Judith Garber – Orthodontics in American culture

Judith Garber – Orthodontics in American culture


Judith Garber: I went through the process
of Orthodontic treatment and my sister’s going through it right now. It kind of caused me
to think about what are the motivations that people use to go through it and what exactly
does the orthodontic industry have to do in increasing the demand, perhaps, artificially
increasing the demand. Through my research I kind of developed this thesis which is,
that the rising demand for orthodontics shows how much we as a society have invested in
perfectionism and physical standards and conformity, being like everyone else. But also, I kind
of found out that the industry itself in many ways contributes to this. ORthodontics is
unique because it creates its own demand. As more people get straight teeth, you have
to be more like everyone else who’s getting straight teeth and now everyone has to get
straight teeth and if the majority of people who have straight teeth, then the people who
are outside become more outsiders and they have to get it so it’s kind of interesting
how that works. If you look at some areas in which most people are affluent, in which
you have upper middle classes, say you were perceived as the norm to have straight teeth,
you have up to 70% of people like middle schoolers getting orthodontic treatment. I’m glad that
my teeth look the way that they do now, but if I had to do it over again, I would probably
not do it over again, because like, it was really painful and it was just, after talking
with people about it, I realize it, personally, my problems with my teeth were mostly in a
cosmetic thing, and I didn’t even actually have a say in whether I was going to have
the procedure done or not. I’m working with Professor Leslie Fishbein in the American
studies department. She has provided a lot of leads on things like looking at orthodontics
as a status symbol and thinking about class and orthodontics, thinking about way people
read teeth in job interviews and dating and things like that. She’s given me a lot of
ideas about where I take my research further, and she’s also, she picked out some advertisements
for me that she had found, like once you start getting it in your head, like these ideas,
you start to like see them everywhere. I think the Aresty Program is definitely good impetus
for students to get research because not only does sit have like the financial motivations,
it’s also, it’s kind of more closely monitored, you have to log in your hours and everything,
and I know that my faculty mentor has been extremely, extremely helpful in like giving
me great like assignments that I’m interested in doing and in mixing it up so I’m not always
doing the same thing and also letting me pursue what I want to do in my own research. I know
that a lot of people have benefited from, especially the summer programs. Working in
labs is great hands on research, so, I think it’s got a great base at Rutgers. (music playing)

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