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Tinsel teeth December 20, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in dental surgery, electromagnetics, humor, societal commentary.
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I told you the other day about my harrowing dental surgery. The surgery is a precursor to the next step, which is braces. I’ve been putting all of this off as long as possible (let’s face it: braces aren’t cheap), but the baby tooth that was holding all of this together came to it’s unfortunate demise about 25 years after it’s intended end of operation.

So yeah…braces.

I am hoping that people will be more sympathetic to my plight now that I am an adult versus the typical middle schooler. (At least I hope so for their sake: I’m certainly not as passive now as I was as a 12-year-old.) I remember epithets like “tinsel teeth” being thrown around the hallways of my junior high school so many years ago.

One insult that took me a while to get: “You get good radio reception with those?”

I have to admit: I still don’t get it. Think about it. There are several issues with using braces as receiving antennas.

1 – The most obvious is that the length of the archwire is significantly less than the wavelength of most radio station signals. The archwire would probably be almost Hertzian in length. And Hertzian dipoles aren’t known for the great reception. Usually there’s a bit of active device action thrown in when using a Hertzian dipole.

2 – The second issue is that the archwires are laying horizontally. Most radio stations have a vertical transmitter. This means the braces are cross-polarized relative to the radio station signal. That’s going to knock any reception way down.

3 – It also ignores the fact that human tissue is quite lossy, so the signal will already be considerably attenuated before it reaches the inside of your mouth.

4 – While they are developing the concept of smart braces (which I really like), I don’t think they’re out yet. And while the braces may have cool electronics to move your teeth around at an optimal rate, I seriously doubt they have plans to turn them into dual-use devices that can tune in and amplify a radio signal.

5 – What kind of feed would you use? You can’t use the two archwires as dipole arms and examine the potential across one of the ends because, lying parallel to each other, they will fail to have much of a potential difference. Do they somehow feed to your brain through your incisors?

6 – How do you decode the signal? I got the feeling when this insult was being thrown around that electrical behavior was being confused with mechanical vibration. Mechanical vibration would undoubtedly provide something to the ears/brain that would be musical, but you generally need some sort of transducer to change the signal from electrical to mechanical energy. Again, I don’t think they’re standard on braces, and I don’t imagine that they have plans to make them that way any time soon.

I feel this thoroughly debunks the idea that braces are useful as radio signal receivers. However, I still have no idea what to say to anyone who calls me ‘tinsel teeth’. (And, in case you’re interested, I’m fairly certain that my dad will do exactly that.)



1. Fluxor - December 20, 2010

Lie on your side with your mouth open to remove cross-polarization; then use alligator clips to attach your braces to a radio. Dial the radio to an easy listening station and fall asleep peacefully. Adjust volume to suit.


mareserinitatis - December 21, 2010

You know, it’s a lot easier just to pop my earbuds in and listen to my iPod. 🙂


Fluxor - December 21, 2010

iPod! Well! If you’re gonna all hi-tech on me…


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