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The perfect smile – Part 4

BDJ volume 225, page 698 (26 October 2018) | Download Citation


Rose Xi Man Poon, a final year dental student from University of Dundee and fellow students Ai Tan, Thean Wei Yap, Christy Ng, Jonathan Lewis, Ciara Rocks, and Erin Macaskill conclude a series of articles on the topic of 'The Perfect Smile', looking at the perception of different perfect smiles around the world.

What makes the perfect smile? The answer to this question depends on your own idea of perfection, and can be defined differently around the world. However, in this day and age, dentistry is playing a larger role in people's lives and as a consequence there is greater desire to achieve the 'perfect smile'.

Actress/singer Tomomi Itano with noticeable 'Yaeba appearance'

ASIA – The big fang theory

A trending appearance in Japan is known as the Yaeba. Yaeba means multi-layered tooth, which is perceived as cute and filled with youthfulness, which some Japanese men might find more attractive. In order to achieve that appearance, some Japanese women would alter the position of their canine and artificially add materials to make their canines prominent. To clarify, this is mostly done through a non-surgical approach.

Darker than dark

Ohaguro is a custom in Japan of staining teeth black that trended until the Meiji era, which ended in 1912. During the Meiji era, objects of pitch-black colour, such as glaze-like lacquer, were seen as beautiful.

A Japanese lady with a prominent Yaeba appearance Image: © Sports Nippon; Sports Nippon/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty

Ohaguro is done predominantly by married women, unmarried women over 18, sex workers and geisha. It signifies sexual maturity for women. It was believed that Ohaguro was beneficial in preventing tooth decay and some samurai practised it to demonstrate their unwavering loyalty to their masters.

Although the pratice of Ohaguro has significantly diminished in early twentieth century, it can still be found in the geisha quarters in Kyoto. Similar practice of staining teeth black can be seen in Yunnan (China), Laos, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and India.

There is no right answer

The perfect smile is defined differently around the world and is yet to be fully explored. It is important for us to understand the cultural implications of their beauty. In a society whereby dental modification is becoming more common, finding unmodified, raw beauty is something to rejoice in. By understanding other cultures, we can be more accepting of their definition of their perfect smile. It is through these standards of beauty that their identity is found.

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  1. University of Dundee

    • Rose Xi Man Poon


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