In a landmark case closely watched by the dental and cosmetics industries, a federal judge on Thursday ordered a suburban Minneapolis woman to refrain from any attempt to further whiten her teeth, arguing that they were already “excessively and unnaturally and intolerably white.”
The two-part ruling, handed down by Judge Wilbur Dixon of Hennepin County District Court, also requires the woman to darken her teeth at least two shades by November 1.
In a densely worded 36-page decision, Judge Dixon asserted that the right of people to whiten their teeth was not unlimited. “Legal precedent grants reasonable men and women a wide latitude in the effort to achieve a lustrous and radiant smile,” Judge Dixon wrote. “But a 63-year-old grandmother whose hourly coffee intake would, without the frequent application of whitening agents, render her teeth somewhere between brown and black — as in the case now before us — must not be permitted to brighten her smile beyond that of a 9-year-girl with pigtails.”
The case is unusual in that the plaintiffs are longtime friends and neighbors of the defendant. They claim that the woman — identified in court documents as Ms. Crest 3D Optic White Lady — has overused whitening gels and strips to the point where her smile now seems like a string of white Christmas lights hanging across her mouth.
Judge Dixon concluded: “If teeth were invisible to the public — if, for example, one’s teeth and gums were located halfway down the throat or embedded in the back of the neck — the plaintiffs would have no case. But human anatomy is such that teeth are on public display, hence we — jurors, lawyers, family members — have had to spend the last three weeks in a courtroom turning away from the glare of the defendant’s vivid, radiant, high-impact smile.”