The Smile Hierarchy: Who’s allowed to smile?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Summer vacation was around the corner. It poked its head out and gave us a teasing grin which motivated us to do nothing. Tenth grade from hell was coming to an end. I was sitting in a circle with a small group of classmates and we decided to tell jokes to kill time. Starting with one of my classmates who said,

Today at the bank an old lady asked me to check her balance… So I push her over.

I smiled

to which he replied “You gotta get that fixed,”

I bet that anyone with a gap or unconventional teeth has had a similar interaction. I bet anyone with a gap or unconventional teeth has been robbed of a laugh, a smile and ultimately their self-confidence.

Photo by Kevin Jesus Horacio on Unsplash

A-symmetrical-pearly-grill sits at the top of the smile hierarchy, throwing stones at those who don’t choose to climb to the top. We are made to feel uncomfortable until we change ourselves despite the fact that our teeth function perfectly.

“Got a bag and fixed my teeth

Hope you hoes know it ain’t cheap”

-Bodak Yellow, Cardi B

I’ll admit that this is a funny thing to quote when trying to prove a point. But! hear me out. Cardi B was ridiculed for her teeth. This verse speaks to the public who had shamed her. We understand that money is required to achieve the perfect smile. This physical change marks Cardi B’s stardom. She has now “fixed” her commoner's teeth and climbed to the top of the hierarchy.

Unity, unity, unity.

Uniqueness? Slash it with sharp tongues until it conforms.

Braces are as common as acne among teenagers. If you don’t choose to fix yourself to fit the “perfect” smile mold you are subject to scrutiny. The same attitude you would expect a woman receives when she does not shave.

Those who can’t afford braces have tried to fix their teeth themselves using elastics to “correct” tooth position, “the elastics can work their way below the gums and around the roots of the teeth, causing damage to the periodontium and even resulting in tooth loss,” (Tooth loss caused by displaces elastic during simple periprosthetic orthodontic treatment). This DIY treatment is gaining popularity on the internet.

Photo by Azamat Zhanisov on Unsplash

People are either being encouraged to endure the pain and discomfort associated with braces or, those who can’t afford them, are desperate enough to risk tooth loss to “fix” a made-up problem. Teeth-shamers are vicious and unlike fat-shamers, they are not judged or demonized.

“While it has been the desire of most individuals to look good and presentable, it has been their ‘smile’ that often ends up either enhancing or spoiling the looks of a person” -Indian Journal of Dental Research

So, who’s allowed to smile?

Only those with perfect teeth. The rest of us risk ruining our image.

The Faculty of Dentistry in King Abdulaziz University conducted an experiment to find out what the Saudi population perceives as an attractive smile. Spoiler alert, it is no different than that of Americans. The study found that Diastema (a gap between two front teeth) is largely considered to be unattractive. This result was “probably due to the violation of the aesthetic principle of unity,”

Gap teeth are a violation of an aesthetic principle.

Both groups taking part in the experiment concluded that “treatment was mandatory for smile esthetics and beauty”

Treatment is mandatory for a beautiful smile.

In other words,

“You gotta get that fixed.”

A gap is not a flaw that needs to be fixed. Saying that implies that there is something wrong. And, I’ll have you know that I am not malnourished as my teeth perform perfectly. Yet I had strongly considered getting braces.

Ironically, it took some encouragement from the beauty industry for me to love the way I look.

The “London look” shocked me and the world.

Georgia May Jagger starred on a Revlon Ad. She displayed her diastema as she posed and recited the famous slogan “Get the London look”.

I read countless comments online that shamed Georgia May Jagger’s teeth. I realized — when the comments weren’t aimed at me — just how stupid the comments were. Her gap set her aside and if she didn’t have it, her career might’ve drowned in a sea of models.

Thanks to her teeth, Georgia May Jagger is now synonymous with the slogan which was established way before her career began. (Not kidding. Google “London look” and you’ll get pictures of Georgia May Jagger).

Finally some acceptance.

I will not get my smile fixed. Instead, I will attempt, like Georgia May Jagger, to normalize a common feature by embracing myself.

Writing about sex and anything else that comes to mind.

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