Lynley Bilby

Lynley Bilby is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

More adults in NZ coughing up for braces treatment

Mandy Barker's braces will repair damage done to her teeth during her hockey career. Photo / Greg Bowker
Mandy Barker's braces will repair damage done to her teeth during her hockey career. Photo / Greg Bowker

Black Sticks golden girl Mandy Barker is on a mission to score a golden smile.

The 1998 Commonwealth Games bronze medal winner is among a growing number of adult Kiwis seeking orthodontist treatment.

Barker said she was having repairs on damage done during her international hockey career, and for long-term oral health.

"Unfortunately, this is a repercussion of playing sport," she told the Herald on Sunday. The 42-year-old mother of four suffered several broken teeth during her stellar sporting career.

Before having the braces fitted, the problem teeth had caused movement in her mouth and it was necessary to fix it to prevent more serious oral problems, Barker said.

Fellow celebrity Jaime Ridge, 21, has also been sporting braces in recent months.

Once a teenage rite of passage, braces are becoming commonplace in the mouths of adults, with New Zealand pensioners up to 80 years old seeking the treatment, which can cost upwards of $6000. "Age is not a limiting factor at all," New Zealand Orthodontists' Association secretary Dr Judith Hay said.

She said some patients came from families unable to afford the treatment; others had lived with a slight defect but wanted it fixed. Others needed to restore their bite as part of ongoing dental work.

Remuera orthodontist Dr Janice Somerville said nearly a third of her patients were adults and the number of mature patients had been slowly increasing in recent years.

"I think people are getting slightly more self-confident about doing it."

Hay said the typical cost of regular orthodontic work fell between $6000 to $11,000 depending on the type of treatment and where you lived in New Zealand.

The time spent wearing braces also varied from six months, to correct slightly irregular front teeth, to three years for more complex treatments.

- Herald on Sunday

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