By Edward Gibbon
Historians and archaeologists now agree that an obsession with teeth whitening was the main reason for the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD. Recent archaeological excavations in the Roman Forum—the city’s commercial and cultural hub in ancient times—have unearthed nearly a million bleaching trays and tubes of whitening gel, as well as thousands of whitening pens, swabs and strips.
“What’s telling is that such paraphernalia doesn’t begin to turn up until 190 AD or so, when Rome’s period of decadence and decline started in earnest,” said historian James Rickert. “For some reason an obsession with white teeth took hold, a curious urgency among grown-ups to possess the gleaming white smile of a 6-year-old girl. It appears that the obsession became so overwhelming, the vanity so all-consuming, that it drained the people of their character and discipline. Enter the barbarians, with their cavities and off-color teeth.”
Some see a lesson in this tragic story for the United States today. As more and more Americans replace their natural teeth with full sets of halogen or LED tooth bulbs, skeptics warn that such petty and trivial self-concern bodes ill for the country.
“Citizens reliant on incandescent smiles for their confidence and self-esteem probably lack the fortitude and seriousness of the pioneers who built this great nation,” said history buff Mary Ball. “As Rome went, America will go, I fear. People with tiny headlights for teeth are not likely to have a lustrous future.”