Americans have plenty of good stereotypes about the British. When we think of a British person, we usually think of someone with an amazing accent sipping tea with royalty and generally being well educated and polite. We think of top hats and tradition, the beautiful Houses of Parliament, and a zany sense of humor that we’re both intrigued and confused by.
On the flip side, of course, (and I’m just going to come out and say it), we also think they have bad teeth. The myths about British teeth aren’t necessarily true and have been debunked, but the media has taken and run with this stereotype for many years! A pearly white smile with perfectly straight teeth is associated with American celebrities who will stop at nothing to blind everyone with their gleaming molars. Meanwhile, across the pond, Brits are portrayed as having a ‘natural’ look at best and a mouth full of missing teeth at the worst!
Dental Hygiene in America
Our dental hygiene in America is taken care of by private dentists, as we don’t have the public health care option. The standard time in between check-ups is about 6 months, and many children take regular trips to the orthodontist to start work on perfecting their teeth. Our local orthodontist used to sponsor activities and hand out free t-shirts that my friends would wear to school. Ads for teeth whitening treatments are regularly played during prime time television, with a model holding up her whitening strips and showing us how much more confident she feels with whiter teeth.
Americans are also a bit snooty about teeth, with as many as 38% saying they would not go on a second date with someone who didn’t have straight teeth. I think that’s a bit absurd, but to each their own!
Dental Hygiene in the UK
Dental hygiene in the UK is covered by private dentists and dentists who are part of the NHS, giving patients a choice of a wide range of options and payment plans. The NHS also helps children under the age of 17 with their orthodontic costs. However, the NHS says that
“You don’t necessarily need to see your dentist every six months. Your dentist will recommend how often you should come to see them, based on your current dental health.”
Many American dentists would be appalled at this! No matter how cavity-free you are or how good you are at brushing, I couldn’t imagine my American dentists telling me to come back in 2 years (the maximum length the NHS says you should go without a check-up).
Over the years, cosmetic orthodontics have become far more popular in the UK. My English fiance had multiple rounds of braces when he was a child to correct his teeth, and whitening strips and the quest for a perfect smile are becoming much more popular in an age where we seem to be posting pictures of our smiles across the internet all the time. As it becomes more acceptable to flash our faces all over Snapchat and Facebook and the like, it’s understandably more concerning when you don’t feel like your teeth measure up.
Where to Go to Find an Orthodontist
It’s incredibly hard, sometimes, after moving from the States to the UK, to find an orthodontist after years of having your own stateside practice knowing your teeth inside and out. Especially with the ‘bad teeth’ stereotype, putting your 6-month-check-up teeth in the hands of an every-2-years-is-fine system can be terrifying! You question whether they are obsessed with dental hygiene to the same extent you’re used to, whether they’ll understand why you want cosmetic work done, and how gentle they’ll be with your precious gums. (Sidenote: why do orthodontists insist on talking to you and asking you question about your life while your mouth is wide open and they’re probing around in it? Can’t answer right now, kind of busy, thanks!)
If you’re in London or the surrounding areas, consider Hampstead Ortho in North London. Customer service is at the top of their priority list, so you can get the same standard of service you are used to with an office of friendly faces. They are also known for their use of innovative treatments and are not stuck in the ancient dental hygiene past. There are a wide variety of braces that are practically invisible, so you don’t have to sport a mouth full of metal like you used to. (However I will say that as a teenager, helping my friends pick holiday-coordinated bands was super exciting. I miss you, early 2000s!)
Children, teenagers, and adults can all use Hamstead Ortho so you can take the family all in one go. Also, if your schedule is as busy as mine, you can do an online consultation where you send a picture of your teeth to the office and they can recommend treatment for you without you even needing to come in. The future is now, people!
So on behalf of teeth-obsessed Americans everywhere, sorry to the British for our preconceived notion about your dental health and thanks for providing us Americans in the UK the same smile-enhancing opportunities and awkward mid-cleaning chats as we’re used to back at home!