American v British teeth
By Vanessa Barford
Ricky Gervais is the first to admit that his teeth are neither white nor straight - and Americans mistakenly think he wears bad false teeth for comedic purposes. Why the dental divide?
British teeth are not like American teeth.
Hollywood smiles are pearly white paragons of straightness. British teeth might be described as having character.
These are my real teeth. You think I'd wear them all the time if they weren't real? Ricky Gervais' reply to interviewer remarking on his 'false teeth'
So much character, in fact, that Ricky Gervais says one US journalist complimented him on being prepared to wear unflattering false teeth for his role as an English dentist in his latest film, Ghost Town. Only he didn't.
"He was horrified that I could have such horrible real teeth. It's like the biggest difference between the Brits and the Americans, they are obsessed with perfect teeth," says Gervais.
Unlike many British stars hoping to make it big across the Atlantic, Gervais hasn't bought himself a Hollywood Smile.
But what is it about the bright white and perfectly straight teeth of Los Angeles that Americans love - and expect of their public figures?
"Americans have the idea uniformity is equivalent to looking good. The British character is more free-spirited, more radical," says Professor Liz Kay, dean of the Peninsula Dental School in Exeter and Plymouth.
She says Americans aspire to a row of teeth which are absolutely even and white.
Whiter than white, it transpires. Teeth naturally vary in colour and the palette can tend closer to cream than white.
"US teeth are sometimes whiter than it is physically possible to get in nature - there is a new reality out there. The most extreme tooth bleaching is terrifying, it looks like it's painted with gloss paint and has altered what people perceive as normal," says Professor Jimmy Steele, of the School of Dental Science at Newcastle University.
The British traditionally prefer "nice natural smiles - natural in colour", he says, and have had a more functional view of teeth and dentistry, whereas Americans have always seen teeth more aesthetically, hence the rise of the artificial smile in show business and pop culture.
But Brits haven't embraced the full Hollywood makeover - yet.
"Americans don't mind this unnaturally white look. It's a new phenomenon, like buying a Rolls Royce and telling the world
. They are wearing a smile as a badge," says Mr Fallowfield.
Nor do aspiring actors and actresses need to get a new and very expensive set of pearly-whites, says Sylvia Young, of the eponymous theatre school. "A trip to the orthodontist can be a good idea, to get the teeth straightened if need be."
As for the likes of Ricky Gervais, it makes sense to stick to his guns, says Mr Fallowfield.
"A lot of people in his place would have had their teeth fixed in this day and age. But for comedians, it's good to look unique."