Aesthetics On Trial

One of the ways to gain attention in an age of information explosion is to condemn and moralise – preferably something which has been sensationalised. Doing an Amos Yee helps too. Aesthetics is one of those things that often draw flak for a variety of reasons.

1. The horrible adverse effects.
2. The “addiction” that it induces in immature individuals (and even the supposedly mature).
3. The narcissism that it cultivates in the wannabes.
4. The shallowness and arrogance of folks who receive the service (in social media).
5. The excesses and flamboyance of those who provide the service.
6. The “needless” pain “suffered” and administered.
7. The hideousness of those who don’t know when to stop.

The flamboyance of some of the successful practitioners notwithstanding, they often need to be careful not to end up as targets for criticism within the fraternity. Beauticians with a medical degree, they are often called and you’ll be surprised that this sort of moralising doesn’t even suggest snobbery in the minds of the detractors. Don’t beauticians improve the psychological well-being of their customers and make society a lot happier than it would be without them?

I recently attended a lecture in which the speaker asked the audience to judge whether it is ethical for dentists to focus on purely aesthetic procedures. The way the question was phrased left us little choice but to judge that it is not all right.

Ethical or unethical? Doesn’t it depend more on the circumstances than on the treatment itself? Is dental implantology ethical? Is charity work ethical when there is fraud and politicking involved? The devil is in the details.

Green Course
In a First World country, the organiser advertises free Botox and filler injections on social media. A bunch of office ladies turn up and the course participants learn to inject these products under the supervision of a plastic surgeon. The office ladies take selfies and proudly upload them on Instagram and Facebook.

Red Course
In a Third World country, the organiser gathers a bunch of edentulous farmers from the countryside to undergo implant surgery performed by course participants supervised by an oral surgeon. The trainees go back to their clinics to practise implant dentistry. The farmers go home with swollen cheeks, sleeping implants and a sack of rice for compensation.

Which course is more ethical? Which one gives you a bad taste in your mouth? But hey, why not evil aesthetics?

Someone I know has been suffering from clinical depression for years after she lost her loved ones. She seemed to have recovered recently. How could I tell? Well, she dyed her hair and she wanted new dentures. Beauty is not always skin deep. It may be a powerful indicator and promoter of recovery from a seemingly intractable medical condition. Who is being shallow and superficial now?

Dental Phobia by Chan Joon Yee