April 16, 2014

Watch your mouth!

Watch your mouth!

White and straight teeth are over-valued. We accept a level of unnecessary, violent, medical intervention in our mouths that most of us would not tolerate anywhere else in or on our bodies. In fact we voluntarily pay for it. And we subject our children to it, with whiter ideals and more intervention and expense normalized for each new generation. In other areas of health care and healing there are more options, rooted in traditional and/or holistic paradigms that tend towards less intervention, less hierarchical relationships between doctor/healer and patient, and less involvement in big pharma or the medical-industrial-complex. In medical dentistry we have once again nurtured the worst of our religio-racist ideologies by fusing 'cleanliness' and 'purity' with 'healthy' and 'privileged.' And like most body-fascist ideals, we have obediently pursued (and demanded of our Hollywood and pop stars) straight white teeth beyond our limits, both pain and financial. Too many dentists (and too many car mechanics) try to sell more services than are necessary just to make more money. This happens so often, it seems normal, like bleached teeth. It's called capitalism, and it's happening in your mouth. Strong, healthy, long lasting teeth do not need to be pure white or straight, and neither do you.

Brushing immediately after eating sabotages your mouth's built in cleaning and healing mechanisms. It is now recommended that we wait at least 30 minutes. It's unlikely that your dentist told you that, and if they did, it was less than 10 years ago, and they definitely didn't apologize for giving you bad health advice for the previous years. Maybe the medical research is recent but the knowledge, or perhaps wisdom, that our bodies have self-cleaning and self-healing mechanisms should not be news to first world people with university degrees. But the history of the university, despite its brief flirtation with alleged universal access, has always been to institutionalize hierarchies of knowledge and create a sect of wealthier, more privileged, more powerful 'leaders.' You do not deserve to be hired or kissed because your teeth are bloodily scraped and toxically bleached. And you look ridiculously unbelievable playing 'real' people on TV. Again, strong, healthy, long lasting teeth do not need to be pure white or straight, and neither do you.


Anne said...

I actually think about this a lot. As a medievalist. There's the whole whitening and straightening thing, which you address here -- let's all try to have "perfect" teeth which are highly unnatural -- AND there's the whole let's save our teeth at all costs thing. I ask my dentist sometimes, why? Why do we need to save the teeth? Why don't we just get dentures? Or eat porridge? She has no answer.

BUT! The orthodontic surgeon, in the process of saving one of my teeth, cut the gum back and scraped under to gum line, WHICH, I was delighted to find out, we have been doing for hundreds of years. Only it used to take longer, and hurt more.

Anyway. Yes. Teeth are a major and obvious signal, and we have lost our minds.

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