Traveling over the last couple weeks I was able to indulge in my second favorite pastime – people watching. In doing so in Italy and especially in Croatia I was stuck repeatedly by interesting, beautiful and handsome people who shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t be because if an orthodontist was able to get a cephalometric radiograph on those individuals they would have told them they were broken and needed fixing… and believed it to be fact… and their assessment would have been supported by the vast majority of our orthodontic peers.
“But beautiful people are outliers” I can hear you saying. You might even quote Poe saying, “There is no exquisite beauty without strangeness of proportion” and this is true though it still belies the glaring weakness of our “standards”, our “method of assessment” and our attempts to define beauty. Even so, let’s run with this objection and talk about the middle of the Bell curve – the 80 percent of us who make up the vast majority of humans. No matter the genotype or the phenotype, most faces “just work” in spite of breaking the rules, averages, ranges, medians, and values we orthodontists try to impose. Not only do these faces work, they work well and people are able to function in society, find a mate and procreate even though much of this depends on having what others deem, at minimum, a “normal” face.
How can this be?
I would like to propose that in the absence of outright deformity, almost any recognizably human face will suffice and even thrive among similar or even superior peers. I would further propose that tooth alignment and straightness along with tooth color and shapeliness have far more to do with the public’s perception and rating of beauty than do any of the myriad of arbitrarily defined orthodontic measures (Angle classification, IMPA. E Line, Upper 1 to SN and the like). What’s that you say? These aren’t arbitrary numbers? They were defined through serious study and survey?
I’ll say it again. They. Are. Arbitrary. Period.
When you take the massive diversity that is humanity and try to boil it down to a few numbers based on the evaluation of one or even a few populations and then apply the result to ANY one individual, you are throwing dull darts in the dark. I know you disagree. You can rest assured that most orthodontists agree with you.
Seeing how you still don’t believe me, let’s try this. Put down your textbook, go to a place where people who don’t look like you are found and just sit and watch. Pick out every person you see with what you consider a terrible profile and watch them especially. Then have a look at people that others obviously consider attractive and look at their profile. If you perform this exercise with an open mind instead of with the purpose of defending your beliefs then our discussion should be over.
Fine. I get it. You still don’t buy what I’m selling… How about this? How do you think high angle, Class II parents view each other and view their high angle, Class II kids? Think about that and really step back and LOOK at the new patient in front of you next time before you open your mouth and dump all that nerd talk on someone who was perfectly happy before you told them they were broken. What’s the advantage of pointing out a supposed problem that is not life threatening, is not impeding function and even looks pretty good when judged by their peers to someone who came to you to get their teeth straight?
I can’t wait to hear your answers but just remember that “because it’s always been that way” is not a reason….