Teeth Fashion

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The New York Times published an article on their Fashion and Style section on October of 2011 titled, “a little imperfection for that smile?” In short if was about a new Japanese trend called “yaeba” that has women pay to have their straight teeth disarranged as it seems to be more attractive to Japanese men.
Fashion is a symbol of status. A trendy impression is what many of us yearn for and it does not stop at clothing, shoes, furniture and such. Healthcare definitely has its own fashion. Take Plastic surgery for example. There was a time when women wrapped their breasts to make them look flatter, then came augmentations, and now with another shift of trends many are going back to their surgeons for reductions. Dentistry is no different. I read in a blog posting that wearing braces which was once a worry of every teenager, is now a fashionable statement in South Asia. The diastima, the gold crowns, teeth jewelry, Kanye West’s diamond teeth, symbols and drawing embedded in porcelain crowns, …The list goes on and on. Recently, the most common and predominant tooth fashion however has been the “Hollywood” smile. The perfect, white, monochromatic, shiny, sparkling smile that all the magazine models have, after they’ve been photoshoped for hours, has been the quest of most all patients in the past decade or so. As dentists we took numerous courses on the perfect porcelain, the perfect orthodontic treatment, the best whitening system, to give our patients exactly what they wanted.
Our society in general is tending towards a healthier, more natural lifestyle these days. Hollywood is being kinder to those of us with naturally bigger bodies. The philosophy of acceptance and cherishing and being not only content but also happy with what you have and how you look is slowly becoming mainstream. That cookie cutter ideal of an image seems to not be interesting and attractive anymore. This may very well be the effect of economy to a certain degree too, but regardless, the trend is picking up and with some delay, is working its way into our profession as well.
Over the past few year however, I’ve noticed a slight change in cosmetic dentistry and the way it is attracting patients. I have encountered many patients recently whom are more than happy with the natural alignment, shape, and color of their teeth despite the imperfections. Especially Europeans seem to be very interested in maintaining their individuality as opposed to giving in to the mold of perfect teeth. I respect that and encourage it as long as it doesn’t effect function and occlusion negatively. I’m giving in to the fashion of the natural state. A visit to the Guggenheim museum this past month reiterated this shift for me. Their current exhibit displays a collection of pieces from the “Gutai” artists. Gutai seems to be a Japanese philosophy in art which respects the world and what is made of, as is. “Gutai Art does not alter matter. Gutai Art imparts life to matter. Gutai Art does not distort matter.” I encourage you to visit the exhibit or research it and build your own opinion on it, but to me it was a prove that the most natural state, the most innate form and function, is the most beautiful and the most practical, most of the time, if not always.
And so, my new cosmetic moto is to restore to the best of my ability a natural looking smile with tints and stains and imperfect incisal edges to reproduce as best as I can what nature had intended at one point. In another words, I try to be as invisible in the lives of my patients as possible. No one should be able to tell my patient is wearing man made crowns and veneers. No one should suspect that those teeth were bleached. The perfect imperfection is what makes the biggest difference. This said however, I still have to conform to my patient’s wishes. I will still have to give the perfect Hollywood smile to the few who ask for it and still love it, but it would certainly not be my own personal preference as the fashion has changed!

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Irvine Dentist