Superstitions have helped explain natural phenomena to primitive people for millennia, so it's no surprise that the mysteries of teeth have captivated imaginations and entrenched themselves in cultures across the world.
- Babies born with teeth signify good (or ill) luck.
Many cultures around the world ascribe significance to the somewhat rare occurrence of an infant born with already-erupted teeth. In Ancient Rome, children born with one or more teeth were believed to be destined for greatness, and were often given the name "Dentatus," as an acknowledgement of this. By contrast, early tribes in Africa, the Middle East and India believed that children with precocious tooth development were evil or ritually unclean, and sometimes these children were killed lest they do harm to the community.
- The tooth mouse.
Did you know that the American conception of the "tooth fairy" character is only 50 years old or so? Cultural historians have cited the influence of Walt Disney in transforming a character known throughout the world into the saccharine sparkle-flinger we know today. Before this, (and still to this day outside the U.S.) children leave their exfoliated teeth to the "tooth mouse," in a symbolic gesture that their new teeth might be as strong and durable as the rodent's.
- Pulled or exfoliated teeth should be burned for good luck.
This culture-spanning belief is rooted in deeply-held notions of bodily sovereignty and the idea that someone in possession of a piece of your body could do you harm. Improper disposal of hair, fingernails and teeth was seen as a potential vector for witchcraft and possession by evil entities. To protect oneself, ritual destruction of these items through fire or burial was deemed necessary.
- A mother loses a tooth for every child she births.
While upsetting, this superstition is rooted in a degree of truth - as discussed in a previous edition of Incisor, pregnancy does result in exceptional changes to the body and metabolism which can indirectly affect the teeth. Cravings for acidic or high-carbohydrate foods can caused increased enamel erosion, and inadequate calcium intake due to fetal absorption can slow the teeth's natural repair processes.
- Teeth can be kept healthy by swishing with urine.
Yes, you read that correctly. Urine, especially the aged urine used for dying and tanning, is alkaline and can neutralize acid in the oral cavity. The ancient Romans frequently used this urine mixture to whiten their teeth, disinfect wounds, and perform other household cleaning tasks. While reportedly effective, there has never been a more foul-smelling oral health product to date.
I09.Com (2017). Io9.gizmodo.com. Retrieved 11 April 2017, from http://io9.gizmodo.com/some-people-use-urine-and-chemistry-to-whiten-their-t-1662270403
Mouse Got Your Teeth? | DentalPlans Blog. (2017). DentalPlans Blog. Retrieved 11 April 2017, from http://dentalplansblog.layertest.com/mouse-got-your-teeth/?device=desktop&os=Windows&browser=Chrome&affid=143721
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