Symbolism of teeth

The Curious Symbolism of Teeth in Literature and Religion – Interesting Literature


What is the significance of teeth in religion, mythology, and literature? There should be a link: teeth are obviously, like the tongue, instrumental and essential in oral culture and so we might expect to find a strong link between teeth and the composition of poems and songs. And sure enough, we do.

But there are also the symbolic connotations of teeth in works of literature and in various religious and cultural traditions. Let’s take a closer look at the surprising symbolism of teeth.

Sexual symbolism of teeth

As Hans Biedermann observes in his The Wordsworth Dictionary of Symbolism: Cultural Icons and the Meanings Behind Them (Wordsworth Reference), teeth often symbolise vitality and even, in some cases, sexual potency. Numerous Dickens villains intimidate female characters by flashing their sharp teeth, while Dracula’s fangs, used to penetrate the soft necks of his victims, are borderline phallic symbols in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel.

In dreams, too, teeth often have sexual symbolism. Sigmund Freud believed that if a woman had a recurring dream of her teeth falling out, it signified her unconscious desire to have children. Freud also believed that if a man repeatedly dreamed about his teeth falling about, this symbolised a fear of castration: of losing his sexual potency and ability.

The word ‘toothsome’ denotes food that is delicious but can also be used to describe someone who is sexually attractive: ‘tasty’, in both cases.

Tooth-symbolism in Christianity

In Christianity, St Apollonia is the patron saint of dentists because of the grisly nature of her martyrdom, in which her teeth were extracted (though other things were done to her too). She is often shown holding tongs – used to remove her teeth – and a small tooth.

The tooth fairy

The tradition of a child leaving a tooth under a pillow for the Tooth Fairy to collect – and then reward with money or some other prize in exchange – is practised in various countries in the West, although the identity of this ‘Fairy’ varies from country to country. Few cultures have a firm or detailed image of this mysterious figure: what does the Tooth Fairy actually look like? Unlike the Easter Bunny or Father Christmas, the details are sketchy and that has made it harder for artists to depict the Tooth Fairy in cartoons and illustrations. In Hispanic countries, the Tooth Fairy is a mouse: the Ratoncito Pérez (‘Pérez Mouse’). In Italy, too, a mouse often stands in for this figure, and is known as ‘Topolino’.

As early as the Norse Eddas from around AD 1200, the tradition of a ‘tooth fairy’ is recorded. Curiously, children’s teeth were considered favourable talismans for warriors to wear in battle, and this explains why a mythical ‘fairy’ was said to come and collect them (and was even willing to pay for them): children’s teeth held real value in Norse culture.

The modern idea of children leaving a tooth under their pillow for money appears to have arisen in early twentieth-century America: a 1908 article in the Chicago Daily Tribune recommended such a practice, with ‘some little gift’ being left under the pillow in return.

Teeth and the Irish bardic tradition

In ancient Ireland, as The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols (Penguin dictionaries) notes, wisdom teeth were symbolic of poetic enlightenment: they are ‘wisdom teeth’ in more ways than one. Irish bards used wisdom teeth in a ritual known as teinm leigda (‘poetic enlightenment’), which involved the bard biting his thumb with his wisdom tooth before singing a verse and offering a sacrifice to the gods.

Teeth in poetry

In his poem ‘The Smile’, William Blake drew attention to the double nature of smiles:

There is a Smile of Love
And there is a Smile of Deceit
And there is a Smile of Smiles
In which these two Smiles meet

Smiles can be false and they can be genuine, but the teeth are, famously, an unreliable guide as to which is which: for that, we are frequently told, we have to look to the eyes, to see whether the ‘smile’ is present there. If it is, we have a genuine smile.

Talking of false smiles, in a little-known early poem that remained unpublished until 1996, the great modernist poet T. S. Eliot played on the double meaning of the phrase ‘false teeth’ to suggest the smile of a shop worker. ‘In the Department Store’ cleverly conveys the way this ‘businesslike’ woman has become her surroundings: she has ‘false teeth’ and works in the porcelain department of a large department store, while her eyes, like the pencil kept in her hair, are ‘sharpened’.

Eliot appears to have been fascinated by women’s teeth. In his prose-poem ‘Hysteria’ (1915), he describes a woman laughing as the male speaker of the poem sits with her in a café and becomes ‘involved’ in her laughter. He seems terrified of her as her mouth gapes open and seems to threaten to swallow him up. Eliot pays particular attention to her teeth, with the speaker likening them to ‘accidental stars’.

