It is no question that white teeth are essential. In 2018, cosmetic dentistry was a multibillion-dollar industry across the whole world. This tells us that people value having their pearly whites. Plus, having white teeth is one of the most eye-catching qualities that any person can have.
Having white teeth can make people perceive you as more attractive and wealthier. Those white teeth can also be a sign of how well you take care of your health. Excellent health translates to youth, and youth is a pillar of attractiveness.
Have you taken a look at a toothpaste or lipstick ad and thought it amazing that these people have sparkling white teeth? Though digital manipulation is normal in ads, it shows that white teeth are alluring to human eyes.
White teeth can signify status, wealth, health, and so much more. Attractiveness is not an exact science. We are even fond of saying that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder in an implication that beauty is not a slave to objective beauty standards. However, there have been studies that linked white teeth and attractiveness. For example, Kershaw et al. (2008) revealed that people tend to prefer whiter and more evenly spaced teeth. In the same study, the better the teeth were, the more likely people saw them as attractive.
What Makes White Teeth So Attractive?
And thus, the question. If white teeth are attractive, what makes them so? Is it the natural sight of clean and well-kempt teeth that make us feel like people with white teeth are attractive? Is it how we associate white teeth with money? Or is it how we think people with white teeth are healthier than those who don’t have white teeth?
The answer is all of those. It is not just one thing that makes us perceive white teeth as attractive. It’s a mixture of our personal opinions and generally accepted social constructs. Let’s talk about a couple of them in turn.
What do you think is more attractive, a person with crooked and decayed teeth or a person who has evenly spaced and white teeth? The answer is the latter; there is no dispute about it. Lack of proper dental care manifests in tooth decay problems that could have been avoidable had the person been meticulous in their teeth care. The absence of white teeth tells us that the person in question cannot properly take care of themselves and thus have poor health.
It’s not just a hypothesis. Some studies associate teeth quality with certain diseases. This study by Joshipura et al. (2003) tells us this exact thing. People who had worse oral health were more likely to have a stroke. And in another study, bad oral health was found to be a determinant of cardiovascular disease (Jansson et al., 2001)
It seems like wealth has nothing to do with our first impression of teeth. But in reality, it plays a bigger role than what we imagine. The connection between wealth and oral health (white teeth) is less scientific and more part of the social aspect of teeth and attractiveness. We know that dental health can be expensive, given that the cost of healthcare is steep.
Most of the time, dental care is set aside for more important and pressing priorities, such as survival. For the lower-income brackets, this will inevitably result in poor dental health. Eventually, this also translates into cavities and more advanced tooth decay, leading to bigger problems with teeth that sometimes will need removal.
Our perception of white teeth and wealth stems from the idea that poor people will have difficulty affording routine oral care. This aspect is not demeaning to them but is a depiction and manifestation of a skewed healthcare system. Thus, when we look at a person and see them with shiny pearly whites, we nearly always think of money.
Even Spacing Is Just as Important as White Teeth.
In the previously mentioned studies regarding white teeth and attractiveness, the neat arrangement of teeth was also part of the conversation. It would be quite futile to have a set of white teeth only for it to look crooked. The even spacing and proper size of the teeth becomes just as important as teeth color when talking about teeth.
A person with slightly yellow teeth will look relatively more attractive than a person with very crooked teeth. You would be better off with a set of slightly discolored teeth because it would probably be easier to fix than crooked teeth. Mismatched teeth and an over/underbite will also contribute to an overall unattractive look. You’ve seen people with extreme overbites or underbites. In most situations, they don’t display teeth we would all call attractive.
If you have an improper bite or malocclusion, the impact on your facial aesthetics can be devastating. Check out this Looks Theory episode for more info:
What Makes Teeth Yellow?
Now that we’ve gone over why white teeth are so attractive, let’s talk a little bit about their counterparts. Having yellow teeth is probably more common than having white teeth. A huge chunk of us will have teeth that have at least some discoloration. For some people, the colors of their teeth can even vary in some areas. Overall, it won’t necessarily make you unattractive, but it certainly does not help your looks.
Discolored or stained teeth can be a product of poor oral health. Not properly brushing or flossing your teeth could lead to some pigmentation, especially as you age. Although the best oral hygiene is not the ultimate solution to prevent yellow teeth, it is better than nothing. You are preventing future damage to your teeth while keeping them as aesthetically pleasing as possible.
Another one of the contributors to colored teeth is diet. Various substances can cause teeth staining. Examples of these products are coffee, tea, red wine, and other substances prone to staining your teeth.
Aging is the inevitable enemy of life. Most of our facial features degrade and look less attractive as we get older. The teeth are no exception to that rule. As people age, their teeth also attains a more discolored tone. Even if they had white teeth in their youth, most people would age to have pigmented teeth.
Vices like smoking will also alter the state of your teeth. We’re not foreign to all those posters depicting smokers as people who have bad teeth and fingernails. Those are true to most extents. The effect of smoking on teeth can be a long term stained appearance. Abusing other hard drugs also does no favors for your teeth.
Some people are naturally predisposed to having whiter teeth than others. Your genes could also be part of the reason why your teeth are starting to yellow or look discolored.
Fluoride is a substance that we can find in most toothpaste. But did you know that it also causes teeth discoloration? Too much fluoride can cause teeth to discolor even if they are just from natural sources like water.
Now that you know the reasons behind discolored teeth, you don’t need to look too far and wide for a solution. There are many from the list that you can improve on just by practicing proper oral hygiene. The best band-aid fix is just to buy a whitening kit and go to town.