First impressions matter, and a failed first impression is hard to overcome. One of the most important factors in a first impression, from future employers to prospective lovers, is a winning smile. In fact, a good smile has become so important over the last thirty or so years it has become "a test" for whether someone is part of the middle class. Here's what we use to test a smile:
- Do they have clean teeth (free of decay),
- straight teeth, and
- and (increasingly) white teeth?
The smile test is, first a foremost, a measure of how well you take care of yourself. Your health. It answers the questions: Do you have healthy and (potentially) productive habits? Are you presentable or are you a distraction? However, in many ways it's an even better test of whether a person can afford access to or has invested in various levels of dentistry services. Here's the scale to determine whether someone is in the global middle class or not:
- Basic Dentistry for teeth free of decay. If you haven't paid for this, you are definitely NOT part of the global middle class, like it or not. (Hilarious Example: When they were younger and good looking, my brothers occasionally played a bar trick where they would first get the attention of a young woman. Then they would then turn away, insert a set "gnarly teeth" with tooth decay, turn back, and smile. The woman's reaction to these teeth was immediate, visceral, and dramatic. Regardless of whether you think my brothers are jerks or not, the lesson is the same: the quality of your teeth matter, a lot more than you might think)
- Orthodonture for straight teeth. Increasingly, orthodontic care and/or naturally straight teeth, have become a standard for middle class entry.
- Cosmetic Dentistry for white/smooth teeth. Not quite mainstream yet, but getting there due to dropping costs and home care kits.
From Necessity to Luxury
- commercial/personal success is highly correlated to a good smile,
- the increasing amounts new information that connect tooth decay to serious health risk, and
- historical evidence that dentistry has been an recession proof industry (during good times and bad, people kept up their teeth)...
this excellent LA Times article that shows US dentistry is in decline is very distressing (see numbers to the right). Here's more detail:
Basic care is in decline: "patients (have) started skipping twice-a-year cleanings, postponing fillings and taking a pass on root canals..."
Standards are being reset: "Americans increasingly see dental care as a luxury"
States have started to slash government programs for the poor (NOTE: poor dentistry makes entry into the middle class extremely difficult)
What these numbers are telling us is that we are NOT in a recession. These numbers and the attitude shift we are seeing is telling us that we are in an economic depression and it is getting worse (all of the blather than things are getting better is what's called a BIG lie). A depression that is radically reducing the living standards and reducing expectations of what life should be like. A depression that is rapidly destroying the US middle class (and soon the rest of the developed world's ).
Resilient Dental Care
So, what can be done?
- Don't drop your standards. Clean, healthy teeth aren't a luxury. They are a necessity!!
- Keep all of you dental care as up to date as possible. Things are likely to get worse, and any dental issue you have today is going to be much, much difficult to deal with later when things get really rough.
- Constant care. DIY the basics!! The best strategy in tooth care is ALWAYS defense. An electric tooth brush is a must (10x better than standard) at least two times a day. Floss at least daily.
- DIY repairs/fixes only if you must (in an emergency far from care). Here is the only DIY dental kit I could find: Adventure Dental Kit (Any feedback on the usefulness, or not, of DIY dental kits is appreciated. I honestly have no solid information on the efficacy of DIY dental kits.)
- Find a local Dental Hygienist. Since most of Dentistry is cleaning/detection of something going wrong, it may be useful to find a dental hygienist willing to work on your teeth at home in the grey economy. NOTE: beware any dental hygienist that spends only 10 minutes cleaning your teeth with a water pik, that's the equivalent of no care (and I mean you Aspen Dental).
- Barter with a dentist. Many of the dentists I know will actually swap services for care. Another recommendation (from the comments) is to go to a Dentistry school if it is nearby.
- Longer term, as conditions worsen, entice a dentist to join the resilient community (see below) you are building if you don't already have one. They will be a valuable asset long term and can train others in the future as replacements or a source of income..
FINAL NOTE: As you probably know by now, I'm one of the leading proponents of building networked resilient communities (on that note: I have some big announcements in store on this front, so stay tuned). Essentially, these are communities that can locally produce most of the products and services required for a happy and prosperous life (without much support from the global system). Unfortunately, building a fully functional resilient community is a difficult and long process (particularly if you are bootstrapping it). It's best not to view it as something that needs to happen overnight, as if some big event/disaster is about to happen tomorrow morning. Instead, view it as a journey. Each step you take will make a difference. So, keep moving forward, standing still isn't an option if you want to survive/succeed in the future!
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