Friday, March 27, 2009


Meravigliosa: that's what the dental hygienist said about my mouth this morning! 

While Stefania oohed and ahhed about how easy my teeth were to clean and how little plaque there was, we had an in-depth discussion about cultural differences in oral hygiene. Stefania insists her foreign clients (several Americans and one Australian) all have amazingly healthy and clean teeth, as opposed to her regular Italian clients who tend to have crooked, dirty, plaque-encrusted teeth (her words, not mine!). 
We tried to figure out why this is: Did I wear braces? Nope. Was I given fluoride tablets as a child? I wasn't but I believe the water in most US cities contains fluoride, or at least that was the case back in my days. I do recall that in elementary school, with the help of a giant set of choppers, we were taught how to properly brush and care for our teeth. Apparently, this does not happen in Italian schools (why am I not surprised?). I also told her most kids go to the dentist at least once a year. She claims most Italians don't have the best oral hygiene: they don't floss much, they brush sloppily, and to top it all off they don't go to the dentist yearly (making her job even more laborious)... and what's worse is Italian parents don't take their kids to the dentist until they're about 8-9 years old, whereas one of her American clients brought her kids in at age 4. So Italian kids are raised with a different perception of oral hygiene hence bad teeth all throughout life.

She's not the first Italian dental hygienist to compliment me on my teeth (mind you, this never happened to me in the US), once an Italian dental hygienist actually sent me home! I sat down in the chair, opened my mouth, she looked in and said "There's nothing to clean, go home and come back next year". I guess she was so used to seeing layers of grime that she considered my yearly build-up unworthy of her pick. Needless to say, I found myself a new dentist because I WANT to have my teeth cleaned yearly even if there's not much to clean. I'd rather get rid of the little plaque I have before it builds up, thank you very much. And my hygienist thanks me... maybe they should charge me less since it takes less time to clean my teeth?? :)


Emmina said...

In England, Americans have a reputation for having particularly good teeth. I think that the English are known for having bad teeth - so who sets the standard? Are US teeth exceptionally good or are UK teeth exceptionally bad? All of the Americans I know have lovely white bright smiles and none of them had braces.... I had braces, regular check-ups, good hygiene and a paranoid mother yet I have a mouth full of fillings... I guess it must be partly to do with DNA!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I was going to say that in Europe, the Italians (okay we are generalizing) are ahead of England. I have never seen worst teeth in my life even among people my age.

My British friends go on and on about American teeth. And yes most Americans I know (self included) have a thing about teeth. it's why Clive Owen and Estelle had to have their teeth fixed once they started working in the States. Not sure how I feel about that. I thought they both look great before.

I went out on a date and the guy was a smoker (I don't smoke) and his teeth were brown, not light gray, very brown and very crooked. Too be blunt, they were jacked up. Is it shallow on my part to be turned off by that?

I just went to the dentist for the first time here and he was very happy to hear that I floss every day. I don't care if people think I'm anal...I like a clean mouth. ha

J.Doe said...

I've seen the most beautiful people (guys and girls) in Italy that as soon as they smiled made you want to run. Their teeth were awful looking and it really made them ugly in my American 'teeth appreciating' eyes, but teeth are just not that important Italian population.