A Facebook friend of mine critiqued her own smile the other day. She has a Madonna-like gap between her front teeth, and I realized when I saw this picture of her that I'd never seen a picture in which she was smiling with her teeth showing (we have not met in person and know each other through a third party). I wanted to protest to her that she had a terrific smile, because she did, and her annoyance with this terrific smile reminded me of my tattered old fury with American dentistry.
When I lived in England for a brief period after graduating from college, I discovered that most people there didn't wear braces growing up. Yet no one was ashamed of gapping or crooked teeth; they smiled just the same. Their teeth were so varied, so individual! The different smiles were like different faces. It was so cool to see all these unique interpretations of what a smile looks like.
When I returned to the U.S., I was kind of disappointed by the smiles around me. All white and perfectly spaced and conformist. There was nothing interesting about them. It was like the difference between looking at people in a family album and looking at a collection of stock photos. There's something beloved about all the ordinary faces in a family album, and I prefer that to a clip-art version of life that involves a lot of perfectly groomed generic-looking people dressed in business suits with their arms folded.
I'm not saying that oral hygiene is bad. It's not. I might be saying that over-orthodonture is bad or that over-whitening is bad. What I'm definitely saying is that I wish it was socially acceptable in this country to have an imperfect smile. I've kept mine for this reason; I know that some people would look at me laughing and think "why hasn't she gotten those teeth fixed?", but for me it's just another detail that adds to the variety of human life.
Love your teeth! Just like you ought to love your bumpy nose or your messy hair. Be Steve Buscemi. A planet full of Kate Mosses would be pretty boring.