In a 1962 interview, Sylvia Plath drew a distinction between novels and poetry, arguing that while anything could be viewed as potential subject matter for fiction, there were some things she simply couldn’t imagine putting into a poem. The example she mentioned was the toothbrush, although, once again, T. S. Eliot, in his ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’, had already shown that it could be done.

Nevertheless, teeth seem almost resistant to poetry, and the part of the body most unpromising when it comes to inspiring great poetic thoughts. The poet-critic William Empson wrote a poem, ‘Camping Out’, which was published in February 1929 in Experiment, the Cambridge University magazine Empson co-founded with, among others, Jacob Bronowski. Empson was just 22 at the time. This poem shows the strong influence of John Donne’s metaphysical poetry on the young Empson: it centres on a conceit whereby a young woman cleans her teeth over a lake, and the droplets of toothpaste and spit fall onto the lake’s surface to recreate the stars in the night sky (which, until dawn arrived was reflected in the surface of the water). The poem’s opening line, ‘And now she cleans her teeth into the lake’, was branded self-consciously ‘anti-poetic’ by one of Empson’s Cambridge contemporaries, Michael Redgrave, and yet the poem’s conceit works to combine tradition ideas of beauty (those stars) with the surprising and ‘unpoetic’ (the woman’s teeth).

Meanwhile, Robert William Service wrote a poem all about his dentist: you can read ‘My Dentist’ here. And in a similarly light vein, here is Pam Ayres’ poem lamenting the fact that she didn’t look after her teeth.

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Tags: English Literature, Literature, Mythology, Symbolism, Teeth

Spirtual Meaning of Teeth |Holistic Oral Health| Raina Dental Care

by Mandeep Raina | Dec 21, 2020

An effective and sustainable holistic health is the key to understand the proper balance in your life. We often hear that there is an intimate spiritual connection between the body and soul. Simply put, a minor disturbance in one interdependent part of our body can disturb the spiritual and mental rhythm alongside.

Teeth, the biographers of our life, are the representatives of our personality. They symbolize the basis of holistic oral health. Physically, teeth provide nourishment to the body by grinding food and acting as a gateway to stomach. Spiritually, teeth are involved in the spiritual development by serving as stoic storehouses.

Do you have any idea about what the spiritual meaning of teeth is? The spiritual meaning of teeth helps you determine the root cause of disturbed dental health.

Dental Interventions can cause several problems:

Dental problems, such as tooth decay, cavity, inexplicable toothache, and tooth abscess or infection can be treated by surgical interventions which do not address the root cause of dental problems.

When a dentist does not identify the root cause of a certain dental problem, it can lead to unresolved energetic influence. However, some of the following problems occur with an unknown root cause:

  • The problems can re-emerge at the same place, such as ongoing tooth decay, cavity, failed root implants.
  • Problem occurring on the nearby tooth or gum on the same meridian.
  • A problem can be stirred up somewhere else in the body.

Therefore, it is important to understand the root cause, both physically (lack of nutrients in the body) and metaphysically (the presence of suppressed emotions) which share an intimate connection.

The Spiritual meaning of teeth

Being the most dense matter of our body, teeth are believed to have some kind of suppressed emotional energy that needs to be released. Moreover, teeth are more prone to energetic burden and physical pressure.

Cavities or dental caries try to alert you that something, in your life, needs to be changed. Holistic health can help us determine what our teeth “really” need. Holistic approaches, such as spiritual healing, exercise, herbs, can be used to prevent the root cause of cavities.

The spiritual meaning of tooth decay explains that you hardly stick to your routine or not at all. You refuse to accept your creative needs because you do not trust yourself. The spiritual meaning of tooth decay further illustrates the lack of self-confidence and trust.

The Teeth Meridians Chart 

According to The Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Meridian System, an organ of the body is connected with each tooth and holds certain emotions which in turn, are influenced by teeth. This can be explained better by Teeth Meridians Chart.

