An article outlining the psychology behind the smile in the attainment of perfect teeth.
The British are commonly known for bad teeth among their American cousins. Travelling back in film time to Mike Meyers’ portrayal of 1960s Brit Austin Powers, the vision of American repulsion at distorted, twisted and stained teeth says it all. To have a nice day, you must have a nice smile. It’s a symbol of good clean living and a wholesome and twee family upbringing. Gleaming white face pegs to greet you whether you are purchasing car insurance or a burger, and your own knights in shining enamel are needed to flash right back, just so it’s known you’re no armed robber.
Dental correction and teeth whitening is most commonly a cosmetic decision, an aspiration to be more beautiful than the next and keep up with the celebrity Jones’s. I’m thinking though that there is something more surreptitious at work. Maybe there is a fundamental psychological process in play when we have the desire to have perfect teeth; a social necessity for trust and happiness, harking back to days in the cave when verbal communication was not yet fully developed. The connotations of health and finding a good mate could be judged by the quality of teeth. We desire others with pearly pegs because they appear strong and healthy, and the bearing of teeth through a smile is a friendly gesture in our society.
It is because we desire and wish to be desired that we endeavour to improve our physicality through cosmetic enhancement, but the underlying need is a psychological one. Lack of self esteem, wanting a sense of belonging and social inclusion can all play a part in such modifications, and the Americans seem to be the biggest takers. In the states it is also a symbol of status. Owning gleaming pegs of white says that you have cash, adorning them with rubies and diamonds and gold, as is the latest trend, means you have mega bucks. It can also mark you as part of a group, adding to a personal and clan identity.
This trend of oral perfection still hasn’t gained much ground in Britain. Many Britons feel positively proud of a dental uniqueness; it adds to an eccentricity and draws a clear divide between us and our relatives across the pond. If anything, within our very stiff upper lipped British society, we hold an element of distain and distrust for an overly perfect set of gnashers. Gleaming white teeth and a rehearsed smile to show them off are associated with super smooth con artists and people trying to be something that they are not; people trying to cover up something they don’t want to accept about themselves or show anyone else. What they don’t realise, is that there can be satisfaction for being liked warts and all than being accepted on face value as it were.
However, maybe slight cosmetic dental attention is a good thing, something that should be embraced. Maybe it makes as much sense as having a manicure or going for a haircut; and surely is no different to having a sunbed or dying ones hair. Whitening the teeth could put a spring in your step, boost your confidence and makes you smile more, which in turn will can make a person feel happier. The psychological implications of improving ones appearance are not necessarily detrimental, especially in minor cases. But if you are continually striving to improve your appearance it is wise to understand the emotional reasons behind the actions before a little whitening becomes a little skin tweaking and a unique identity is lost in the cosmetic ether.