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When I was growing up, I considered getting braces to be a right of passage in the transition from childhood to adulthood. I couldn’t wait for the day I got my braces because I had one weird rogue tooth that was coming in, but it stayed high in my gums instead of descending down into its proper place. In my mind, having jacked up teeth was social suicide in junior high.
The day finally came when I was in 7th grade, and my mom picked me up from school to take me to my orthodontist appointment. I didn’t care about how awkward or uncomfortable it would be because I was too concerned about the color I would choose for my bands.
I ended up picking blue bands because having a custom color was all the rage for kids with braces in the early 90s. When the procedure was all done, I couldn’t stop licking my teeth because the metal in my mouth felt so weird. I also remember that my mom stopped at the gas station after we left the orthodontist, and I grabbed a snackーfudge covered Oreos. These new Oreos had just come out, and I wanted to try them. As soon as I bit into that Oreo, I experienced a pain I had never felt during my 12 years on Earth. I screamed, dropped the Oreo, and realized for the first time that this whole braces situation was going to be super painful.
Of course, the world of braces, cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontics has changed a lot in the past thirty years, and getting braces as an adult is just as common as getting them when you are a kid. And that means that there are people going into prison with braces, but can they keep them? Do they get taken off?
Even if you don’t like going to the dentist or orthodontist when you are in the free world, what if you absolutely had to get work done on your teeth but you weren’t able to because you were an inmate? This, of course, leads us to today’s topicーcan you have braces in prison?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
When you are taken into custody to go to prison and you happen to be wearing braces, you are just like everyone else. There is no special treatment, and you don’t jump into the front of the line to see the dentist.
So yes, you can go to prison with braces. You have to do your best to keep them clean with the tiny prison toothbrush and toothpaste available from the prison commissary because there are no special cleaning tools or cleaning solutions for your braces when you are in prison.
You are also allowed to keep your retainer when you go to prison, and you must keep it in the proper container when you aren’t wearing it or you can get into trouble.
Unfortunately, if something goes wrong with your bracesーa piece breaks or you need them tightenedーyou are out of luck. There are no orthodontists on site, and the waiting list to see the dentist can be up to five years long in some prisons.
So, if you are going to prison for a long time, and you are wearing braces when you are incarcerated, chances are the braces will be a lost cause and you will have to start over with them when you are released.
In case of emergency, most facilities will transport you to a local hospital for treatment.
I often hear people repeat the myth that inmates get free healthcare, which is fully paid for by taxpayers. This is a terrible rumor which is absolutely false. Depending on the facility you are in, you might have to pay to see a doctor – even if you only earn $5 a month.
Even if the treatment is “free,” inmates still don’t get high quality healthcare. Those in charge are in absolutely no hurry to treat you unless you are in a life-threatening situation. Even then, sometimes they don’t act with any sense of urgency.
Considering it’s difficult enough just to get basic healthcare in prison, dental work is almost out of the question. Like I said earlier, you can wait for years to see a dentist, and that’s just for a cleaning or to simply get a tooth pulled.
So no, you can’t get braces when you are in prison.
Dental care in prison is basically a joke, and many inmates end up taking matters into their own hands. One inmate in federal prison even went so far as to use sandpaper and epoxy to put a tooth back in his mouth that had fallen out.
Some inmates who have rotten teeth due to drug use get their teeth pulled and dentures provided to them, but this is becoming more and more rare. If it’s not a life-threatening emergency, prison officials are just not going to provide you with any kind of medical treatment.
Should inmates have access to proper dental and orthodontic care? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Dental Care In The Federal Bureau of Prisons: Sandpaper and Epoxy https://www.huffpost.com/entry/dental-care-in-the-federa_b_7805102
Natalie earned her Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and has worked in television and radio during her career. When she was a 19-year-old sophomore at KU, she got her first on-air job as a sports reporter for a CBS-TV affiliate. In 2013, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the possession and production of marijuana. She was released in 2017. We've kept her last name off of our website so that she does not experience any professional hardship for her contributions.
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