Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Is There a Dentist in the House?
The most distressing thing about television cosmetic surgery makeovers like "Extreme Makeover" and "The Swan" is not the proto-eugenic vision of women's beauty being pushed nor is it the inappropriate conduct of the doctors and their staff (e.g., on "The Swan" the assistants cheering the huge new breasts, the doctor complaining that his wand his smaller than his colleague's), nor is it the humiliation they suffer at the hands of their coaches in front of and behind their backs.
No, the most distressing thing is the state of dental health in America. Apparently all those jokes we make about British dental health has been a bit misdirected. Granted, there is an obvious selection issue going on here: they're taking the very worst applicants and bad teeth make for easily observable improvements. However, I still can't get over how bad these teeth are! There has got to be something that could be done to improve Americans' teeth before they become such a disaster.
Obviously, the rotting of teeth is probably related to sugar consumption, and probably poor brushing habits. While it's hard to change behaviors, especially eating behaviors, it's probably even harder (and more expensive) to fix the other main problem: crowding of teeth and crookedness. Why does this happen? I wonder if it's not something nutritional. Is there something wrong in children's development that their jaws do not develop large enough to accomodate all their adult teeth? I think I'm going to have to track down a dentist and ask them about this.
Perhaps the other explanation is genetics and good periodontistry. Some people who have genetic predispositions towards bad teeth may have wealthy parents who can afford to get their children braces and extractions and everything else. As a result, the child's teeth are fixed, making them more attractive to mates, but it's a false signal to potential mates who can't observe the genes that made her original bad teeth. I wonder if "ever wore braces" is a question on the eHarmony dating survey.
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