An Improved Smile
Improving the smile has been of interest for centuries. Since the 18th century, fixed or removable appliances have forced teeth to move to better positions based on aspects of function and appearances. In an examination of children and young people receiving state-financed orthodontic treatment in Sweden, I have focused on materiality and practitioners without losing sight of the patients’ experiences or putting the patients’ bodies in the background. Restricting my presence to the clinic, I let the young patients themselves trace the work delegated to the appliances at home. The combination of methods revealed complex experiences. The delegated work was controlled by motivating the patients to govern themselves. Through a step-by-step process, in which the appliances as well as the overall treatment were gradually tightened, the young people managed to invest considerable work in getting a better-looking smile. While the bodily territorialization due to shame and worry declined, the young patients’ bodies were re-territorialized by pain, sores, cleaning and eating restrictions. The recurrent upgrading of the appliances created a cyclic process of pain. A narrative of ‘much longed-for and successful change’ was found alongside a narrative of ‘enduring incalculable side-effects’. Tracing the orthodontic network contributes to knowledge about the technical and social processes involved in the production of children’s bodies.
Last updated: Sun Apr 24 07:22:30 CEST 2016