Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Teeth and Economics

The guys over at the Freakonomics blog on the NYT website have merged two of my favorite topics...teeth AND economics. FYI, Freakonomics is one of my favorite books of all-time. If you haven't read it, I highly suggest it, especially if you are into numbers and social phenomena.

Anyway, back to the teeth and economics piece. The piece was partially inspired by a new study that found that women grew up drinking fluoridated water earned 4% more than women who didn't. This effect remained after controlling for many patient-level and county-level factors. This study continues the "beauty premium" paradigm that reveals that ugly people earn less than average incomes, while beautiful people earn more than the average (the ugliness “penalty” for men was -9 percent while the beauty premium was +5 percent. For women, the ugliness penalty was -6 percent while the beauty premium was +4 percent).


Suprising data? Not at all. A nice smile can get you places, and it makes sense that the earnings were higher for the group with nicer teeth. Well, we have to PRESUME that the flouride as a child resulted in nicer teeth as an adult. I would have preferred to see a study of smiles that were actually graded or scored by humans and then had the niceness of the teeth correlated with wages.

Even more interesting was a link embedded within the first part of the Freakonomics post that discussed the value of teeth cleaning. The article again is hinged upon a recent scientific publication. This study was a recent meta-analysis that demonstrated that teeth cleaning (scaling and polishing) did not necessarily improve periodontal health. However, the studies were of questionable quality. Second, I'm not a dentist, but I would think that a twice-yearly would not improve the incidence rate of gingivitis as much as DAILY oral care via flossing, brushing, and mouthwash would. Instead, professional dental cleanings remove tartar, which is much more difficult to manage at home alone.


Finally, while Mr. Ayres seems to abhor dental cleanings and equates them with pain and torture, I find them completely the opposite. In fact, my sentiments completely concur with the comment posted below the article by a man named Jim, in which he states the following:

I enjoy having my teeth cleaned. I think it is like a massage in my mouth. If I had the cash to spend on luxuries, I’d go every month.

I completely agree with you Jim!!


kath said...

Steve, it appears you and Ayden are stuck in the same developmental stage...

Will said...

Nice one Kath...

Steve, the ugly penalty for men is more severe than for women? interesting.... this seems to contradict conventional wisdom. There are a lot of frumpy, ugly dudes making serious cash in all sectors of our economy. I exclude myself from this group because I am beautiful AND I don't make serious cash.