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New Cosmetic Treatments Promote Smiles

October 6, 1998

Cosmetic dentistry to beautify teeth has long been a mainstay of Western culture, and now it is catching on in Japan, especially among women in their thirties with time and money to spare for the treatment. While the Japanese have long recognized the importance of good oral hygiene, only quite recently have women evidenced special interest in improving the appearance of their teeth. Cosmetic dentistry is, as a result, becoming a prime source of new business for the dental industry.

Western Values Reshape Teeth
Crooked teeth have not always been considered a drawback in Japan. In fact, the "double-tooth" look caused by the overlapping of two front teeth in the upper jaws is considered cute in children and young women. This is quite different from the sense of aesthetics in the West, where parents commonly have their children's teeth straightened at an early age and where actors and actresses without a shining row of white teeth would have a hard time making it onto the big screen.

But these days Japanese women who use expensive makeup and frequent hair salons for the sake of their looks are starting to take a similar interest in the appearance of their teeth. Among the reasons behind their choice is the perception that whiteness contributes to a youthful look and that a straight row of teeth sharpens the line running from the cheeks to the chin, making the face appear smaller.

New Treatments Boost Popularity
Advances in orthodontic materials and procedures have contributed to this fad. There are now a variety of cosmetic treatments available for discoloration and unevenness. Enamel bleaching restores discolored teeth to their original whiteness. Porcelain veneers and resin bonds fill gaps between teeth and smooth out uneven lines. Costs vary widely depending on the treatment, from 10,000 yen to as high as 250,000 yen (74 to 1,852 U.S. dollars at 135 yen to the dollar) per tooth, as do their staying power and maintenance requirements.

Even with the new cosmetic treatments available, there are still those who opt for braces, the traditional approach to orthodontics. This may require frequent trips to the dentist over a 2 to 3 year period, but the results are more permanent.

Many women seem to find their improved appearance worth the time, money, and pain that accompanies cosmetic treatment. One dentist concurs, observing that bad teeth can be a source of stress. Many Japanese women who unconsciously cover their mouths with their hands when laughing may be uncomfortable with the appearance of their teeth. Straightening the teeth contributes to one's overall health by improving chewing efficiency, which aids digestion. The psychological effects of a great smile can even result in better posture.

There seems to be no end in sight for Japan's recession, but the market is bullish on women who see cosmetic treatments as an ideal self-investment.

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Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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