Most American teenagers can't wait to shed their "metal mouth" nickname and count down the days they can finally take their braces off. However, trendy teenagers in China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand can't wait to get them on, even if they don't need it.
Braces are the latest teenage fashion trend in Asia. According to the Vice UK, having a mouth of metal has become such a hit with Asian teens that there have been reports of many adolescents buying harmful, fake, black market braces.
Braces are considered a sign of wealth in Southeast Asia. A real set of braces in Bangkok, for example, will cost around $1,200, which is a considerable amount for a country with a GDP of $345 billion, compared to the US which had a GDP of $15.06 trillion in 2011.
Vice UK reports that the "best part" about the fashionable faux braces is that they don't need to be inserted by a medical professional. According to the website many Asian beauty salons are now offering to put in these fashion braces. There are even cheaper do-it-yourself kits that let people choose between "Hello Kitty", "Mickey Mouse" or other varieties for as little as $100.
While Asian teens may think that their colorful fake braces are the cool and hip, experts say that these trendy fashion braces are dangerous and can even lead to death. These fashion braces can slip loose and slide into a person's throat, they can cause sores on the gums and inside the mouth and some of them may even have wires that may contain lead.
According to Vice UK, fake fashion braces have already been linked to the deaths of two teens in Thailand. A 17-year-old in the northeast city of Khon Kaen died from a fatal heart failure caused by a thyroid infection from a pair of fake fashion braces. Police also linked the death of another 14-year-old girl in Chonburi to a pair of fashion braces she had bought from an illegal open-air stall.
Despite government warnings, the trend had been going strong for at least four years, according to the New York Daily News. What's worse, the fad for faux pas braces shows no sign of slowing down.
The dangerous trend is no longer limited to popularity-seeking teens. Adults in Indonesia are also adopting the "metal mouth" trend, according to Vice UK. According to Yahoo! News, even celebrities like Indonesia star Andika Kangen have succumbed to the metal-and-rubber mouth trend.