The Whiteness of Youth

By Phil / March 28th, 2012

Twenty (plus) years ago, while I was a student at Edinburgh University, a group of us set off for the East coast of the US on a student Work America Visa Exchange Program. We got jobs as cleaners, pizza waitresses, Dairy Queen Servers and chamber maids at dodgy motels. We had a fantastic learning experience. We were young and confident that our future’s were bright and full of possibilities. Our teeth were not textbook perfect. I was a dental student. I did not even notice.

The next year, I went back to America, this time to California. This time I was further ahead in my studies and we visited several dental establishments as part of a work experience project. One orthodontist took us out to lunch. Our teeth were not perfect. We had never thought about it. He asked us if we had ever had any orthodontic (tooth straightening) treatment. We all had. He was stunned. He said we confirmed the stereotypical British teeth, and we looked like ‘before’ cases for tooth straightening, not ‘afters’. We were disgruntled but not much more than that. We were young, confident, our teeth were not perfect but we knew they were healthy. Our confidence was not affected.

Fast forward to the present day. I am a cosmetic dentist. My teeth are not perfect (but they are white and healthy!). The same friends are now in their 40’s and some have had some dentistry, some are starting to ask me what they could do, some are still perfectly happy and so they should be. They are all beautiful, confident people.

So what is the difference? Age – certainly. Media – definitely. Available affordable options – absolutely. Did we not notice our wonky teeth because we were young? I don’t think so. I think UK society has changed it’s attitude. I think in our 40’s we begin to analyse what could we do to make the most of our appearance and fight the aging process. Teeth do get darker with age and we start to notice that. Tooth whitening was almost unheard of in the 80’s. Now, it is everywhere.

The smile doesn’t make the person but if someone is insecure about their smile it definitely affects self-confidence. People can be attractive with uneven smiles. Colour does affect perception of youthfulness. I am a cosmetic dentist. I whiten my teeth. I believe in fighting the aging process.


Dr Elaine Halley, Cosmetic Dentist and owner of Cherrybank Dental Spas

Last updated May 2nd, 2018