Dr.Michele Caffin has also developed the Psycho-Social Teeth chart which shows an interconnection with teeth and psychological themes 




Body Organ Teeth Associated Emotions

Kidney and Bladder





The feeling of dread, void, confusion, and regret



Lungs and Large Intestine


(4, 5, 10, 12, 13, 18, 19 , 30 , 31)



Chronic grief,  feeling caged, depression



Liver and Gallbladder



(6, 11, 22, 27)



Anger, frustration,  manipulation, blaming



Heart and Small Intestine




(1,6, 17, 32)



Worry, and agony, considering yourself not worthy



Pancreas and Stomach


(2, 3 , 14, 20,  15, 21, 28, 29)



Unhealthy obsession or addiction, self-hate



A Word From Us

The above data clearly asserts the importance of our oral health and why it’s necessary to seek professional as well as personal help to maintain mental health alongside physical health. Remember that each state of your being deserves much attention- be it emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual. Acknowledge the vitality of each factor, and witness a change in the way you used to operate on deeper level.



teeth and fate (determination of character by teeth)

Physiognomy is the doctrine of the existence of a connection between the appearance of a person and his belonging to a certain type of personality, due to which the psychological characteristics of this person can be established by external signs. It is assumed that interpretation by facial features originated in China, since it is in the East, including the Far East, that it is most popular.

The Chinese call the teeth "pillars of the mouth", meaning that they support the mouth and are therefore an important part of it. Teeth contain information about a person's relationship with others, about whether his life will be stable and calm or not, about the opportunity to enjoy delicious food, about the quality of family life. Characteristics regarding teeth apply to women, to men, and even to children.

  • if the teeth do not erupt for a long time, he will have power and wealth
  • ;
  • erupt with pain and heat - will be moody and painful
  • ;
  • the first lost milk tooth is lost - he will leave his father's house early
  • ;
  • milk teeth linger longer - to longevity

Dental diagnostics can only be carried out on teeth without fillings and crowns that change the appearance of the tooth.

Horse teeth.

White, large, closely adjacent to each other. They are considered an auspicious sign, promising good luck, fame, wealth, good relationships, health and long life. Their owner is an honest, energetic, open person. He has a good appetite. He is capable of many things, his possibilities are not limited. It is easy to communicate with such people and make good friends: they are hospitable, friendly and benevolent. Unlike "narrow-toothed" citizens, they easily converge with people and make friends. But what's bad: these people are ingenuous, they are easy to deceive, circle around your finger.

Teeth protruding forward.

Before you is an extraordinary person. He achieves everything with his own work, because he simply has no one to rely on, except for himself. Most often they go far from home, where they make a career and marry.

Teeth surrounded by overhanging gums.

Strictly speaking, the name is not entirely successful. It is not the teeth that look like growths, but the surrounding gums. That is why the teeth seem unnaturally short. The owners of such teeth are not distinguished by great intelligence, and in relation to others they may show signs of unreasonable anger.

Spaces between teeth.

Diastema (the gap between the front incisors) is considered a lucky omen. Diastema owners are distinguished by longevity, as a rule, they do not need money. And vice versa, the front teeth, standing closely and crowded, are a sign of soreness, stinginess and mental inconstancy. Uniformly sparse teeth are considered a sign of dishonesty.

Devil's teeth.

They are called so because they have curvature, and often a zigzag shape, without a hint of beauty and harmony. The teeth of the "devil" betray a low nature, they are evil, vengeful, envious and calculated, painful and scandalous people. They fail to establish more or less good relations even with their relatives. The owners of the teeth of the “devil” are distinguished by special dishonesty in money and love affairs. They do not remember friendship, so in difficult times you can not count on them.

Garnet teeth.

The teeth are rounded downwards, close to each other, similar to pomegranate seeds. The upper teeth are curved because the middle teeth are larger than the others. Such a structure of teeth is a sign of intelligence, easy and happy search for a partner to your liking, the possibility of a successful marriage, a short search for a spouse.

"Fox" mouth.

Small sharp teeth and a large mouth with wavy lips. These people are dishonest, unscrupulous and cunning. It is easy to communicate with them, it can be interesting to talk, but they are unlikely to be able to convince you that they are right. They are constantly confused in their thoughts, unable to focus on one thing. They bathe in success with the opposite sex, which they are extremely proud of. Naturally, they regularly marry ... and systematically divorce.

Dog teeth.

"Doggy" teeth are very long. The two lateral front teeth are pointed and longer than the others. Perhaps the owner of such teeth will cause tragedy for their loved ones, especially for their parents or spouse.

Criteria for teeth.

sign color size quantity symmetry
favorable white long large over 30 straight fitting
unfavorable dark yellow short small less than 30 rough, gap wide apart

Determining character by teeth is only part of physiognomy. In order to know the character of a person, you need to take into account many factors. You can make an appointment with Natadent pediatric dentistry by calling +7 (495) 612-00-51. Kondratieva T.V.

🦷 - Tooth Emoji: U+1F9B7

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