‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Melissa Gilbert Described Her Teeth as a ‘Struggle’

by Quentin Blount
Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

One star of the popular 1970s show Little House on the Prairie went through more than most kids do today to straighten out her teeth.

Fans of classic TV know Melissa Gilbert as for her portrayal of Laura Ingalls Wilder on the show. She played the second-oldest daughter of Charles Ingalls — who was played by Michael Landon — on the show from 1974 until 1983.

However, Gilbert was born in May of 1964. So, she was only 10 years old when Little House on the Prairie first premiered all those years ago. And she was just nine years old when she first auditioned for the role of Laura.

Like so many kids her age, little Melissa Gilbert didn’t have the straightest teeth, so she was forced to get braces to straighten them. But because Little House on the Prairie was based in the 1800s, and braces weren’t around just yet, she couldn’t be seen with them on the show.

She explained all of that and more in a previous Little House conversation.

“I had braces, but I didn’t have braces the way a normal kid has braces,” Gilbert explained. “I had braces on, braces off, braces on, braces off. Retainers behind, rubber bands on and off. Because we didn’t have braces in the 1800s.”

As a result, fixing her teeth took way more effort — and was way more tedious — than it is for most children with braces. She said that it took over twice as long as it should have to get her teeth completely straight. But it was the price she had to pay to star on Little House on the Prairie.

“So, I fixed the teeth over a long period of years,” she said. “What should have taken two years took five to straighten those teeth.”

Meanwhile, Gilbert did have one hilarious memory along the way. She still recalls what Michael Landon used to say to her about her teeth.

“Michael [Landon] had a great quote about those teeth,” Gilbert laughed. “He said, and he told me on numerous occasions, that I ‘could eat an apple through a picket fence.'”

Melissa Gilbert Spent Her Childhood on the Set of ‘Little House on the Prairie’

While some of us have fond childhood memories of growing up and watching Little House on the Prairie, actress Melissa Gilbert literally spent her childhood on the show. Looking back on it, she believes that we could all use some of those old-school values in our lives today.

The Ingalls family taught us all valuable lessons. But most importantly, they lived a simple life where they cared for their family, friends, and their neighbors.

“A sense of family, a sense of camaraderie, a sense of community, a sense of faith,” Gilbert said of what makes the show so great. “A sense of commonality, of purpose. And overcoming of adversity. Because no matter what time we’re existing in, no matter where technology is going or where the world is headed, we still need each other. We still need that human touch. We still rely on one another as people.”