Dean Michael C. Alfano |
the very essence of beauty?
Each day for
all of us, beauty is a factor drawing us to people, places, and
things — inviting us to change our smiles, decorate our homes
in a distinctive style, buy a particular car, computer, bathing
suit, or briefcase. But what defines the very essence of beauty?
Why is one architectural style more beautiful than another, one
computer so much more aesthetically pleasing than its competitor?
Beginning with the Egyptians, philosophers, theologians, architects,
builders, decorators, designers, psychologists, sociologists,
and artists of all types have tried to develop a unified theory
that would clarify the meaning of beauty.
But if there
is one thing that our postmodern, relativist culture has taught
us, it is that beauty varies in different groups in different
societies, and according to which group is making the determination.
The old cliché that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” today
means not only that beauty is subjective but also that it is culturally
constructed and unquestionably valid only at a particular time
in the culture’s history.
would help to explain the variability and dizzying rapidity of
change regarding acceptable standards of human beauty in 21st
century America. From body piercings to snow-white teeth, these
standards seem to change daily and to be defined largely by age
group and other demographic factors, rather than by a common culture.
constantly shifting standards of beauty, popular TV reality shows
like “Extreme Makeover” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” further
complicate the issue by creating the impression, if not the expectation,
that everyone can be beautiful. Indeed, an end-of-the-year article
in The New York Times alluded to our national attraction to “quick
fixes” and “cosmetic makeovers” by noting that “An essential component
of beauty is being undermined and will soon be practically eliminated,
and that is its scarcity. Botox is to cosmetics what cut-and-paste
software is to music production. Whatever was precious five minutes
ago becomes overbearingly omnipresent five minutes from now. The
quest for beauty coupled with technological proficiency undermines
the relative value of each beautiful invention.”
In this issue
of Global Health Nexus, we invite you to join us in exploring
the question: What is beauty? We begin with an essay by author-illustrator
Sheila Samton on beauty and its manifestations in our specific
culture, followed by an explanation of the guidelines that dentists
use to determine what constitutes a beautiful smile. Next, we
hear from four giants in the field of aesthetic dentistry: Dr.
Irwin Smigel, Dr. Ronald E. Goldstein, Dr. K. William Mopper,
and Dr. Larry Rosenthal. We’ll also take a look at what NYUCD
is doing to introduce predoctoral students to aesthetics — the
fastest-growing area in dentistry today — and at a new technology
that is enabling dentists to select the aesthetically perfect
shade for veneers. We conclude our discussion with another kind
of aesthetic focus — this one on treating patients with cleft
lip and palate to enable them to lead more fully integrated lives.
Flawless Accreditation Site Visit
For all of
us at NYUCD who have been preparing rigorously for the past several
years, the November 2003 visit of reviewers for the Commission
on Dental Accreditation (CODA) culminated in what can only be
described as a “beautiful” result. NYUCD received the highest
level of accreditation accorded by the CODA: zero recommendations
for improvement in any of its programs. In addition, NYUCD was
awarded 27 commendations recognizing the quality of its clinical
care and basic science programs, research, and the enthusiasm
of students, faculty, and staff. The next issue of Global Health
Nexus will include a detailed discussion of the accreditation
process and its outcomes. But I want to take this opportunity
to pay tribute to the outstanding teamwork of our entire community
— the true engine of our success.
achievements that you’ll read about in this issue include the
elimination of a proposed rule that would have effectively nullified
the dental Graduate Medical Education (GME) program retroactively;
becoming the first U.S. dental school to mandate student terrorism
preparedness training; the expansion and modernization of NYUCD’s
library facilities; a unique partnership between NYUCD and the
Colgate-Palmolive Company’s Bright Smiles, Bright Futures program
to bring more dental services to needy New York City youngsters;
and a number of competitive federal grants as well as private–sector
awards that reflect NYUCD’s thriving research environment. NYUCD
also continues to broaden its influence globally in the areas
of continuing education, research, and clinical care, and in this
issue you’ll have a chance to hear from people who are involved
on all these fronts.
All of us
at NYUCD take pride in the achievements of the past year and look
forward to continuing to organize our resources and foster innovations
that will enable us to stay ahead of changing times. If the past
several years are an indication, we’re in for a very exciting
and rewarding future.