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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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So, anyway, here are my teeth, slightly out of focus (which some might think a mercy).


In their delicate yellowness (coffee not nicotine) and lack of uniformity they conform quite well to the American stereotype of English teeth. I haven't made a proper study of the matter, but I'd guess that in general the stereotype is correct, and that English people's teeth are a bit skewiff - certainly those of my generation and up. I can't say this bothers me greatly - or at all, in fact.

What puzzles me though is this. If Americans' teeth are generally straighter, it isn't because they grow that way naturally. No, it's because Americans go to orthodontists for cosmetic treatment. That's fine, of course, but what I find strange is the extent to which this particular form of cosmetic treatment has assumed the force of a cultural obligation in the USA. By contrast, while lots of people get nose jobs and face lifts and Botox, I haven't noticed a general open jeering at people (let alone nations) who don't (which isn't of course to say that some narrower social groups don't come under pressure to get those treatments too). When it comes to teeth, though, it seems there's a widespread sense that not to get one's teeth "fixed" is eccentric, risible, almost perverse.

Well, that's the way it looks to me from this side of the Atlantic, anyway, but I suspect I'm getting a very partial picture, given that so much of what I see is through the prism of the entertainment industry and is heavily skewed (far more than my teeth) in terms of race and class. Still, in so far as there's any truth to this picture, I wonder why the attitude to this particular form of cosmetic treatment differs from attitudes to the rest?

I had braces as a kid, and I still have crooked, broken, yellowed teeth (I'm US). I had braces because my molars were too tightly packed in and couldn't grow in all the way, so they didn't meet, and my chewing was, I'm told, very weird. Honestly, the only people who have ever commented on my teeth's imperfections have been US dentists, many of whom seem obsessed with fixing my broken front tooth (even though "fixing" it would make it more sensitive, not less, and it causes me no trouble at all--except that I can't bite into ice cream etc.), and some of whom seem obsessed with whitening them, even though they're perfectly healthy and whitening them would be painful.

One of the reasons I really like my current dentist is that a question on the intake form was "Are you happy with the appearance of your teeth and smile?" I answered "yes," and my current dentist has not once suggested any cosmetic alterations. He confines himself to pointing out that I don't floss often enough, which is perfectly true and a completely legitimate concern...

Anyway, I've never known a non-dentist to even notice. I suspect the US obsession with straight teeth is perhaps more an entertainment industry creation than a reality.

Edited at 2015-03-29 01:41 am (UTC)

I like your dentist!

It's becoming clear that that (as I suspected) Hollywood is not truly reflective of the US nation's dental work. It's something of a relief - although (as I should probably have mentioned in the post) I've nothing at all against cosmetic procedures where people choose them. The only puzzle to me then is why wonky teeth are something for which the British are typically knocked in American humour (e.g. here amongst innumerable places).

I honestly don't know! I lived in London for a year and never noticed any difference at all in tooth quality. I suspect it's one of those bullshit stereotypes--like the French not bathing--that is just not reality-based.