The lists are starting to come out. Last week, the National Hairdressers Association decided that Nancy Reagan was much better coiffed than Rosalynn Carter. How on earth did Mrs. Carter lose first place?

What many people don't realize is that these lists -- and almost every industry has one -- are made up by public relations people who know that on a dull day every newspaper in America will print them, provided the people are this year's celebrities.

Archie Doubleday, who has the National Toothpaste Association account, has been working for a month now on the list of those who have the "Best Smiles in America."

He told me in his office, where he was rearranging names on a large board, that it was a tough job.

"I've had to drop Jimmy Carter."

"That's a pity," I said. "I thought he had a very nice smile."

"Reagan has a better smile. Reagan has the best smile in America."

"But for four years, you claimed that Jimmy Carter had the best smile."

"Carter's teeth are too big. Reagan's teeth have just the right bite size.

"The Toothpaste Association never lets politics interfere in the selection of its 'Best Smile' list. I also had to drop Fritz Mondale -- he has a weak smile."

"Who have you replaced him with?"

"George Bush. When he smiles, he lights up a room."

"Ed Muskie has a nice smile. Is he still on the list?"

"No, he didn't make it. We also had to drop Zbigniew Brzezinski."

"How could you drop Brzezinski? He's got one of the great smiles in the country. I wish I could smile like he does."

"I would have kept him on the list, but I had to make room for Al Haig. We've had our eye on Haig ever since he worked for Nixon. Finally we decided he deserved to make the list."

"It's funny, I never saw Al Haig smile when he was working for Nixon."

"Oh, he smiled a lot. It wasn't an ear-to-ear smile, but it had a nice quiet dignity to it."

"I don't see Teddy Kennedy's name on the board."

"No, Teddy didn't make it. We gave that slot to Strom Thurmond. We think Strom has the most ingratiating smile of anyone in the Senate."

"I can't argue with you there. Did any women make the list?"

"Nancy Reagan did."

"And Rosalynn Carter didn't."

"How did you know?"

"It was a lucky guess."

"Maureen Reagan eased out Amy Carter by six votes."

"That was a squeaker. I see you put Sugar Ray Leonard in place of Spectacular Bid."

"That was a tough one. Spectacular Bid has one of the finest sets of teeth in the country. But when it comes to a great grin, Sugar Ray Leonard now has him beat."

"Wait a minute. Have you replaced Walter Cronkite with Dan Rather?"

"Dan Rather has beautiful gums."

"So does Walter Cronkite."

"But when Rather smiles, you also see his dimples. We've been scouting Rather for some time -- we decided his time had come."

"I noticed you picked Larry Hagman, who plays J. R. Ewing on 'Dallas.'"

"He has the best molars in show business."

"Well, I must say you picked an all-star list. There isn't a has-been on it."

"We've got one slot left. And I can't make up my mind which one would do the toothpaste business the most good."

"What are the choices?"

"Phyllis Schlafly or Rev. Jerry Falwell."