Jayne Dawson: Go on, give us a smile – it says such a lot about you

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Let’s talk dentists. Ooh, the very thought fair sets your teeth on edge, doesn’t it? But let’s do it anyway.

The big news, teeth-wise, is that the era of the drill could be coming to an end. Yes, yes, you’re right, of course you’re right, we have heard it all before. But this time, it sounds like they mean it.

People at King’s College, London - let’s call them boffins because it’s not a word that gets much of an airing - have developed a system which means teeth can be repaired by an electrical current.

There is much science involved but I won’t bore you with it, obviously because I don’t understand it, but the key point is this: there are no needles involved because the procedure, which gets calcium and mineral-type things in there so the tooth can self-repair, is painless.

The boffins estimate the system could be in use within three years so not quite yet, but just hang on to that thought next time you are reclining with the goggles on making “gah” noises as the dentist tells you to open wide, and then asks if you are going anywhere nice for your holidays.

Personally, I tense every time a medical professional asks me a question in a conversational tone, it usually means they are about to stick something somewhere very unpleasant. If they start to ask you about your children, you’re done for.

But the interesting thing about teeth is that they are very much tied up in our social history, aren’t they? They are great indicators of the way a person’s world was.

A friend of my mother was given quite a present for her 21st birthday. An appointment was booked for her at the dentist and all her teeth were removed. Yes, I’ll say that again. All her teeth were removed. Then she was fitted with false ones. Full sets, top and bottom. It was considered at that moment in time, the sensible, forward-thinking thing to do. No more toothache, no future worries about decay. Just a permanent set of pearly whites forever. It didn’t do her any harm, she lived until the age of 88, she just lived without any teeth.

In fact my own mother, presenting herself at the dentist with a mouth full of overcrowded teeth, had her front two yanked out, again in her early twenties. She won’t thank me for telling you. None of us has ever, ever seen her without them. Once they broke while she was on holiday and she kept her hand in front of her mouth for three days until she could get back to England and her dentist.

I missed the era of the arbitrary removal, but I did catch the years of filling double teeth with a mercury mixture “just in case”. I kid you not.

Even among the better off, until very recently teeth were left as nature intended with never a thought for cosmetic improvement. People who were rich beyond all reason walked around with teeth which pointed in several different directions, were goofy, slopey, dingy and, at the very least, all crossed over. English teeth became notorious in America, the home of toilet-bowl white, tombstone teeth.

But not now. These days most of us not only want straight teeth, we want white teeth. Especially actors. Have you noticed? I mean, I understand why, in the age of HD television, but it is a bit off-putting that every fictional down and out now has gleaming molars and, whenever they open their mouths to roar in grief and anger, there is not a filling in sight.

I mean, nice for them personally and everything, but not helping the rest of us lose ourselves in their world of pain.

But I’m being picky. Basically, it’s all potentially good news in dentistry, but let’s hope the new treatment is not too expensive - we don’t want the dentures-as-birthday-present idea to surface again.