What Teeth Tell Us About Social Class

In her insightful article, “Poor Teeth,” journalist and educator Sarah Smarsh discusses the class politics of teeth. She writes, “My family’s distress over our teeth – what food might hurt or save them, whether having them pulled was a mistake – reveals the psychological hell of having poor teeth in a rich, capitalist country: the underprivileged are priced out of the dental-treatment system yet perversely held responsible for their dental condition. It’s a familiar trick in the privatisation-happy US – like, say, underfunding public education and then criticising the institution for struggling. Often, bad teeth are blamed solely on the habits and choices of their owners, and for the poor therein lies an undue shaming.”

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