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The New

Straight Teeth With a Twist

February 09, 1989

Call it mouth art or impressionist plastic: retainers--which once came only in natural gum pink--now are available in wild colors, stripes, polka dots, with glitter, or with decals or cartoon characters inserted between the thin resin layers. While you won't see these colorful retainers featured in art museums--not yet, at least--you may catch a glimpse of them when someone yawns, laughs . . . or removes them.

Though designer orthodontic retainers, according to Dr. Bob Schacter, a Woodland Hills orthodontist, don't offer a health benefit, he says: "If somebody likes their retainer, they'll wear it more." The bright retainers, he points out, are also less likely to get lost, because they stand out. Yet, he says, "I think sometimes kids throw them away because they want a new color."

Adults seem less interested in the designer options, wanting a more unobtrusive approach to orthodontics, Schacter says.

Bill Parsons, of Parsons Orthodontic Lab in Van Nuys, says about 10% to 15% of all the retainers he makes are designer retainers for Valley residents. "Black is becoming an increasingly popular retainer color choice," he says.

The retainers, which Parsons says "make the kids proud," only cost the orthodontist $5 more than the traditional pink versions. Some orthodontists absorb the cost in their eagerness to do what they can to encourage their patients to wear their appliances, and others may charge up to $25 more for the artistic retainers, Schacter says.

Joanie Levy, 15, a sophomore at Calabasas High, wears two retainers: the top is red with different colors of glitter, and the bottom is blue. Her previous retainer was purple with silver glitter, but she lost it.

"I like them," Levy says, "because when you take them out at lunch, people compliment you on them. They're better than the yucky pink ones."

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