OK UK?: What is Up With English Teeth?

Proud (ish) Brit
Proud (ish) Brit

English Teeth...

I was watching "Top Gear" on BBC America and was wondering in what other country could two presenters repeatedly joke about the third presenter’s teeth. Way too personal for most audiences, and it was not for, what in any other place, would be obvious reasons. They were mercilessly teasing Richard Hammond because his teeth were white and straight!

I was a tad baffled. Not content with having, historically, the worst teeth in Western Europe, it would now appear that if you did something about it, you were then subject to ridicule. Caring about your teeth was now vanity.

Not that I was aware of our lowly standing in the world rankings of personal grooming while living in England, but it was made obvious when I transplanted to Southern California, which has to rank, permanently, at number one in that particular department. Almost twenty years of living here, and my teeth have almost recovered from the dental abuse of good old blighty.

Actually, that's not quite fair. I was a huge part of the problem, in that I did the basic daily maintenance, brushing, but was blissfully unaware of the wonders of flossing and other components of dental hygiene. I had never heard of having your teeth cleaned, for example.

Well, I had, but it was for our dog. The dog got his teeth cleaned by the vet, I suspect because he was totally crap at holding a toothbrush, while we built layer upon layer of plaque. The result of this amalgamation was the resultant, painful visit, to the dentist to get cavities filled. It had to be painful because you simply didn't even think about your teeth until they hurt. A cavity was not truly a cavity until you could put the tip of your tongue in it. The Dentist would scrape around and drill until he had a bigger hole, then fill it with melted spoons, or something.

Apparently being a dentist in the UK is so high stress, that as a profession, suicide is common. Add my dentist to that list. He was a tad humorless, to put it mildly, and some time after filling my last available tooth with metal, he plunged into depression and hung himself. I was now without a dentist and traveled up to Newcastle for my University years. Year one was a tad messed up by the simultaneous arrival of four wisdom teeth. They jostled for room in my metal filled mouth, squeezing the aforementioned amalgam out of their dental placeholders. I never found any lumps of metal, so I figured I swallowed them in the night.

The result was that in a few short weeks I had four wonderful, undamaged wisdom teeth, and a giant mess in-between. Of course this started to hurt, which prompted me into trying to find a dentist. This is a challenge in the North East, where for many generations, a typical eighteenth birthday present was to have what was left of your teeth removed, and a nice new set of falsies put in.

I was directed to the dental school where future depressed dentists were trained. Joy of joys, I got one of my fellow students working on my mouth (with adult supervision.) I saw this poor soul on a regular basis, getting drunk, trying, and mostly failing, to pick up young ladies, and all the other embarrassments of student life.

So, I had at least eight teeth removed by an eager twenty something from the Punjab, in an event that would now qualify as extreme cage fighting, (later we became close friends.) Filling the gaps became a challenge, as my eager friend saw an opportunity to earn an easy A, by filling my mouth with every experimental device on (or nearly on) the market.

My mouth is aching in remembrance as I write this, and I wonder, why on earth we Brits are OK with allowing this to happen. Dental care, expensive though it may be, is extraordinarily good in SoCal. Your comfort is taken as seriously as your insurance, and the dentists seem, in my experience, to be a very happy lot.

Driving to work in an open top Porsche will do that, I guess. Working for the National Health and driving into work in a rusted Allegro with an expired MOT, will not. The US Dentists are artists looking to attain perfection, the UK dentists have to see 300 people an hour, and they're all going to have false teeth by the time they are eighteen anyway. Piss poor motivation, without a doubt.

I did see evidence of change last time I visited, with UK teens suffering the wire-torture wonders of orthodontistry, much as their cousins across the pond have for many years. But then, I saw Clarkson and Captain Slow giving the Hamster a hard time and realized, it will never really change. Not until Jonathan Ross realizes that not being able to say the letter “r” is a speech impediment, not a cute character flaw.

I'm not even going to touch bushy eyebrows, earsprouting, and back hair, well just one word, manscaping , people, get the razor to the offending follicles...


Dear Hub Reader


If you enjoy this hub, please check out my book,

Homo Domesticus; A Life Interrupted By Housework,

A collection of my best writings woven into a narrative on a very strange year in my life.

Available directly from:

http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/homo-domesticus/12217500

Chris


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Comments 11 comments

LAintheLBC 6 years ago

Holy molars Chris! Glad I started teething in the US. Amazing that dentists suicide rates are that high in England I believe that is true in America as well. Wouldn’t you say that in most time period movies The English are portrayed as having bad teeth?


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Hi LAintheLBC

Google "bad teeth" and you get both sides. Unbelievable photos of mouths that defy description, and really, really, angry blogs from English people saying it's not true!

I can only speak from my perspective. I got a new toothbrush when I was five. I couldn't get a new one for the next five years as it had not completely worn out yet!

Chris


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, Chris, I quite agree with you on some British teeth, but I think it is a regional thing, I come from buckinghamshire and we do try and keep our teeth nice, unlike people from up north, who chew on ferrets and eat pidgeons for lunch, using a branch to prize out the gone off bird, we down south are a dainty lot! we use all sorts of things, then if they don't work we just shove on false ones over the top! ha ha but seriously, I think that even in America only the people that live in California etc do their teeth, I am sure there are a lot of people living in the small towns who are just as bad!

