There's No Need to be Down in the Mouth

Visiting the dentist is never a pleasant experience. Being tipped upside down, poked, prodded and scraped is no-one's idea of fun. Especially when there's always the possibility that you might have to undergo the whole ordeal again, this time accompanied by the sound of a drill squealing through your skull. So when I was given the all-clear recently, I was pleased enough. Until, as I was jumping down from the chair, the dentist asked: "Have you ever had a problem with your smile?" What sort of a question is that? My mouth opens and closes just fine. And I seemed to be able to form a smile, although by this point it was becoming ever more strained. I sensed that what he was really asking me was whether complete strangers came up to me in the street to tell me that my teeth were crooked. OK, they may not be perfectly straight or blindingly white, and my smile is a bit gummy, but I'm pretty sure they're not that bad. Yet all of this could be easily fixed, apparently, and the dentist seemed disappointed when I declined the chance to look like a toothpaste ad. Besides, I hardly dared ask the cost, having already had to force down a gulp at the price of a check-up and scale and polish. I suppose the credit crunch bites for dentists too. After all, someone has to pay for the leather sofas and original artwork in the reception. Obviously, I'm not going to identify the dentist concerned. The idea of pointing the finger at someone who may one day be hovering over my delicate gums wielding a sharp needle and a vibrating drill seems just the least bit foolish. And he's a good dentist. But it left me wondering just what defines perfection and how far are we prepared to go to achieve it? Out of curiosity, when I got home, I consulted the internet – always the Font of All Knowledge, after all – to find the answer.
Apparently there are set "rules" for what constitutes a "perfect" smile. "Ideally," the rules state, "only the pink triangular parts of the gum between the teeth show."But, it notes, an "irregular gum line" – clearly I have one of these – can be easily "corrected". It's all to do with something called the "Golden Proportion". The Ancient Greeks discovered it, and before you ask what they knew about cosmetic dentistry, apparently it applies to all things in nature.In dentistry terms, this means that each tooth should be a certain size and dimension in relation to those that surround it. There was also a lot of talk about symmetry. But, in my experience, symmetry has very little to do with beauty. Take supermodel Kate Moss or actress Keira Knightly. Both women are undoubtedly beautiful and neither seem troubled by not having what you'd call the perfect smile The Americans, of course, have a completely different attitude. To us Brits, "bad teeth" means that they are going rotten; to our friends across the Pond, they are simply uneven.
But the fact is that Mother Nature knows little of such perfection, so anything altered to appear so is, well, plainly artificial.
If you happen to be lucky enough to have been blessed with naturally even, pearly-white teeth, then that's wonderful, but for the rest of us, why the urgency for perfection? If everyone had the correct formula for a perfect smile, surely every grin would look the same as the next. And where do you stop? Supposing I have my smile "corrected", do I then need to inflate my lips, paralyse my frown and have someone vacuum up the fat from my love handles?
When I think of it like that, I'd rather stick with my God-given quirky flaws.