There’s a lot of people in Japan that would make for good candidate for braces, but they don’t actually get braces.
Orthodontist Yuki Miyajima thinks this is a problem, a sign of his countrymen’s tolerance for dental issues, particularly crooked teeth.
There’s some hope though, as Miyajima, aged 39, reports that the number of Japanese getting dental care and getting their teeth straightened out, which he notes can also help improve their overall well-being and their English pronunciation.
The orthodontist, who considers himself a freelancer, wrote ‘Polish’ your teeth rather than your English to become cosmopolitan! Dental care for being active globally., a Japanese-book aimed at educating people. It’s part of what he considers his life’s work; getting more Japanese adults and kids to get their teeth straightened out with orthodontic treatment.
Miyajima, the child of two dentists, says that he wants his countrymen to proudly display big, bright confident smiles instead of awkwardly covering their mouths or putting up bashful grins. He explains that, in general, the Japanese don’t really like showing their teeth to others, but that’s more a cultural issue than a dental one.
He noted, however, that his patients who underwent dental care, straightening, and committed to being candidate for braces, were more willing to laugh and show their smiles to others. Miyajima says that the people who’ve had their teeth straightened became just that more personable.
Miyajima’s father was a visiting professor teaching orthodontics at the Saint Louis University in the US, where he saw a lot of people with bright smiles. Funnily enough, he says that his parents wanted him to be a doctor, not a dentist, but having their dental clinic so close to his home, letting him see people’s bright smiles as they left, meant that he decided on his career path early on in life.
In his book, Miyajima noted the data from a 2012 survey conducted by the US affiliate of a Japanese 3D orthodontic scanner company, which had around 2/3rds of the respondents saying that they had bad impressions of Japanese teeth.
The historical context, Miyajima’s book notes, is the custom of ohaguro (teeth blackening), which was seen as a status symbol in the aristocratic circles until the tail-end of the Meiji Period, around the early 1900s. From this, he says, started a cultural history that led to a a lot of Japanese not really caring about how good their teeth are or what people thought of their teeth, which is one of the big factors as to why they haven’t gone to through the effort needed to fix their teeth, at least until recently.