Physiognomy can mean your facial features themselves or it can refer to the ancient art of interpreting facial features to predict a person’s character or their future. In addition to things like a person’s nose, cheeks, and lips, physiognomy read symbolic meaning into the shape, size, and appearance of a person’s teeth.
What it said about teeth may not be followed today consciously, but many people still take similar impressions from your teeth when you show them.
Symbolism of Teeth
As we said, physiognomy is an ancient art, dating back at least to the Greeks. As such, it’s possible to find a lot of different attributions for this very unscientific art. This symbolism here is from Physiognomy (1826) by JOhann Caspar Lavater.
Tranquility is signaled by, among other things, broad teeth standing close to each other.
Weakness is shown by having teeth that are long and tend to be yellow, and with a long jawbone bent toward the ear.
Cold and phlegm are associated with having a gummy smile.
A Noble, Spotless Maiden is said to have “clear teeth.”
The crookedness and visibility of crocodile teeth are said to show its knotty, obstinate, and wicked nature.
Melancholy people were said to rarely have “well-arranged, clean, white teeth.”
In general, Lavater said, “As are the teeth of a man . . . so is his taste.” In particular, he was referring to the cleanliness of teeth and the cleanliness (morality) of his appetites.
Other texts say things like overlapping upper teeth imply acquistiveness, which might mean either greed or frugality. Short wide teeth may imply someone is argumentative and aggressive. Long teeth implied weakness and cowardliness, while white, clean, straight teeth implied honesty. Sharp teeth implied a lustful and wanton character. Big and broad teeth were equated with vanity.
If You Don’t Like What’s Being Said . . .
Of course, few people today believe in the “science” of physiognomy (though perhaps more here in California than in the rest of the country), but that doesn’t mean your teeth aren’t being given meaning by people who see your smile. People do judge you on the basis of your teeth every time they see them, and they come to conclusions about who you are and what is your character.
If you’re unhappy with what people are seeing and thinking about your smile,