You know that dream where all your teeth fall out?

I’ve had that dream on a fairly regular basis for as long as I can remember.

The setting is often different, but in the most frequent version I’m at my locker in my old high school, and I feel something gritty on my tongue. I spit it out to see that it’s a chipped piece of tooth. Worrying about how this will affect my appearance, I walk towards the toilets to look in a mirror, but before I can get there I’m stopped the school principal, who wants to talk to me about something. While she’s talking, I start to feel more of that gritty feeling in my mouth, and I realise that my teeth are rapidly crumbling away to nothing. I try not to open my mouth, just nodding dumbly at the principal, and then rush along the corridor as quickly as I can when she dismisses me… but I don’t get very far, because I start to choke and gag on bits of rotten, crumbled teeth and blood. I just start spitting it all out into my hands while everyone stops and looks at me in horror – generally I wake up in a panic around this point, trying to spit out my teeth, and immediately put my finger in my mouth to check that everything’s OK in there.

This has never been a particularly nice dream, but it becomes a million times more unpleasant when you start to suspect that it might come true before very many more years. I have chipped three of my front teeth over the past couple of years, for a start, and had more toothache than in all the rest of my life put together. But even worse than that has been noticing the increasingly yellow appearance of my teeth in photographs. Ugh. A lifetime of poor dental hygiene and a decade of smoking and drinking coffee/wine is making itself known, and last week I realised how bad things were getting when I decided to start cleaning up the mess by brushing my teeth more thoroughly than my usual token 30-second skim… and my gums started to bleed.

I’ve never been terribly cautious when it comes to dental care. I hate going to the dentist, and always have. I think mouths are a bit disgusting. I’m lazy – too lazy to brush my teeth after every meal (I’ve never done that), and usually too lazy to brush them before bed. On average, it’s been one quick brushing a day, in the morning. I’ve never flossed in my life. Actually, until very recently, I genuinely believed that flossing was only done by people with dental problems or those who were freakishly obsessive about hygiene. I didn’t realise that most people actually floss at least once a day, as regularly as brushing.

And now, not only are my yellow teeth getting to me, but Korea has also made me feel extremely guilty for my lack of dental hygiene. Koreans are very serious about it. Absolutely everyone brushes their teeth after every meal. At school, teachers and children alike keep toothbrushes in little sterilising cupboards in their classrooms, and at the end of lunchtime you can see dozens of kids at any given point brushing their teeth in the bathrooms. In restaurants and bars you can walk into the toilets at night and see young Korean women brushing their teeth at the sink because they’ve just had a meal or some bar snacks.


After lunch: Tony and Ravi posing with their toothbrushes. :)


I thought it was all a bit extreme at first, but now that my teeth are giving me cause for concern, I’m grudgingly coming round to the wisdom of good dental hygiene, and wishing I’d started caring a bit earlier in my life. There’s a toothbrush and toothpaste in my desk, just like all the Korean teachers, and I reluctantly drag myself to the bathroom to brush after lunch. I resent replacing the pleasant flavours of my food with minty toothpaste. Alex (an American, and therefore one of those people I always thought were ridiculously fanatical about tooth care) is impressed with my newfound concern for my molars, and has volunteered to get some floss for me. Before long, I expect I shall be taking care of my teeth for approximately 80% of the day, and will have to give up my teaching job in order to do so.

Honestly, wouldn’t it be far easier to get them all pulled out and replaced with false ones?!


10 thoughts on “You know that dream where all your teeth fall out?

  1. McBouncy says:

    Last night I dreamt that I was being soaked by a guy, outside a lift, using one of those hose things you find over a sink in an industrial kitchen.
    Weird. His girlfriend was clinging to this thigh, trying to stop him. She was either freakishly small or he tall as her head only reached the top of his thigh when they were both standing.
    Not tooth related I know, but thought I would share.

    Take yourself off to a nice Korean dentist and Im sure they will sort you out and even whiten your teeth while you are there. Nothing to fear but fear its self ;-)

    Less than 2 months til your home!! Im excited!!!

  2. I had that dream too for many years – it came true, in part. Don’t neglect your mouth. Tip – it’s the gums you have to look after. They hold the teeth in. Be diligent and you too will be able to blow up balloons without your teeth fluttering in your mouth like a leaf in the wind.

  3. Jo says:

    I have my first dentist appointment in years booked ffor a few weeks time. I’ve avoided going for years, as after having a lot of dental work when I was little, I got a bit of a fear going on over it.

    I’ve never smoked or drank coffee / tea a lot really, but my teeth have suffered over the years – and I’m continually feeling really embarrassed by the amount of work I’ve had done. Even if its not visible to anyone else but me. So now I’m a mad brusher / flosser / rinser. It stops me feeling bad ;)

  4. The last time I went to the dentist, he told me that flossing would actually help reverse problems that might lead to gum disease. I’d always thought that once you messed up the gums you were Doomed, but it appears that there is hope.

  5. p.s. If you think ordinary Americans are fanatical about tooth care, do not go to an American dentist, ever! More guilt per square inch than your mother, your pastor, and your 1st grade teacher combined.

  6. julieg says:

    My dentist (American, natch) told me that false teeth are really only about 30% as effective at chewing than your own teeth. Implants are freakishly expensive, and she’s learning how to do them. I may be a candidate when my crowns give out.
    I wonder if Korean dentists are lower cost than US? I saw a Korean site advertising medical tourism and hooking one up with procudures- plastic surgery, etc

  7. I randomly stumbled upon your blog. First off, haha I didn’t read the whole entry but I once heard a long time ago that the “teeth falling out” dream means you’re worried about finances in life. Second, Korean people out of control brush their teeth…that much brushing is not good for your gums. Korean people catch onto some kind of trend and everyone’s doing it. And also, I can relate though…I have had very good and white teeth all my life until I got here haha. I think partially it’s because I drink coffee now like every day. Also I went to the dentist and was alarmed that I had gotten 2 cavities since just 8 months of being here… The fact that Korea does not have fluoride in any of its products is a contributing factor. Many people from other countries experience increased tooth decay here. There isn’t even fluoride in the products that are foreign brand. =[ Anyways good luck! I wouldn’t jump on the band wagon of brushing 8 times a day though. Twice a day (3 if you’re real concerned would prob be okay) with regular flossing is the norm

  8. K8 says:

    I’ve always matched feelings of insecurity to tooth-loss dreams. They used to happen around exam time a lot for yours truly.

    I’ve a brilliant antidote to tooth yellowing… bread soda! If you can find some, dunk your brush in the powder after a normal brush and give your frontwards a good polishing. Within a week or so you’ll see obvious improvements!!

    Coming from a smoker, wine drinker and coffee abuser, it’s gooood.

    The fact that you don’t have fluoride where you are probably helps a lot, I’ve seen nasty things about that stuff, don’t know whether to believe it or not.

  9. meetoo says:

    I have those teeth falling out dreams occasionally. I figure it means I had scurvy in a previous existence. It is very unpleasant and I am relieved when I wake up and my teeth are fine.

  10. I used to have those disturbing dreams some time back, especially when I was tormented with nasty toothaches. And, then I began to follow an approach based on the principles of dental hygiene, and I’m good as of now. Cheers for your post!

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