- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2000

The open-mouthed, white-toothed smile favored by the famous nowadays was not always a sign of health, happiness and warmth far from it.
Had celebrities chosen to display their incisors back in the 1700s, they would have turned a few heads for all the wrong reasons.
"They would have thought he was completely mad to present himself so remorselessly in terms of his teeth," said professor Colin Jones, who has just published a history of the smile.
"It would have been seen as extraordinary. That is the gulf between today and the 18th century."
In a 45-page paper, Mr. Jones, of Warwick University, has traced the smile back through portraits and social history to identify the first use of the open-mouthed grin in polite society in a 1787 self-portrait by artist Louise Elizabeth Vigee-Le Brun.
"At the time, the picture caused a ripple throughout polite society," he said.
Before her self-portrait, the most talked-about grin had been the inscrutable smile of the "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo da Vinci. The subject's lips are closed.
"If she had smiled and shown her teeth, she would have been putting herself beyond the pale of polite society," Mr. Jones said. "She would have been showing herself to be overtly passionate. It is not surprising that she kept her mouth shut."
The years between the two portraits, however, saw the development of dentistry, which eventually led to the full-mouthed grin becoming accepted by modern society.
"The mouth and smile changed as dentistry grew. The French were at the vanguard of this. It was a second French Revolution," said Mr. Jones.
"Paris became Europe's leading center for production of toothbrushes," Mr. Jones said. "By 1811, the open smile is much more acceptable, and the sight of porcelain dentures was considered a sign of affluence."
Today that trait continues, he said. American orthodontists thrive on parents' demands for dental perfection in their children.
"The overriding impression of America is of a nation of people with gleaming white teeth," he said.

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