Orthodontic care to straighten teeth (i.e. braces), maxillofacial surgery to improve the look of the jaw, plastic surgery for cosmetic purposes—as well as other elective treatments may constitute the issur of chavalah orsakanah —especially when using general anesthesia. Written by Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, member of the Badatz of Crown Heights • Full Article
Written by Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, member of the Badatz of Crown Heights
Orthodontic care to straighten teeth (i.e. braces), maxillofacial surgery to improve the look of the jaw, plastic surgery for cosmetic purposes—as well as other elective treatments may constitute the issur (restriction) of chavalah (causing injury) orsakanah (unnecessary danger)—especially when using general anesthesia. This would apply equally to men and women. But what about the halachic prohibition of of “lo yilbash gever” (a man should not wear [a woman’s clothing]), which many poskim maintain include a man beautifying himself—are these cosmetic corrections therefore restricted for men?
Using orthodontics—generally, non-invasive treatment—has been determined acceptable by poskim, since chavalah and sakanah do not usually apply. It is considered “corrective” in the sense that a person is attempting to normalize their appearance and not utilizing braces for beautification, so it is also permissible for boys and men.
Plastic surgery is considerably more invasive, but there are many poskim who deem it permissible for women who are embarrassed by their looks. These guidelines are stricter for men on account of lo yilbash, but in cases of emotional tza’ar (distress) andagmas nefesh (mental anguish) caused by their physical appearance, there is room for a heter (exemption).
Certainly for reconstructive surgery (whether due to injury or a congenital physical condition), no additional dispensation is needed, even for males.