The Erasure of Individuality

It is a common saying that eyes are the windows to the soul, but what can be told from a person’s smile? A chipped tooth caused by a childhood trampoline incident or smile lines formed by laughing with friends until your stomach hurts shows a life well lived. A person’s smile holds so many stories, yet people are turning to procedures that erase all these memories. The proliferation of veneers and other cosmetic surgeries has led to a mass destruction of individuality in our modern society. 

Veneers are not a new invention. First created in 1928 by Charles Pincus, a California dentist, a veneer is a thin, tooth-colored shell that is glued to the fronts of teeth (American Association of Orthodontists). Prices for veneers can range from the low end of between $1,500 and $2,500 to $3,000 and $5,000 per tooth for more high-end procedures. There are different types of veneers, but most involve shaving down the enamel in order to make room for the fitting. Once the enamel is shaved, it cannot grow back.  Usually, veneers are the last resort in dental cases for broken, discolored or gapped teeth, yet they have become increasingly more popular for cosmetic reasons. Typically veneers need replacing every 15 years, so when an impressionable young teen comes to the orthodontist asking for teeth just like Kim Kardashian, they are making a lifelong commitment. 

The epidemic of veneers stems from America’s obsession with dental perfection. According to BMC Oral Health, “about 9 million Americans receive orthodontic treatment per year.” Compared to other countries, America has staggering amounts of orthodontic procedures. Only about 25-35% of people will need orthodontic interventions, but around 80% of teens in the U.S. are having these treatments according to People are obsessed with having a picture-perfect smile, and veneers, perpetuated by celebrities, have taken this obsession to a whole new level. 

It seems like every day a new celebrity is hosting a shiny set of veneers. Actors who were once adored for their charming smiles, like Sam Claflin or Miley Cyrus, are sharing identical sets of teeth. Unique features are out, and conformity is in. It is not enough to just have white teeth anymore, people have to have the exact measurements and angles to be deemed attractive. Since the birth of film and television, celebrities have always been regarded as the epitome of looks. They determined what hairstyles and clothes were in, but now they control body features.

Veneers are not the only way people’s uniqueness is being snuffed out. People are undergoing so many procedures that a new term has emerged, Instagram face. Instagram face is not hard to spot due to its uniformity and prevalence. Big lips, sharp brows and a thin upturned nose are all characteristics. All of these aspects can be conveniently achieved by lip fillers, a brow lift and a rhinoplasty. Soon “you have your grandmother’s nose” will be replaced with “you have Bella Hadid’s nose, Kylie Jenner’s lips and Emily Ratajkowski’s eyes.”

The obsession with perfection and sameness has created a real-life uncanny valley situation. People do not look like people anymore, they look like what an AI art generator would spit out if prompted to craft “a perfect person.” But there is no charm or warmth in these faces, and usually any diversity. People feel the need to undergo these abrasive procedures in order to fit the beauty trend of the day, but these trends are constantly changing. What was considered beautiful 100 years ago is immensely different from today and will likely be different 100 years in the future. Societal trends are too fickle to be heeded, so do not fear looking human. Smile and get crow’s feet, embrace your gapped teeth and cherish each freckle. A smile is worth a thousand words without spending thousands of dollars.