Eyes may be a window to a person’s soul, teeth, however, are a window on their health. Vampires don’t have variable health, but a look at their smile can still be revealing.
Today’s concept of the perfect smile (brilliantly white teeth, perfectly aligned) is a very modern invention. Orthodontics didn’t really exist until the mid-nineteenth century (although people have tried to straighten their teeth for a variety of reasons since ancient times). Malocclusion (crookedness) of the teeth were not formally categorized until 1900. The first braces appeared not long after, however, these early models had bands of silver, gold and platinum, making them both expensive and high-maintenance. Braces didn’t become a pre-pubescent rite of passage until the 1970′s when adhesive technology caught up with dentistry.
Straightness isn’t the only clue a smile can give about a person’s history. Here are a few other activities and habits that show up in your smile:
- Excessive chlorine in swimming pools can erode tooth enamel making teeth more sensitive to temperature extremes.
- Soda and citrus drinks (like orange juice) can be caustic to tooth enamel if drunk in excessive quantities. The phosphoric acid in the soda and citric acid in both causes enamel corrosion. (BTW did you know Americans drink more than 53 gallons of soft drink annually? That’s more than any other beverage, including milk, coffee, tea and beer.)
- Bulimia and acid reflux can destroy tooth enamel as well. Enamel erosion is a major sign of bulimic behavior.
- Infection, nutritional deficiencies, trauma and use of pharmacological drugs (like tetracycline) can cause enamel defects including irregularity and pitting.
- Diseases from HIV/AIDS to osteoporosis to diabetes may also show preliminary signs in a person’s mouth such as sores, enamel erosion, cavities, tooth sensitivity, gingivitis or bad breath.
Age is another characteristic that can leave clues in a person’s mouth. Eighty percent of Americans over the age of 35 have some form of gum disease. This can range from simple inflammation (gingivitis) to more serious periodontal disease that can injure or damage the jaw bones. Tooth loss is another clue to an individual’s age and sometimes era. Even today more than one-quarter of American adults over the age of 60 have lost all of their teeth.
They say you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. That may be true. But it’s not a bad idea for everything else!