I have watched Deliverance you know! hee hee cheers nell


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Nell,

Growing up in Essex (still the far north to Buckinghamshireites) it was definitely more of a class thing, but orthodontics were only done in hospitals for accident victims. I saw a lot of kids with braces last year, so hopefully there will be less and less of a difference, and gobs full of healthy straight teeth everywhere.

If only attitudes were as easy to straighten out :)

BTW thanks for the mention of ferrets - i need to write a blog an strange pastimes, like putting a ferret in your pants!

Chris


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

That I have got to read! ha ha


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Nell,

It is all your fault. I wrote about the ferrets. What is really funny is the advertising on the page is all about ferret cages and how cute and cuddly they are! good video too...

Chris


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

Chris - you break me up!! That is so funny! The melted spoons really got to me. hahaha! What a fun way to start a Thursday - reading a wonderful CrhisLincoln story!

Actually, in general, Americans are rather tooth-conscious. My folks only ever took me to the doctor with broken bones and eye defects, - otherwise all ailments were treated at home by Dr. Mom.

But dentistry was highly regarded as a legitimate profession worth its cost. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was a Mennonite thing in my Dad's family. Dr. Brown was not only our dentist, but a family friend. His grown daughters were best friends with my elder sisters and went all through school and college together. In fact, it was to the home of Dr. and Mrs. Dr. Brown (as Mother called her) that little Nellieanna loved to run off and read their grown daughters' Oz books when I was 4. Mrs. Brown would call Moher to let her know I was safe and then feed me lemonade & cookies while I browsed the books. (maybe she was trying to drum up business for her husband. . . hmmmmm) -

Anyway in my family we all had regular dental checkups & cleanings & I got those little kid-sized toothbrushes and sample toothpaste at each visit. I can still smell the way the office smelled - sort of clean and medicinal. Being doctor-deprived, this was a special treat. (Bye the way, Nell, - a smaller American town would have been hard to find than Del Rio, Texas in the 1930s! The dental office was on the third floor of the second-tallest building in town (none over 5 stories high and only the two of them. If it hadn't been for the notorious Dr. Brinkley - quack & charlatan personified - the town wouldn't have had those two buildings! The other one was the Roswell Hotel where his offices & clinic were. A story in itself - a nefarious true legend! If you want your mouth to drop open, look him up on Google).

Anyway, I can still picture the pattern of the black and white tile floor of the lobby of that First National Bank building and the stairs with massive railings going up, and looking out the window of Dr. Brown's suite at the town below. Aw well. Also those charts & models of the teeth - and Dr. Brown explaining them to me, along with how to brush my bitty teeth.

But my American George's dental background was a contrast. His folks were better off than mine, I suspect but for whatever reason, his teeth were neglected growing up and he was allowed to eat a lot of candy. In my situation, I had to swat 100 flies for one lemon drop! Anyway when he finally went to the dentist, there were 13 cavities and they were all filled at one sitting. Not surprisingly, he was dentist-shy from then on. Even so, he only got his dentures in his 80s. But they could easily have been installed much sooner if he'd been more dental-friendly and felt more inclined to spend the money that way.

Now I have to admit that my mouth would challenge the Corps of Engineers for engineering feats and a jeweler for settings - bridges, (root) canals, an excavation or two still remaining in original teeth, and numerous crowns. Flossing is imperative - and requires dental "needles" for threading floss to get under the bridges. But everything is set in there permanently - nothing comes out at night. lol.

If I had all the money that's been invested in my mouth, though, I could have bought my own dentist!!


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Nellieanna,

Your stories are so full of color - they would make great hubs in and of themselves! As I read your response, it plays like a film (movie) in my head - love it!

C


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

I must plead guilty -I do run on and on. Thank you for being so nice about it!

Speaking of movies, I checked your blog and very much enjoyed your voice-over accents! So talented!! You've had a colorful life so far and obviously still do. Your blog is so well done, too!


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Nellieanna,

I'm not being nice, I love reading your responses (I also think you type way faster than me. (To my shame I am still a single digit typist, though said finger fairly flies when it needs to!)

Thanks for the comments on the website - sadly the voice-over thing has never taken off. Did you by chance read the first chapter of my detective novel? If you are interested I'd be happy to send you the whole thing electronically (warts and all - not yet fully edited)

C


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

Chris - you're not only nice, but gracious. Thank you. I type with the entire 10 digits, but the little pinkies often don't make the desired impression on the keyboard, so that have frequent typos to slow me down. But I do type fast. When I started online 13 years ago, my typing was fairly cumbersome. The first exposure to Comic Chat, then the main chat of MSN, my ISP, quickly speeded it up. It was a multi-leveled challenge! LOL

I didn't read the first chapter of your novel, but I'd like to - and especially if I had the chance to read it all! Warts don't bother me if the story is good! :-)

Thanks!!

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