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89-year-old had braces

Tawnya Panizzi
| Thursday, May 27, 2004

O'HARA -- Go ahead, call him brace face.

At 89, Romulus Picciotti doesn't care. In fact, he welcomes the moniker that may land him in the "Guinness Book of World Records" as the oldest person to receive orthodontic treatment.

"My challenge is to make it to 100," said Picciotti, a resident of The Mews along Fox Chapel Road. "Why not do it with a beautiful smile?"

After 14 months of treatment for a slight malformation, Picciotti had the metal removed from his mouth last month.

"I don't think many people in their 80s are looking for orthodontic work," he said. "Maybe dentures.

"Why do things the easy way?" said Picciotti, who once lost his toothbrush for two months during WWII and used a towel to scrub them each day. "You should do things because they're hard."

O'Hara orthodontist Robert Capretto submitted the story to the "Guinness Book of World Records" in part, he said, because Picciotti is a character who deserves the spotlight.

"There was nothing functionally wrong with his teeth," Capretto said. "He wanted to address a slight problem and have straight teeth at his age. I wish other people had his kind of attitude."

Previously, Capretto's oldest patient to wear braces was 82.

It was unclear whether Picciotti holds the world record for orthodontic care. Because the London-based Guinness Book office receives 65,000 record-related inquiries each year, it takes up to three months for a reply. Representatives must then verify each record-setting claim.

Guinness Book enrollees are not paid for their achievement.

They receive a certificate from the 49-year-old company that each year publishes a list of accomplishments that range from awe-inspiring to bizarre to downright scary.

For example, a Sri Lankan man set the record for balancing on one foot in 1997. He stood on one leg for 76 hours.

A New York resident in 1999 bounced his way on a pogo stick up the 1,899 steps of the CN Tower in Ontario, Canada. It took him only 57 minutes and 51 seconds.

It would seem apt for Picciotti to be listed among the unique, particularly for rising to a self-imposed challenge. The son of immigrant parents, Picciotti graduated from Harvard before serving five years in the Army, where he saw combat in World War II. After his discharge, he enrolled in Harvard Law School at 31.

"I was one of the older boys then," he said, revealing a broad smile and a newly straight set of pearly whites. "I was in the same class as (Watergate-era Attorney General) Dick Kleindienst."

He was yanked by the U.S. military from his New York law practice in 1950 and shipped to Korea, where he again saw battle before retiring in 1966 as a lieutenant colonel.

"I almost got sent to Vietnam," Picciotti said. "I would've went, too, but my wife said that was enough."

Since retiring in the 1980s, Picciotti hasn't slowed down. He's frequently in the stands at Bladerunners in Harmar cheering on his grandsons' hockey games.

He's also teaching them Latin in between packing for his annual trip to Italy.

Of his possible fate in the "Guinness Book of World Records," Picciotti seemed unfazed.

"My dentist recommended braces. Why should I mind?" he said. "I always wondered about all these commercials for dentures. Why not take care of your own teeth?

Additional Information:

About the Guinness World Records

  • The company was founded in 1955 to publicize record-breaking accomplishments. To be listed in the annual book, records must be provable, quantifiable and breakable.

  • Ashrita Furman holds the most Guinness records at 12. Among them are backwards cycling, long-distance pogo-stick jumping, most glasses balanced on the chin, most hop-scotch games in one day and most skips over a rope in one day. At one time, Furman held 60 records. He first made it in 1979 by doing 27,000 jumping jacks.

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