The Cost Of The Great American Smile
Americans have a bizarre preoccupation with super straight, white teeth. What are the economics that drive this quest?
I’ve traveled around the world, and one of the things that make me stick out as an American is my smile.
People would comment on how straight my teeth are (I still have an overbite) and how white they are.
In fact, I feel comfortable saying that the pursuit of a perfect smile is a very American preoccupation, with some unspoken societal beliefs connected to the perfect smile.
If you like reality TV, there is currently a show called The Celebrity Plastic Surgeons of Beverly Hills. One of the surgeons highlighted on the show is Dr. Kevin Sands, DDS (doctor of dental surgery). Seeing that there is a dental surgeon on a show focused on plastic surgery cemented my belief that there is more to an American smile than people realize.
When I was a little girl, my mom would take me to get my teeth cleaned every six months. The average cost of cleaning is $82.08 for adults without insurance, and let’s be honest: an awful lot of people in America don’t have access to dental insurance.
I have gone a little deep into the subject to write this blog, though not as deep as a dentist would go into your pocket.
Here are some numbers I put together:
- Toothpaste – $1 to $4
- Toothbrush – $1 for a regular toothbrush, and up to a $100 if you get an electric toothbrush.
- Dental floss – $1 to $3, especially if you get the “minty fresh” flavor.
- Synthetic veneers bonded to your teeth claim to make your smile as bright as the midday sun. A popular brand like Lumineers will range in price from $800 to $2,000 per tooth.
- Veneers are a lot more involved than getting a set of lumineers. Your teeth are actually ground down so that the veneer can be placed on your tooth. According to Your Dentistry Guide, it can come in at a “reasonable” $925, or get up to $2,500 per tooth.
- Each topical fluoride treatment will set you back by $32.59.
- Cleanings will cost you $164.16 – at least if you get it done twice a year.
- Tooth whiteners – $45 to $1,500, depending on the service that you’re getting and where you live. For me, if I spent $1,500 to whiten my teeth, I will probably be clenching them for a few months instead of smiling.
- Braces are the big-ticket items that you better hope have been taken care of in your young age by someone else, like your parents. It’s too “painfully” expensive at later stages in life.
- Invisalign is an innovative product that takes the social pain out of straightening your teeth by using clear teeth straighteners. The cost can range from $3,500 to $8,000. Wait, let their website warn you: “As with other medical treatments, only your doctor can determine the actual cost based on your specific needs and will work with you to customize your individual plan.”
The pursuit of a beautiful American smile may prove to be expensive. But the more important question is, “Can you afford an unattractive smile in this day and age?”
If a person reveals missing, discolored, or uneven teeth, there is an unspoken judgment being made concerning the person’s health, wealth, or social status.
I once woke up with a broken tooth due to clenching my teeth out of stress. It got fixed quickly because I had dental insurance. But for the week or so that I walked around with a missing tooth, I felt pretty embarrassed and depressed. I was also very reluctant to laugh or smile because of the huge gap in my teeth. After that incident, I became even more focused on maintaining my smile. After all, as the old tune goes, when you smile, the world smiles with you!