I've noticed that Canadians, for the most part, have very good teeth.
Now, that may seem like a bit of a generalisation offhand but, in my limited Canuck experience, I find that it tends to be true. In fact, several colleagues have even commented that the first thing they notice about a person is their teeth...which of course has made my hand fly involuntarily to my mouth as I realise my less than pearly whites are on display, dammit!
You see, in Ireland, teeth really aren't that big of a deal. Don't get me wrong, we take care of ourselves and I'm sure many expats with perfect chompers are shaking their fists in cyberspace at me right about now (I'll take yiz!!), but they're certainly a bigger obsession over this side of the pond.
Of course we all know the running joke in Canada and North America about the British (and Irish I presume since we're more than often lumped in the same boat) having the worst teeth in the world. In fact, bad teeth in Mexico are even referred to as dientes ingles which literally translates into 'English teeth'!
Some people say it goes back to sugar being introduced to the upper classes in the 14th century and being seen as a sign of wealth - to the point that every rich rotters' teeth fell out, the morons - but what's our excuse...excessive potato consumption (until 1845 that is)?!
I think the big difference is that, until the Celtic Tiger came and clawed out our livelihoods to put it politely, we didn't care much for materialistic frivolities. I remember as a kid I was desperate to have braces as all of my favourite American characters from books and TV were all wired up, and I loved the cute little lisp they produced.
Of course, I later learned from my hipper friends that this 'cute lil lisp' was due to excessive saliva as these rudimentary-at-the-time (c'mon, the late '80s/early '90s? - we didn't have a clue what we were at!) chunks of metal filled up their miniature mouths and cut their lips, gums and tongue.
Anyway, I pleaded and pleaded with my Mum, who eventually caved in and enquired about them, but even the dentist said there was no need as, although my bottom teeth were slightly crowded, my top teeth were fine and that's all that people noticed.
Fast forward twenty years and, in retrospect, I could've done with better advice Mr. Dentist Man!
My teeth have obviously grown since then and four cynically named 'wisdom' teeth have showed up uninvited and quite brazenly in my opinion, thereby crowding my entire mouth and pushing all of my humble 'adult' teeth out of their comfy little homes. I don't even remember getting an eviction notice - the cheek!
I went to the dentist recently after a two and a half year hiatus and let's just say he wasn't best pleased with the state of my mouth. I hold my hands up - until recently, I drank tea, coffee and 'pop' (as I call it now 'cos I'm all Canadian like) to my unhealthy heart's content and, like many an impressionable young girl, I've had a major soft spot for 'candy' over the years. In fact, I love anything that's deliciously bad for me, including my men!
I seem to recall the dentist's actual words to me upon my first visit were; "You do wash your teeth though, right?" WOW, to say I felt like a naughty schoolgirl is putting it mildly...and not in a good way!
Yes, I brush my teeth everyday - I'm not a neanderthal after all - but if I'm perfectly honest something as seemingly insignificant as flossing never really played a huge part of my hygiene routine. There, I said it! I blame the crowded teeth. I know it sounds dramatic but getting floss stuck between two stubborn molars induces a moment of fear similar to getting a body part stuck in something.
Oh, how many nightmares did I have as a kid getting my lollipop head stuck in railings for hours on end 'till one of my long suffering parents came along and forcibly released me with butter. (Isn't it funny how butter or Calpol seemed to be the answer to all of our problems in our youth?! If only it were that simple nowadays.)
The flossing fiasco all changed of course when I read recently that daily flossing can add 6.4 years to your life and - let's be frank - I need all the years I can accumulate for all the nonsense I get up to now!!!!
Plus, in my defense (*cue the violins*), I have noticed that my teeth seem to have worsened since coming to Canada. Apparently, apart from my previous bad habits, it's a lot to do with a lack of fluoride in the water. The dentist said my gums have receded slightly as a result, which have exposed my teeth to more sensitivity.
There has been a lot of controversy since the '40s about the levels of water fluoridation worldwide, with arguments against it ranging from it being a mass form of compulsory medication and even a Communist plot to undermine public health, to it being too costly.
In 1992, former US Environmental Protection Agency scientist Robert Carton even claimed on Canadian program, Marketplace, that; "Fluoridation is the greatest case of scientific fraud of this century," and the practice was described as the "longest running public health controversy in North America."