DREAM ADVICE COLUMN: RECURRING TEETH FALLING OUT
I dreamed last night my teeth were rotting inside my gums. I dreamed that the dentist said that he had to pull them out. This is a slightly recurring dream. Sometimes it varies. sometimes my teeth just fall out.
Does this mean I am stressed? Does it mean I am trying to release something? Overall, I think I have good dental hygiene so I don’t really believe the meaning is literal that my teeth are falling out!
Good morning and Happy New Year! I selected this entry about teeth falling out as it’s a dream we can all relate to. Teeth falling out is considered a typical dream, that is, a dream motif that appears with relative stability across place, time, gender, age, etc. Being nude in public, flying, falling, being unprepared for a deadline, being chased, and not finding a toilet are some other typical dream motifs. I remember as a kid if someone intimidated me, my mom would say “They still put their pants on one leg at a time.” Typical dreams can be thought of in this same vein, as a great humanizer. By day that woman you’re jealous of may appear to have it all, but you can rest assured that by night, she’s also dreaming she can’t find a clean toilet.
Dreams of teeth falling out seem to have something to do with conflicts of beauty, power, and aggression, leaving us caught somewhere between the ancient past and a Crest White Strips commercial. Teeth are a tool of the body used for chewing, tearing, grinding, mashing, and biting, usually as a means for eating (or getting tags off clothing). Teeth allow us to essentially attack food whole and destroy it enough to swallow. Digestion
continues this mutilation upon the food, further breaking it down and transforming it into nourishment. Thus through eating we participate in the primordial cycle of creation and destruction, and our teeth are the gatekeepers.
However the teeth we have today are far daintier than those of ancient people. Over the past 200,000 years, our mouths have evolved along with innovations in food preparation like stone tools and large earth ovens, making food more tender and easier to eat. Then later with the invention of pottery, which allowed for soups and stews, teeth fossils show evidence that they shrunk yet again. “In fact, studies have shown that from about 35,000 years ago until 10,000 years ago, tooth size has decreased on average by about one percent every 2000 years. From then until the present the rate has doubled to a one percent decrease every 1000 years.” Farming, grain harvesting, and preservatives also impact teeth and enamel. Who knows…maybe one day teeth will be a thing of the past? Perhaps this explains why losing teeth is a typical dream motif — due to evolution we’re literally losing our teeth!
From the sucking teeth of vampires, to the rotting teeth of evil witches, to hungry giants who cannibalize children, the fangs of Medusa, and the werewolf’s imposing canines, might the terrible teeth of myth and legend express our anxiety about our diminishing oral virility? While the teeth of our primordial imagination are just as powerful as ever, the teeth of our fantasy ideal are pure white and minty fresh. Clean, sparkling, uniform teeth are a sign of health, youth, and beauty. With cosmetic dentistry, the perfect smile can be yours for a price tag of upwards of $1,500 per tooth for porcelain veneers. I wonder what our paleolithic ancestors would think about that!
Thus through our dreams of teeth falling out, we receive a nocturnal wake up call to our own temporality in the span of human civilization. And maybe we can find a strange comfort that in a world so divided, our collective dream anxieties bring us together.
 Bigham, J. P. (n.d.). An Evolving Dentition: Human Teeth from an Evolutionary Perspective. Retrieved December 30, 2017, from http://www.manticmoo.com/articles/jeff/scholarly/an-evolving-human-dentition.php
 The Book of Symbols: Archetypal Reflections in Word and Image. (2010). Koln: Taschen.
*DISCLAIMER: Dreamwork is a collaborative process that relies entirely on the associations of the dreamer to create a dream meaning. Without the dreamer’s input, I can only describe my personal associations and amplify the dream images as they exist symbolically on a cultural level.