You can see it in the number of people flocking to the grocery store or pharmacy to purchase at-home tooth whitening kits. You can also get a sense for it when observing pretty much any orthodontist, who can often fit dozens of patients with braces before 10 a.m. Even still, you can see it in the number of people researching things like dental veneers and implants.
All these signs only indicate one thing: more than ever before in history, society is obsessed with having a perfect, pristine set of teeth.
Between 1982 and 2008, the number of orthodontic procedures in the U.S. jumped a shocking 99%. Similar rises in demand can be seen for cosmetic dental procedures — procedures that are exclusively aesthetic in nature and aren’t performed for the sake of the patient’s dental health. Second only to makeup, cosmetic dentistry is now the largest nonsurgical beauty industry in the country, New York Magazine reports.
Dental hardware has even reached the upper echelons of what’s in style. Models walking the Hood by Air runway flaunted braces this February. Carine Roitfeld’s Fashion Book even featured models who wore braces.
It’s not necessarily surprising that Americans have become obsessed with perfecting their teeth when so many studies prove how negatively an ugly smile can impact one’s life. About 38% of people say they would refuse a second date with someone who had poorly-aligned teeth. The same percentage view people with straight teeth as smarter.
The benefits of straightening one’s teeth go beyond simple aesthetics. Orthodontists have long touted the health benefits of having a straighter smile; wearing braces can help prevent later onset of complications like periodontal disease or temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). Chewing and speaking are augmented with the presence of straighter teeth, as well.
So is American society obsessed with having straighter, more perfect sets of teeth? It’s entirely possible. But ultimately, there are much worse things we could be obsessing over.