Have you ever wondered where the idea that an attractive smile signifies robust health comes from? Is it something ingrained in our human psyche, or is it a cultural norm? Since Americans are eager to show their smile while other people, especially Russians, are reluctant to show their smile, we can see that it’s more culturally dependent than a universal constant. A smile is something that everyone has, and its power is one that everyone can wield, so it’s not surprising that the smile is associated with democratic ideals—so much so that it contributed to the foundation of the French Revolution as well as the first cosmetic dentistry.


During the mid-18th century in Paris, a transformation in sensibility, politeness, decorum, and scientific dentistry took place. These changes ushered in a revolution that preceded the Storming of the Bastille (which is commemorated on Bastille Day, July 14) by only a few short years. Since Antiquity, in much of Western Europe it was literally frowned upon to smile. Tooth loss and rot was rampant, and showing any emotion through an open mouth in most social situations was beyond repulsive. The perception was that showing teeth while smiling meant you were either a plebian or lacked reason.

The Change

Paris was the center of European enlightenment during this period. People discussed revolutionary ideas and the comingling of reason and feelings in cafés and bistros around the city. They inherently felt that showing white healthy teeth in a smile was a sign of openness and robust health. This was a marked shift from the typically disdainful or sardonic smile, or no smile at all amidst court circles. Paintings and great novels of sensibility reflected this change. These were important ideas that fed directly into the French Revolution. In this new climate, having good-looking teeth became important.

People began to care for their teeth instead of just pulling bothersome teeth. The first toothbrushes came to being around this time, and even the English word for dentist is derived from the French word “dentiste”. Everything from ammonia to chalk to wooden teeth were used to help promote the look of a healthy smile. Paris became the world center of great dentistry at this time. Even George Washington had a French dentist looking after his teeth.

Modern Cosmetic Dentistry to Improve Your Smile

While the significance of a healthy smile may have helped spark the French Revolution, ensuing history would see a return to the more somber expressions in popular culture for the next hundred years. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that a return to the white-toothed smile was embraced as an accepted model of self-presentation. Thanks to advancements in modern dentistry over the last two hundred years, we can now give you a beautiful, individual smile by covering unattractive teeth with porcelain veneers or dental crowns, even replacing lost teeth with dental implants.

A bright, beautiful smile is key to increased self-confidence and the perception by others that you are indeed healthy, attractive, intelligent, and successful. Creating a radiant, beautiful smile with cosmetic dentistry can not only be a step in the right direction for your health, but may prove to be a revolutionary, life changing experience as well.

If you are looking for a revolutionary new smile in Rockland County, please call (845) 627-7645 for an appointment with a cosmetic dentist at B&D Dental Excellence in West Nyack.