While most of are comfortable with the idea of cleaning our teeth or replacing them with dentures, we are troubled by the idea of mutilating our teeth with implanted braces for the purpose of “enhancing” our bite. It brings the threat of “designer smiles”, which most of rightfully find repugnant. We need to define a clear border between cleaning teeth and trying to improve upon our own teeth and those of our children.
We have crooked teeth for a reason, and should think very carefully about interfering with the natural order. John 1:3 tells us “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Teeth were made, and therefore God is made them. Further, we were made in the image of God, and for us to try to tamper or re-engineer that is hubris; for scientists and doctors to invent technology to interfere with His work is the most ultimate arrogance. Man must not play God.
This contemporary obsession with the ideal smile trivialises what makes us human. Human lives can no longer be meaningful. All of us get that great feeling when we, using hard work and dedication, overcome the limitations of our dentition and achieve something great. If our success was due to an artificially enhanced smile that we received as a child, would we get the same satisfaction? If we could just change our teeth on a whim, would we feel as good about fighting through jaw pain to finish a steak sandwich? Enough is enough – we need to stay human in this engineered age.
Furthermore, braces could lead humans to become something less than human. If the idea of Frankenstein’s monster, with metal bolts protruding from the neck, wasn’t scary enough, imagine a teenage girl with a mass of metal wires interwoven between her teeth, put there by her parents and her orthodontist who considered her natural smile to be loathsome. If the monsters of science-fiction should have taught us anything, it is that a brace-face will be monstrous to any decent human being. Repugnance is, after all, a very natural and very wise response.
But metal-mouthed monsters, a blend of human with machine, are just the thin edge of the wedge. What if we could have genetic interventions to enhance how teeth grow, and ensure that no child ever has to suffer a “bad smile”? What if we could use genetic engineering or nanotechnology to reform our teeth jaws at will, into fangs or tusks? The possibilities are so mindboggling that many think we will become post-dental being, with no jaws or teeth to speak of (those with braces, and retainers, have ‘transitional dentition’, or are transdental).
In addition, how can we justify research into enhancing our natural teeth when many in third world countries can’t even get their hands on enough food to chew with their teeth? It goes against social justice to be spending this money on enhancement, when that same money could be used to prevent the tooth decay and malnourishment that afflicts many children across the world.
The most disturbing possibility, however, of this enhancement of our pearly whites will lead to a severe form of coercion and a class divide. Those with smiles that fit our image of ‘the perfect smile’ will have a definite advantage in life over those with “crooked” teeth, and the ‘have-nots’ will essentially be forced to pay for the best dental work they can afford if they want to prevent their children from falling behind. Those who do have orthodontic enhancements will earn more money, which they will use to fund the orthodontic enhancement of their children. This will lead to the divergence of the human race into two groups: the perfect-toothed “Grin-Rich” (who will control the workplace, the media, the government) and those with natural teeth, who will be their slaves. Soon, all humans may not be created equal, and our inequality will be encoded into our teeth.
What if one day those with malocclusions are considered unfit to live, and prevented from passing on their genes for “bad” teeth? This is already starting, with many countries mandating that fluoride be added to drinking water, to ensure that all children have healthy teeth. How long before the same happens with orthodontic enhancement – when a smile unpleasant to the eye is considered so obscene that it must be eradicated.
So, if we want to stop dentistry and orthodontics leading us into a new eugenics, we need to act against dental braces. A line needs to be drawn between good and bad uses of dental technology, or we will enter a brave new world of dental injustice. A clear line, enforced across the world, needs to be in place between dental maintenance and repair, and orthodontic enhancement, or we will be forced to suffer the horrors of a post-dental future.