Lady Gaga’s song Teeth includes these lyrics:
Open your mouth boy
Show me your teeth
Show me what ya got
Take a bite of my bad girl meat.
Sex, power, youth and the quest for perfect teeth
White teeth seem to be forever in demand, with at least 14 per cent of all Canadians having bought over-the-counter whitening products.
Young children like to poke their fingers into babies’ mouths. They want to know if there are any teeth in there. I don’t know if the children are interested because they’re not far removed from babyhood themselves and enjoy feeling superior to gummy infants, or because they are aware that babies are toothless and they find this apparent abnormality fascinating.
Adults are interested in teeth, too. Their interest lies mostly in sizing up age, health and wealth. Teeth are excellent proxies for all three. But our ivory baubles are curiosities in themselves. They are hidden and out in the open, not flesh but not skeleton, a source of pride and a source of pain. They smile and they also bite.
It’s been eons since teeth served as handy weapons, Hannibal Lecter and Mike Tyson notwithstanding. In fact, it’s possible that teeth will eventually evolve away. Our wisdom teeth have already been reduced to vestiges of the molars with which a caveman gnawed bones. (I never had any wisdom teeth and I still have two baby teeth because there were no adult teeth to replace them. I don’t believe this is particularly unusual.)