Social Question

Mama_Cakes's avatar

When someone asks "why do so many British people have bad teeth", how on earth do you answer that?

Asked by Mama_Cakes (10474points) August 21st, 2013

As asked.

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27 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

1) “How should I know?”

2) “As a guess, less good or less available dentistr than we have in the US (or Canada)?”

Michael_Huntington's avatar

Why are Americans so fat?

zenvelo's avatar

Dental expertise at the lowest common denominator.

Seek's avatar

Have they performed a survey?

gailcalled's avatar

edit: dentistry

marinelife's avatar

Here is what some readers of the Guardian had to say on the subject.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

This stereotype goes back to World War II, when American and English servicemen intermingled. The British were massive consumers of tobacco and refined sugar, with limited access to dental care. At the same time, U.S. dental care was advanced, extensive, and affordably accessible.

Since WWII, the situation has reversed. In the U.K., free/low cost dental care is provided to all, and every child gets prenatal and pediatric health care. U.S. dental care has become extremely costly and isn’t covered by standard medical insurance; attractive, healthy teeth are the privilege of those who can afford them. Many Americans never see a dentist and start to lose teeth in young adulthood.

Yet, the old stereotype still persists and is the subject of much humor.

Seek's avatar

^ Yep. My teeth suck. They’re on my “if I hit the lottery” list.

ucme's avatar

“Bore off you fucking melt!”
That’d be my answer, not specifically aimed at anyone.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Very recently, my elderly Mom had three back molars and one abscess extracted. She was in very bad shape; all three teeth were so damaged, the roots and nerves were open and exposed. The bill was $1,761.

I was surprised that the cost was so reasonable. I’d expected to pay at least 2X that amount, but I believe that the oral surgeon gave me a discount because he performed all the procedures during one appointment.

Lucky for me, I could pay for Mom’s treatment. What happens if someone’s living in agony with teeth that need to be extracted, but if the person can’t afford the care? As the poverty gap widens, very few people can spare $1,761 for dentistry.

Seek's avatar

^ I’ve had three teeth broken since high school. Ten years now. The answer is, we stop drinking cold drinks.

janbb's avatar

I usually try to point out the logical fallacy in their assumption.

DominicX's avatar

In my experience in some European countries (can’t speak for Britain), straight teeth are not as important as they are to Americans. In America, we give everyone braces, even if their teeth are only slightly askew. But in other countries, that’s not such a high priority. So the person’s teeth might be fine in terms of cavities or cleanliness, but they just might not be as straight as they could be and thus get labeled “bad teeth”.

CWOTUS's avatar

Irish dentists.

KNOWITALL's avatar

If things don’t change soon, a lot of Americans will join our English cousins. I can’t afford to use my dental insurance because I will still owe a hefty co-pay. Working poor and Medicare patients have almost no options since hardly any office takes payments anymore.

downtide's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul ” In the U.K., free/low cost dental care is provided to all,”
No, it isn’t. It’s free to under-16s, pensioners and people with certain medical conditions. It’s low-cost to people on benefits and to those who are lucky enough to live near an NHS dental school or a NHS dentist who happens to have a vacancy for you on his books. The rest of us have to pay full price. I only visit a dentist if I’m in agony with toothache (which has happened only once in my adult life). But I do take care of my teeth, they’re strong and I have no cavities. They could definitely do with a polish but such expense for a cosmetic treatent isn’t a priority for me.

JLeslie's avatar

I would assume the British didn’t or don’t have such a strong emphasis on teeth being straight and white compared to America. I don’t know about younger generations, but certainly I still see people on TV who are in their 40’s and older who to me look like they need their teeth straightened, and have English friends who are in their 60’s who have not so great teeth while in America that is not my experience among my parents peers. Orthodonture is kind of a matter of course in America, it has been for many years, unless you are very poor. So poor is associated with “bad” teeth to some extent I think in America, and that same association might not be the case in other countries. Also bad teeth looks unclean to Americans. They don’t have to be perfectly straight and white, but I think the American threshold is different than in other countries. The style in America is to have superwhite teeth now, it’s too extreme in my opinion.

Having said all that, I wish I could give @Michael_Huntington 100 GA’s for his answer.

Jeruba's avatar

Truthfully? I’d say “I don’t have the necessary knowledge to answer a question like that, but I’m sure you could look it up. Are you sure your premise is correct?”

I would not encourage the person either to indulge in unsupported generalities or to think of me as their Wikipedia.

JLeslie's avatar

I googled after reading @Jeruba‘s answer, which I think was a great answer, and found this article. There were actually quite a few articles on the topic. Most imply Americans are more obsessed with perfectly straight white teeth (which as I said I think is too extreme and out of control) but in the last 40 years times have changed and there isn’t much difference in teeth across the pond. One interesting thing in the article was the fact that America added flouride to public water supplies while the Brits are more wary of the government adding chemicals into the water.

janbb's avatar

@Jeruba That was the point I was attempting to make as well.

Jeruba's avatar

@janbb, yes, I think several of us are in agreement.

Adagio's avatar

I would ask them why they are making that assumption, such a generalisation.

ucme's avatar

Very strange question, weirdly put.

janbb's avatar

@ucme I agree which is why I took it to mean something other than looking for an answer about Brits’ teeth.

ucme's avatar

@janbb Still, it’s more or less done with now, conveniently put to bed.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

“Why don’t you ask a big, strapping, drunk Scottish football hooligan why he has bad teeth, and then let me know how that conversation works out.”

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