The World of Teeth

Teeth Rituals & Trends Around The World

 

From tooth fairies, making teeth crooked or making them straight all the way to gem filled dental work in ancient times and our current society – we take a look at current and past trends and rituals from around the world.

 

While some may shock you – remembering teeth today hold a vital key to looking youthful, healthy and attractive and what other cultures find attractive varies around the globe. Let’s look at the top 10 teeth rituals and trends from around the globe:

 

  1. Extraction Rituals

Where: Indigenous Tribes in Africa, Asia, Oceania & Australia

In most cases teeth extraction rituals in indigenous cultures and tribes are an initiation process for the young who are moving into adulthood. Other rituals include beauty rituals and as a showcase of enduring physical pain. Now this might seem extreme by North American standards, but these are often ingrained in cultural identify and passed down from generation to generation.

 

  1. Tooth Filling

Where: Indonesia

This cultural practice is linked to marriage. Offered to both the man and women prior to their wedding or marriage commencing two teeth are filled with the thought that this practice will keep negative or evil energies like greed, lust, anger, jealousy etc. away from the newly weds and happy couple.

 

  1. Sharpening/Chiseling

Where: Rural communities in various regions such as the Pacific, Asiatic, African and South and Central Americas.

This extreme practice of sawing the teeth down to sharpen them or chiseling them into pointed or altered shapes is thought to be a sign of beauty in certain cultures including rural communities in Indonesia. Since beauty is seen as the ultimate goal for women in some of these indigenous groups and tribes – going to such extremes is normal to gain a husband, higher status and ultimately a better life for the female and her family. Another reason, religious or spiritual purposes – to ward off evil spirits or to assist in spiritual practices. The good news is, teeth modifications are not necessarily mandatory for all women in these cultures.

 

  1. Teeth Colouring or Lacquering

Where: Southeast Asia Islands/Mainland, South Africa, Peru, Ecuador, Morocco

Blackening of the teeth is traditionally performed by healers in African cultures and happens around adolescents to welcome the young into adulthood. In Bornea – a mixture of burnt coconut shells and oil makes up the black material which is placed on the tooth, ginger or mango fruit is abraded or etched onto the surface of the tooth to create the finish look. The reason behind the practice is to differentiate against animals and Europeans. In Morocco red staining of the teeth is a result of chewing ‘mkua fruit’ or guru nuts.

 

  1. Bedazzled or Decorated Teeth

Where: USA, Borneo, Uganda and Mexico during the Mayan era

Proof that our past and present human behaviours aren’t so different after all. While members of the upper class in the ancient Mayan times drilled holes in their teeth to fill with gemstones as a sign of beauty and class, that symbolic status symbol is still prevalent today. Celebrities in today’s culture get specially made teeth plates, grills or permanently modifying the teeth to incorporate diamonds and gems to signify their wealth and status. I guess somethings just don’t change.

 

  1. Straightening/Braces

Where: Western cultures especially Canada & USA

Having straight teeth is just as much about beauty as it is health in Western cultures. A better smile is linked to smiling more – which is known to decrease stress levels and improve cognition. With an increase in adults visiting the orthodontist to straighten their teeth – health benefits also include a decrease in gum disease and tooth decay. Those who are confident and proud of their pearly whites tend to take better care of their teeth.

 

  1. Surgically Crooked/Fang-Like Teeth

Where: Japan

This bizarre trend has certainly taken off with females in Japan. While Western cultures find children and adults spending mass amount of time wearing braces and retainers to straighten their teeth, in Japan it is quite the opposite. The cosmetic procedure is called ‘Yaeba’ which translated means ‘multi layered’ or ‘double tooth’ and involves the dentist attaching non permanent or permanent mini fangs to canine teeth to crowd the molars and push the canines forward to create the crooked teeth look. This is hugely popular with Japan celebrities and those that can afford the hefty price tag.

 

  1. Turning in teeth for cash or presents

Where: North American and Hispanic Cultures

North America has the cherished and high anticipated Tooth Fairy, and Hispanic Cultures have an adorable critter, Perez the Mouse – while the characters are different the concept is the same. Children place their newly detached baby teeth under their pillow for cash all across Canada and the USA, while children in Hispanic cultures drop their tooth in a large glass of water so the Tooth Mouse can hydrate, and take the tooth – leaving behind a present or money.

 

  1. Teeth Tossing

Where: Greece

While western cultures find baby teeth under pillows for cash or presents, Greece has a much more animated approach to celebrating a newly fallen out tooth. Children are encouraged to toss their baby teeth over their roof and make a wish for teeth to grow back strong and healthy!

 

  1. Love Your Teeth Day

Where: China

To increase the importance of dental care in the highly populated nation of China, the government has identified September 20th as national ‘Love Your Teeth Day’. The successful campaign has seen an increase in people visiting the dentist and taking better care of their oral health which has helped dissipate fear around the expense, pain and embarrassment. As more realize healthy teeth and gums are more than just a cosmetic issue – the government hopes to see a further decrease in health issues linked or attributed to poor oral health.