Ask any American what comes to mind when they think of Brits, and many will say "bad teeth." They picture the British mouth as being like something from a movie adaptation of a Charles Dickens book. Ask a Brit what comes to mind when they think of Americans, and many will say "outrageously perfect teeth."
I believe that there is a lot of pressure put on Americans by the media to have perfectly straight white teeth. It seems that many more children in the US undergo orthodontic treatment (braces, etc.) than in Britain. In addition, teeth whitening, whether by specialists, or by using over-the-counter treatments such as whitening strips, has become extremely popular. When I think of teeth whitening, I recall the episode of TV show Friends where Ross had his teeth whitened, with luminous results.
Teeth are on my mind right now, as I was at my dentist this week, and I am scheduled for a couple more visits. I suffer from dental phobia. People experience dental fear for a variety of reasons. In my case, it was a bad experience with oral injections given by a dentist in my teens. After that, it took over twenty years, a broken tooth, and a lot of persuasion from my Wife-to-be, to get me to set foot in a dentist's office again. Even talking about teeth or dentists would make me feel anxious, and it still does, particularly when I think of injections in the mouth.
I was very lucky to find an extremely sympathetic dentist who listened when I explained my problem. He prescribed me diazepam (Valium) to take the night before my appointment, so I could relax and get some sleep, then an hour before my appointment. Once I moved to the US, I found a wonderful dentist who specializes in using intravenous sedation for disabled and extremely fearful patients. For me, in addition to the Valium, he only has to administer nitrous oxide (laughing gas), which I love. I have often joked that I would pay good money on a Friday night for the nitrous. When I first visited my dentist, it was in a teaching hospital, and he used to joke to observing students that there was nothing wrong with my teeth, I was just there for the laughing gas.
As you can probably imagine, with over twenty years between visits to the dentist, I have had a few problems with my teeth. However, things could have been worse. I did not take great care of my teeth as a child. For example, I often used to wet my toothbrush to make it look like I had brushed my teeth.
I do have some aesthetic tooth problems that I have no intention of correcting. I have a small chip on a tooth where a kid at school, without provocation, decided to punch me in the mouth. I have a tooth at the front that grew behind the others. I was once a promising young trumpet player, and it was decided that to do something with that tooth might adversely affect my playing. Although I no longer play trumpet, I decided not to do anything about it after an enlightened American dental hygienist said to me that she felt that having crooked teeth was like having a distinctive accent.
My dental philosophy these days goes something like this: Do take care of your teeth. Brush and floss them and visit the dentist for regular check ups. Many dentists are great with fearful patients, so don't let dental-phobia keep you away. However, unless you have serious problems, I believe it is best to go for the natural look. In addition, unless you literally want to light up the room, avoid teeth whitening.
Where do you stand regarding dentists and dental work? Please leave a comment and let us know.
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