In October 2011, The New York Times published an article in their Fashion and Style section titled, “A Little Imperfection for That Smile?” In short, it was about a new Japanese trend called “yaeba.” Women pay to have their straight teeth disarranged 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. Now, with another shift, many are going back to their surgeons for reductions.
Dentistry is no different. I read in a blog posting that wearing braces, once a worry of every teenager, is now a fashionable statement in South Asia. With diastima, gold crowns, teeth jewelry, Kanye West’s diamond teeth, symbols and drawings 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 hours of photoshopping, has been the quest of many patients in the past decade or so. As dentists, we take numerous courses on the perfect porcelain, the perfect orthodontic treatment and the best whitening systems to give our patients exactly what they want.
Our society, in general, is trending 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 being not only content, but also happy, with what you have and how you look is slowly becoming mainstream. That cookie-cutter ideal image seems to not be as interesting and attractive anymore. This may very well be the effect of economy to a certain degree. Regardless, the trend is picking up. With some delay, it is working its way into our profession as well.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a slight change in cosmetic dentistry and the way it is attracting patients. I have encountered many patients recently who are more than happy with the natural alignment, shape, and color of their teeth, despite the imperfections. Europeans, especially, 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 negatively affect function and occlusion. I’m giving in to the fashion of the natural state.
A visit to the Guggenheim Museum reiterated this shift for me. Their current exhibit displays a collection of pieces from Gutai artists. Gutai seems to be a Japanese philosophy of art which respects the world and what it is made of, as-is. According to the Guggenheim, “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. To me, it was a proof 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 motto is to restore, to the best of my ability, a natural-looking smile with tints and stains and imperfect incisal edges to reproduce what nature had intended at one point. In other 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 patients’ 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. The fashion has changed!
Mona Goodarzi, DDS