. Judging from the general squalor of the Orphanarium she grew up in, they must have funneled all their funds into the dental plan. Of course, this is a thousand years in the future... maybe then, braces like that are considered to fall under this trope.
  • Aversion: Frylock of Aqua Teen Hunger Force wears unobtrusive, traintrack-type braces. He's also the closest thing that show has to a cool guy.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head:
    • Also averted with Butt-Head, in which the fact that he wears braces is only pointed out in The Movie, where he meets Chelsea Clinton just before she defenestrates him from her room.
      Butt-Head: I noticed you wear braces. I wear braces, too."
    • The movie, though, also shows that Butt-Head used to wear a larger set of braces when he was younger.
  • Gretchen on Invader Zim has very noticeable braces, but oddly, they're fairly normal — the main problem is her teeth are so large and stick out even when her mouth is closed. She's a geeky background character (though a bit more popular in the fandom since she has a crush on Dib).
  • Tuesday X of The X's is supposed to get braces. She gets a pamphlet and becomes excited at the prospect of braces that are clear so that they won't be easily noticeable. Her Too Dumb to Live father, however, thinks that those kinds of braces are spy gear, and says that she has to wear the "approved" set, which is one of these. This goes horribly wrong when Truman, the little brother, discovers that he can control Tuesday's actions through them, causing him to nearly ruin a date she was on. Fortunately, her date's Evil Uncle ended up trying to do this too, and the date turned out all right.
  • An episode of Quack Pack has Huey get the faceguard-braces... only it turns out that he went to the wrong orthodontist and the braces were actually a mind-control transmitter, which he promptly uses on pretty much THE ENTIRE WORLD for the rest of the episode. A robotic agent burned the transmitter's circuit, but it was kinda funny.
  • In Ugly Americans, during the credits for the episode Demon Baby we see Callie wearing a Reverse Beartrap from Saw films for braces.
  • An episode of ¡Mucha Lucha! had this as a villain's plot. The Evil Dentista of Doom plans to conquer the world by burdening the best masked wrestlers with oversized, unneeded braces.
  • Subverted in an episode of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi in which, while Yumi is forced to wear clunky, impractical headgear connected to her mouth (and gets caught in all kinds of jinx thanks to it), they do not serve an orthodontical purpose; instead, their utility is to force her face into a Cheshire Cat Grin because of the doctor diagnosing her with "scowl-itis".
  • In Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Oblina ended up with these once, because her teeth were straight (due to her youthful indiscretion of brushing her teeth once). This actually caught the attention of the Romantic False Lead, who admired his reflection in the massive things.
  • A flashback in the camping episode of T.U.F.F. Puppy revealed that Snaptrap wore huge braces as a child.
  • An episode of American Dad! has Stan having to wear braces again from constant teeth-grinding and also suffered from acne. He gets picked on by his coworkers (not after getting acne, but getting braces).
    • He also wore the same type of braces as a bullied teenager.
  • Littlest Pet Shop: In the episode "Lotsa Luck", Pepper Clark sported a pair of these during her adolescence.
  • Motorcity: Junior, the leader of the gang Momma's Boys, has a set of these.
  • The Loud House: Downplayed, Luan was 14 years old and started wearing braces. In "Hand-Me-Downer", she was wearing braces when she was younger.
  • Chelsea Keezheekoni and her brother has to wear those in Clarence.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "The Cutie Re-Mark – Part 1", one of the unicorns attending Twilight's conference sports braces with an external frame. She was seen in the earlier episode "Three's a Crowd", being wary of going through a metal detector.
    • In "Parental Glideance", one of the wall pictures of Rainbow Dash as a filly shows her wearing braces that extend from her mouth to her ears.
  • Totally Spies!: In the episode "Super Nerd Much?", Alex gets a retainer similar to Jimmy after being nerdified. It actually gets stuck on something at one point. It disappears when everyone is returned to normal.

  • We Bare Bears: In "Braces", Panda gets a pair of these that give him electromagnetism powers. Soon enough, he goes overboard with them and becomes a parody of Magneto.