I am around 55...born in the 1950's. When I was in high school, only kids with very misshapen palates were ever ever put into braces. I bet there weren't two kids in my high school with braces, and both were looked down as freakish. In my high school days, older folks went into dentures as a matter of course, and for sure no one expected their smile would last all their lives or out-shine the Big Dipper. Flash forward to 2010. My brother has crooked teeth, but they have been bleached. My crooked teeth were corrected in my 30's with caps and yet they are not "whiter than white" because a cap that was white would not have blended with my natural teeth. So he has crooked white teeth and I have straight slightly off-white ones. Both of us feel we need more work done....yet we didn't have this feeling as late as two years ago. This "need" is somewhat new. Where does it come from? Neither of us follows any celebutante on Twitter. I think it's because our friends and colleagues are having the work done, and so it's begun to feel like a choice we should consider as well. Back in the early 1990's, a wealthy older friend of mine got implants rather than endure dentures -- and it cost him $20,000. Today, that same procedure probably runs around $10,000 and the cost most likely will continue to decline. My kid (who had a beautiful smile) went into the old-fashioned metal braces when she was 13 and stayed there until she left for college like 4 years later. But the kid was not a social outcast because every other kid also had braces...it was "the new normal". And now, in 2010, teens and adults can be treated with "invisiline" braces that can be popped off to allow the kid to keep his teeth clean and (I hear) are far less expensive than the old fashioned metal kind. Around 1987 or so, I knew a young man whose vanity was terrible enough that he'd talked his mom into paying for dental veneers. However, he had had them for a few years and the margin at the cutting edge of the teeth had eroded so that his natural tooth color showed through...sorta like the dental version of a lady who needs to color her hair because her roots are showing. (He planned to hit mom up for new veneers and most likely did so.) I think we, as a society, have come to view the sparkly white smile as a signal of good health, etc. Of course it is not, because no humanoid has naturally stunningly-white perfectly-straight natural teeth. In my own view, this is akin to the invention of contact lenses....after awhile, wearing eyeglasses seemed outre', down market, etc. because contacts were comfortable and inexpensive. As a society we "saw" everyone as having 20/20 vision because the aids to vision were mostly invisible. But again, any group of humanoids has some members with bad vision...so our "perception" is flawed. You may have read one of my posts where I mentioned I have cataracts in both eyes. Cataracts are a clouding of the eye's lense, and they very very gradually worsen...many more of you have cataracts as well without realising it because, at first, the effect on vision is undetectabale. When my grandma had cataract surgery in the 1960's, she had to wear glasses after that distorted her eyes to look like an owl's. Apparently those lenses were magnifying glasses of one sort or another. Well, flash forward to 2010. I'll likely have the surgery within the decade...and when I do, they'll replace the damaged lenses with a whiz-bang new artifical ones. Afterwards, I'll have 20/20 vision -- at like 65! I haven't had 20/20 vision since birth. This is great news and I am not at all complaining. Nonetheless, it is still a bit hard for me to to process. We're gonna have to stop making "grandma cannot see well" jokes. 70 year olds will be able to qualify for pilot's licenses they could not get at 20...it's all so strange. Good, but strange. I actually approve mightly of cosmetic dentistry, which is odd, because I strongly disapprove of (most) sorts of cosmetic surgery. I'm not entirely sure why that is, but I'm okay with you getting veneers etc. to have perfectly straight, white teeth, But if you enhance your lips with collagen I think you're sorta foolish and no longer quite as pretty. If you have a kid you are raising on a shoestring or are yourself a young person beginning a career, I recommend you surf the 'net a bit and find out about the whiz-bang new stuff dentists can do these days. Your own dentist may not tell you, because these new procedures require an investment in equipment and skills above and beyond a typical family dental practice, and some dentists do not want to or are not able to run out and buy every new invention anymore than a person in any other field of endeavor could afford to do. But if you can have "Big Dipper" teeth for only $400, why not? If they had cost $40,000, no...but at some point when costs have declined enough, it becomes feasible. In the 1980's, when I agreed to have my kid's teeth straightened, I struggled a bit with the decision. It was going to cost several thousand dollars and her teeth looked fine to me. But I have never regretted it...when someone else looks at my kid, her perfectly straight teeth help telegraph "I am attractive", "I have been raised with certain advantages", etc. I know it's added to her chances in life in ways I am not entirely able to quantify...but that are significant nonetheless. And the odd thing is, cosmetic dentistry is not popular all over Planet Earth. UK folks evidentially see straight white teeth as signaling "not like us" and don't approve when their celebrities get these procedures done. What do you think? Do we alter ourselves by artifical means and then "perceive" our modified bodies as "the new normal"?