Americans, tell me about the social significance of "perfect teeth" by expensive dentistry

Yes, I watched a lot of makeover shows lately, why do you ask? :slight_smile:

In those make-over shows, people are often very self conscious about, in my Dutch eyes, perfectly ordinary acceptable teeth. The show takes them to a cosmetic dentist and the dentist fits them with a row of very white veneers.

I’m wondering about this. We don’t have such a trend yet, in the Netherlands, nor in the rest of Europe, as far as I know. (usually, that means we will follow the US one or two decades later). In our eyes, American stars have unnaturally white and perfect teeth. On older persons, such teeth wouldn’t even be considered attractive by us: they would be too obviously fake, a clear indication of having (gasp) dentures. The effect would be the same as, perhaps, an old man with obviously dyed jet black hair.
The Dutch ideal is to have your own teeth as long as possible, and our dentists can do a lot of work to keep teeth that way.

How does such a “perfect smile” look in US eyes? Do you believe such teeth are natural, and perhaps a bit enhanced (bleached, cleaned)? Or is it a money thing, proof that someone had the money to buy such teeth? And what kind of money do such teeth signify? the equivalent of an expensive car? An expensive diamond engagement ring? A set of nice clothes?

Are such teeth, in the American eye, a matter of looking young, or rather, well groomed, or just rich?

Thanks for your answer.

In my opinion is basically one of those vanity things. The hollywood model/actress types have always had procedures to make them “better than perfect” Then of course the rich bitch Californians started doing it as a status symbol. They are constantly looking for a new procedure to show how much money they can waste, and teeth whitening was one that hadn’t been exploited. Then once the rich folks started doing it, other people started doing it because they wanted to act like they were rich too. And it kind of filtered down into a new national fad across society with tons of people trying to fit in buying every thing they can go get whiter than perfect teeth, depending on the money they can waste.

full disclosure : I use regular useful stuff +whitening toothpaste and mouthwash. Basically out of pure vanity, as a smoker and cola drink my teeth are on the yellowish side. I don’t really think they do much of anything, but I’m hoping it will at least stop further coloring.

To have splayed, spaced or severely yellowed teeth, or visible (metal) fillings in your front teeth is a sign of poverty (the lowest class thing you can be is poor in the U.S.) and you can’t hide it easily. Dentistry isn’t cheap and isn’t always provided even when health insurance is.

Like a Lexus, “perfect teeth” are something rich people have, that others asipre to having. No one thinks they are natural; the fact that it’s understood to cost a lot of money is part of the appeal.

I have a friend who is a well regarded professional at a very well known international company, and has what I call “British teeth” – perfectly serviceable choppers that are gappy and in at odd angles. In the U.S. that could be a social impediment to advancement, like if you never washed your hair or smelled bad. Most people would take care of it as soon as they could afford to.

Overly white teeth looks odd to me, but at the same time it looks more odd for some British beauty to open her mouth and show a row of crooked teeth.

Thanks for the answers so far. And how much money does it cost to have the kind of teeth you need for social advancement? (expressed in months of average salary) An expensive car? a cheap car? the kid’s local college tuition?

One more question from my land so far lacking in cosmetic dentistry: do such teeth withstand the tooth (ha) of time? Placing such veneers over decaying teeth, just seems to me like painting rotten wood: it doesn’t stop the decay.

I agree with this. Having straight, white teeth with no visible fillings is considered a part of basic maintenance of appearance in America, the same way you would keep a neat haircut and well-fitting clothes. I was shocked when I moved to Spain and frequently saw people with missing teeth. The only people around here with missing teeth are the homeless.

Dental insurance (which, in my experience, comes standard with a full-time job) will pay for some cosmetic dentistry, but not much. Veneers easily run several thousand dollars.

Veneers aren’t placed over rotting teeth. It would be extremely unusual for someone’s teeth to be rotting in the first place! Even the poorest of people can get government dental coverage that will take care of serious issues like that.

