Did Judy Garland’s Smile Start the Quest for a Perfect Smile?

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People who are unhappy with their smiles now have the option of getting cosmetic dentistry to improve the appearance of their teeth and gums. But we didn’t always have that option. Many people credit Hollywood dentist Charles Pincus with the invention of the discipline. But he worked for years in relative obscurity, and some say cosmetic dentistry might never have become so popular were it not for one of his patients: Judy Garland.

Judy Garland walk of fame

How Pincus Got Started in Movies

Pincus began his career as a dentist with some bad timing. He graduated from dental school in 1926 and opened his practice on Hollywood and Vine just before the 1929 stock market crash. He had some expectation that this might be a good line of business. He had made his first set of porcelain veneers in 1928, and he already had at least one star client, Joan Crawford.

Unlike many of her contemporary silent film stars, Crawford was able to make the transition to talking pictures in part because of her beautiful smile. When you talk, your teeth show, and that spelled trouble for many in early Hollywood.

The increased access to sugar throughout the 19th century made people’s teeth vulnerable to decay. And, despite the best efforts of dentists and teachers, toothbrushing clubs weren’t enough to establish the habit firmly in America–it wouldn’t become standard until around WWII. As a result, many silent movie stars had very bad teeth. Including Crawford, whose beautiful smile was not all natural.

When makeup artist Max Factor saw the quality of Pincus’ work, he hired him on to help create temporary veneers–and even dentures–for some stars.

Did Judy Garland Ignite the Smile Craze?

Pincus had many Hollywood stars as clients, including Montgomery “Right Profile” Clift, Fanny Brice, Mae West, and Bob Hope. Even Shirley Temple wore restorations to conceal the fact that she was losing her baby teeth (a trick the Olsen Twins would repeat–it also helped them pass for one another).

But writer Mary Otto claims in her new book Teeth that it was Judy Garland who really made the public excited about trying to achieve their ideal smile. There’s many good justifications for this. The Wizard of Oz is one of the first color movies, and Pincus’ work looks outstanding in the movie. Garland had gaps between her front teeth that Pincus concealed with his slip-on Hollywood veneers. Pincus’ work gave her a bright, beautiful smile. It helps that the plot of the movie is such a happy one that calls for lots of smiles during the Oz sequences. And the fact that it’s a musical helps, too. With nearly a century of popularity as one of the most celebrated family films of all time, Garland’s smile in The Wizard of Oz has certainly been influential.

But of course, it’s also possible that a slightly earlier film has had just as big if not a bigger impact on our notion of the Hollywood smile.: Gone with the Wind. Leading man Clark Gable reigned for decades as one of the most attractive stars in Hollywood. Thanks in large part to his gorgeous smile–which was completely fake by the time of the movie. By 1939, Gable wore dentures.

Are You Unhappy with Your Smile?

Whether we trace it back to Garland or Gable, there’s no doubt that Hollywood has had a huge impact on Americans’ desire to have a beautiful smile.

Fortunately, cosmetic dentistry has become a great deal more accessible, thanks in part to the expertise and skill of cosmetic dentists like Kent E. White at the Center for Advanced Dentistry in Nashville, TN.

Please call (615) 383-6787 today if you would like to see how Dr. White can improve your smile.