British Correspondent Learns How Much a Smile Means in America

Patient in dentist, cosmetologist office

Here in the US, we often take many things for granted. We assume that most people have cars, for example, something that isn’t always the case in Europe. Many of these things are so ingrained in us that we don’t realize how different things can be in other places, until a visitor points it out to us.

That’s the case with the American smile, too. We don’t realize that people in other countries may not have the same access to cosmetic dentistry and may not put as much emphasis on smiling as we do. But when people come from overseas, they can see that in America, a beautiful smile is more than just a cosmetic attribute. It’s a tremendous social asset that has great value beyond your appearance. This is what a British correspondent learned when she came to live in the US.

Healthy Teeth Getting the Wrong Kind of Attention

Hannah Thomas-Peter didn’t have unhealthy teeth when she came to the US. Instead, she had what she calls her “absolutely-healthy-but-reasonably-mediocre-NHS-teeth.” However, once she was in New York City, she realized that this was not normal. In fact,it got her a lot of attention that was very negative.

She noticed that because her teeth weren’t bright white and they weren’t absolutely straight, people stared at them when she talked. She found that it became a distraction from her speaking and got attention “for all the wrong reasons.”

So she got her smile fixed. She can tell the difference it made not only when she looks in the mirror, but also when she talks to others. She realized, “Really straight, white teeth are in fact a powerful social currency.They are a passport, a constantly on display indication of wealth, opportunity, and a stable home surrounded by people who’ve been able to afford to care for you in every way.” And, she realized that they are perhaps the most ubiquitous and conspicuous marker of status in America because smiles are “literally written on people’s faces.”

The Reality of America

Thomas-Peters makes no secret of the fact that she is ambivalent about her cosmetic changes. On the one hand, she dislikes the way that smiles mark a divide between the haves and the have-nots in the US, but, on the other hand, she says “my membership to the straight teeth club [is] too beneficial in too many ways,” for her to really feel bad about it.

And there are very good reasons why smiles matter so much in America. Being a nation of immigrants, the smile became our clearest exchangeable method of nonverbal communication. And since then, Americans smile more than almost any other people on Earth.

And because we constantly use our smile in personal and professional situations, we need to have one that gets us attention for the right reasons, not because it is unattractive or unhealthy looking.

If you think your smile is getting you the wrong kind of attention, cosmetic dentistry can help. To learn how you can get a great smile in The Woodlands, please call (281) 367-5559 today for an appointment with cosmetic dentist Dr. Scott Young, Purveyor of Fine Dentistry.