I have really good teeth. Sure, they’re a little crowded on the bottom and maybe a little yellowed from coffee and tea. But my teeth and gums are healthy. And they don’t look that bad. Or so I thought.
I didn’t get my first cavity until I was an adult (in medical school) and I only have two fillings in all. This morning I sat in the dentist’s chair getting numbed for a repair of a cracked tooth (right through the filling) and wondered: Who has perfect teeth? James Hamblin, M.D. has the answer I didn’t expect:
Last spring, the world’s first “snaggletooth girl group” gave their debut concert. They weren’t called that by some execrable critic; the women’s teeth are actually their sell. The title of their album is Mind If I Bite?
The Tokyo-based group is called TYB48, and their Lou Pearlman-esque founder, Taro Masuoka, is actually a dentist in an upscale part of Tokyo. Masuoka runs a practice called Pure Cure– where they do a lucrative cosmetic procedure called tsuke-yaeba that purposely gives people crooked teeth. So it works out nicely that he’s also promoting the look in pop culture.
As Japan Today put it, yaeba means “‘multilayered’ or ‘double’ tooth, and describes the fanged look achieved when molars crowd the canines and push them forward.” They report it as a uniquely feminine trend: “Japanese women of all ages [are] flocking to dental clinics to have temporary or permanent artificial canines … glued to their teeth.” It’s been gaining in popularity over the past few years.
So Japanese women are going to the dentist and paying to have their teeth look ugly. Why would that be?
Masuoka has said the look “gives girls an impish cuteness.” Emile Zaslow, an associate professor at Pace University, explained it more malignantly toThe New York Times: “The naturally occurring yaeba is because of delayed baby teeth, or a mouth that’s too small … It’s this kind of emphasis on youth and the sexualization of young girls.”
That notion would make it only more terrible that Masuoka gives “half-price discount … for middle school and high school students.”
That leaves my brain as numb as the left side of my face.