People who get veneers usually do so to cover discolored teeth and to close small gaps. My sister and I have slightly discolored teeth from my mother giving us an excess of calcium supplements as children. My sister was extremely self-conscious about it and got veneers to cover her teeth. I don’t really care- the discoloration on my teeth is barely noticeable.

And if you have such veneers, do you need to go back to your dentist every year for touchups, and are those expensive, too?

Veneers should last several decades.

It feels strange to me that my teeth, which are perfectly ordinary here, would be a social setback if I lived in the US.

For cultural comparison, here are a few pictures of Dutch leading news anchormen and women. Do they look undergroomed to US eyes?

Here and here.

Nope, that first anchor lady looks pretty good in my opinion, like an average, well-dressed lady you’d see downtown. I’d rather see people like her on the news than the usual blond-haired, veneered skinny girls.

Like a lot of people have already said, good teeth are a vain sign of wealth. Normal biannual cleanings are covered by health insurance, but things that go above and beyond (getting braces from an orthodontist, or a gingivectomy from a periodontal surgeon) might not be covered in health insurance if it is deemed as a cosmetic procedure instead of a necessary procedure.

The price for braces depends on what you need done. I needed some retainers and spacing beforehand, in total mine cost between $3-$4k. Might not sound like a lot, but when you have two other siblings who also need/are expected to get braces, it adds up. I would’ve looked much different without my braces.

To some people perfect teeth are a necessity but to others it’s not an outstanding feature. I’m somewhere in the middle. Yellow, Cheez-It teeth gross me out but so do overly-white-and-glowing teeth. My sister, on the other hand, notices a person’s teeth as soon as she meets them and it’s a huge factor to their attractiveness with her. Every person is different.

To my eye the teeth in the first one look fine (I think her whole look is unkempt though, and she has a terrible haircut). I can’t open the second.

I’m talking about pictures like

I think slightly crooked teeth are charming evidence of originality and naturalness. My sister-in-law has a sweetly crooked smile (she is Swiss) and I love it.

I think the super-white-and-straight-teeth look is as fake as the huge-boobed-obvious-implants look. Unpleasant and unnatural.

Look at the Before and Afters in this blog

Its the before that will cause a problem with advancement, not the afters (her befores are quite similar to my friend I was talking about above). Her afters are nowhere near moviestar perfect but they are just fine.

:dubious: I know many parents who’ve gotten braces for their kids. They weren’t wealthy and the kids weren’t vain. The teeth needed straightening. Misaligned teeth can cause jaw problems. Why not fix it if you can?

Good teeth are the standard in the US. If you have a job, you probably have the means to at least make sure that the basics are taken care of – no decay, no missing teeth (at least in front). Doing more than that (veneers, caps, whitening) might be a sign of vanity, but if you can afford it, why not do it if it makes you feel better about yourself? It’s not that different from contact lenses instead of glasses or having a birthmark removed.

Plus, we’re told from the time we’re small that it’s important to have healthy teeth. When I was in school, we weren’t allowed to get passed to the next grade unless we showed evidence of visits to the dentist (the dentist filled out a card). There’s fluoride in the water and ads everywhere for toothpaste, mouthwash, whiteners, and braces. We’ve been conditioned to expect/want good teeth. That’s not happening elsewhere in the world?

I must live in a different America from you because I know several people, working class and not homeless, with missing teeth. Generally, it’s back teeth. Pulling teeth is cheaper than a root canal from what I understand.

I had braces as a kid, but my teeth are still crooked, especially on the bottom, but no one’s ever said anything about it. Then again, I don’t exactly hang around the rich and famous as you can tell.

It’s not like I meant to say that **ALL **people who wear braces get them for superficial reasons. Some, like myself, have had them due to misaligned jaws or crooked teeth that will pose worse health problems in the future.

Oddly enough, braces are very common here. Over half the kids in a schoolclass will have them. It’s just that we in Holland seem to draw a line there, as all other forms of cosmetic dentistry are very rare. Saving teeth is standard. Removing slight to moderate imperfections with veneers: not done here.