The sound of the dentist’s drill is enough to keep plenty away but the global industry for cosmetic dentistry is growing fast.
Straightening and reshaping are increasingly popular and whitening products are now easily available off the shelf.
Worth nearly $16bn in 2015, the cosmetic dentistry market is expected to hit nearly $28bn by 2024.
And while cosmetic dentistry is big all around the world, it’s most famous in America, where it all began.
Specifically, Hollywood. Or, Hollywood land as it was known back then.
In the 1930s American cinema was booming.
After the silent era sound was introduced which meant stars suddenly had to bare their teeth.
This would have a dramatic effect on the industry and an even bigger impact on dentistry.
One moviegoer was a dentist and his name was Charles Pincus.
Pincus had recently moved to Hollywood and he sensed an opportunity in the movies.
“The camera is cruel in its relentless exposure of the smallest flaw in the mouth. A tooth turned even slightly out of line casts a shadow”,
wrote Pincus in an essay to fellow dentists.
Pincus had connections in the industry –
the Max Factor family, who were already revolutionizing makeup for the movies - needed his help in the studio.
For actors of that generation makeup wasn’t always enough. The notion of oral hygiene was barely in its infancy.
Pincus invented snap on caps to cover crooked or missing teeth.
Made out of powdered plastic and porcelain they became known as Hollywood veneers.
Among his patients he counted Joan Crawford and James Dean.
One of his greatest achievements though was probably the youngest of them all. “She’s been a leading lady from the start.”
Despite featuring in hits since she was just six years old, audiences would never see Shirley Temple lose a single baby tooth.
That was thanks to Pincus’s veneers. After all, stopping filming for a missing tooth would cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Moviegoers were wowed by the perfect smiles of their favorite stars. Having good teeth became an aspiration.
But despite that developing into a near national obsession with perfect teeth, Americans don’t actually have the healthiest teeth.
Nearly 1 in 5, older than 65, doesn’t have any teeth at all that might be because of access to healthcare.
Of those who didn’t visit the dentist last year 59% claimed cost as the top reason.
When countries are ranked by how few fillings or missing teeth they have - the US doesn’t make the top ten.
In joint first it’s actually the British, despite what everyone thinks.
“-Since you’ve been frozen, there have been fabulous advances in the field of dentistry - What do you mean?”
While Americans might not have the very healthiest of teeth, having the best looking might be just as important.
Americans spend more each year on beauty than they do on education. But it’s not pure vanity, it’s an investment.
Attractive people tend to earn more, appear more healthy and are more likely to marry.
Making teeth good for our health in a different way.