Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Coach Trip to the Dentist

When setting the video recorder for another programme the other day, I caught a few minutes of Coach Trip by chance. For those who don't know this programme, it's a kind of "Big Brother on Wheels" - the idea is to dump a bunch of publicity-hungry strangers together in an artificial environment, in this case a coach tour around the sights of Europe, and hope to derive entertaining television from their ego trips and petty squabbles.

As with all "reality TV", it bears about as much relation to reality as Britney Spears does to real music, and what I saw convinced me that I would never want any of the participants as travelling companions. But what struck me particularly about it was that almost all the participants appeared to have awful teeth. I wonder if the producers secretly intended it as a searing satire on the sad state of British dentistry?


Novel Names said...

Also, it seems many Chinese, Koreans and Japanese have awful teeth.

Is this a reflection of the people's priorities or of the quality of dentists in Britain and these Asian countries?

Private Beach said...

I think there are several factors involved, such as diet and drug use. But most important is probably the cost of dental work as a proportion of average income. I suspect teeth in Britain are probably getting worse because it's very difficult to find a dentist these days who will perform work on the National Health Service, and private treatment costs more. In China, there are certainly many people who don't have access to affordable dental care.

M said...

Or it could be that's what everyone's teeth used to look like until about 1983 when the American TV rules for appearing stated that nothing less than perfect gnashers would be allowed. It caught on in the US so much as to be 'normal' - people now spend as much on their teeth as they do on Coke and doughnuts - but it does make the rest of us look like we should be in denim dungarees playing the banjo for our dinner.

Novel Names said...

Those socio-economical factors are interesting.

I have observed awful teeth (mainly alignment issues) mostly in mainland Chinese and Japanese. Because of this, I considered another factor that may possibly lead to awful teeth in the long term ... and perhaps nice phonics; that factor being aspirated pronunciations. The way the tongue presses against the teeth over the years may have a bearing too.

An experiment that could test my theory would be to get a group of mandarin and/or Japanese speakers who have awfully-aligned teeth, record how they speak and then fix them up with some quality dental work. After the treatment, we should record how they speak and compare. If there is no significant change in their aspirated pronunciations then we can reject my theory that some languages actually promote misaligned teeth. But should there be significant changes in how they speak then further investigations may prove interesting.

Does anyone know if any linguists or speech therapists have done any research in this area?

Private Beach said...

There are many other factors we could look at. Genetic factors certainly play a part. So do any drugs given to pregnant mothers. The chemical composition of the water people drink also has an impact - before artificial fluoridation, it was observed that those in areas with naturally fluoridated water had fewer cavities. And smoking, besides discolouring the teeth, is known to contribute to gum disease leading to loss of teeth.

M may be right that once everyone looked like Johnny Rotten, but I think we need to distinguish between the desirable goal of better dental health (sound teeth with none missing, properly aligned for efficient eating) and the dubious artificial cosmetic perfection that Hollywood loves. One has to admire those stars with a gap between their two front teeth who have resisted the temptation to be "perfected" by fixing it, thereby losing some of their individuality (Madonna, Ray Davies, Lauren Hutton).