Are there common teeth/dental patterns? If so, what are they?
February 12, 2010 12:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm really fascinated by teeth and their various shapes, arrangements, etc. I remember reading something a few years back that discussed several basic dental patterns, but I can't find it, or any info remotely like it. It was a fluff piece in a fashion mag I think, but I'm more interested in reading something slightly more substantial or scientific. Does there exist a taxonomy, or a conventionalized way for describing common dental patterns? Google searching yields little, and frankly, I feel like a bit of a freak for having such a weird attraction to these cute little things and all their delightful quirks. Bonus question, am I alone on this?
posted by anonymous to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Do you mean patterns as in types of occlusion?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:05 PM on February 12, 2010

Well, Thomas Mann was very interested in teeth -- as a revelation of moral character. I'm always interested in what teeth say about a person's well being, economically, agewise, and healthwise, but otherwise not so much.
posted by bearwife at 1:46 PM on February 12, 2010

Yikes, I didn't pose this question as well as I could have. Ok, I'm anonymous. I like teeth. There.

I guess ultimately I'm more interested in finding out more about human teeth patterns than feeling like I have company in my odd likings. I'm not specifically talking about occlusion (although that's interesting and certainly helps answer the question), but mainly rather the overall shape/arrangement of the (upper) teeth. For example, I've noticed that some people have a more 'square' layout (where the front four teeth are more or less side by side, and the canines protrude a bit, sometimes slightly rotated); some people are like semi-circles (the classic ideal, I think?); I'm sure there's other ones. And then there's the features of the teeth themselves.

So what's the appropriate way to talk about this stuff? Do people talk about it? Are there recognized patterns & features, other than my hack descriptions?
posted by iamkimiam at 1:51 PM on February 12, 2010

I have a thing for teeth also but I haven't found anyone else really interested in the subject so I never get to talk about it. I like teeth abnormalities though but this is probably because I have hyperdontia (I have an extra, full grown maxillary lateral incisor and I've lost the same set of teeth twice). This page has a lot of cool information and pictures about teeth abnormalities.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:12 PM on February 12, 2010

Oh, and when I say lost the same set of teeth twice, I mean that a third set grew in after that.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:13 PM on February 12, 2010

You're not alone. I've always found teeth and their patterns fascinating too. As a young child, it struck me one day that I recognized people more from their teeth and smiles than their faces.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 2:32 PM on February 12, 2010

Oh Man, I was going to use the arrangement and shape of Christian Bale's teeth as an example of a set of biters that drive me wild. And in trying to google an appropriate image I've discovered that his teeth have at least three Facebook fan pages! I can't explain why, but his teeth are the definition of sexy to me. I prefer his pre-American Psycho teeth, but the character was mostly maintained with the new crown work.

I am a dental assistant, I've spent the past 22 years looking at thousands of people's teeth. I've had to consciously avoid looking at people's mouths when out and about. Some people you cannot help but notice an extreme condition, whether meth-mouth or overbleached, too-straight teeth.

I've set teeth for dentures and had more natural looking results by twisting some teeth just a little bit so there isn't a white picket fence looking smile. Our smiles are uniquely our own.
posted by Jazz Hands at 2:38 PM on February 12, 2010

Well, pubmed will likely be your friend here. You can search specific terms as you become more familiar with the field and get more precise answers to particular questions. There are a lot of papers out there, so it can take some time. I would suggest you start be searching for reviews and, especially, "free full text", as not all of the search results will be freely available.

A brief look through some of the literature suggests that the Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System is the most widely employed method of describing dental morphology. Full reference is:

Turner CG II, Nichol CR, Scott GR. 1991. Scoring procedures for key morphological traits of the permanent dentition: The Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System. In: Kelley MA , Larsen CS , editors. Advances in Dental Anthropology. New York: Wiley-Liss. p 13-31.

The book in which it was detailed, Advances in Dental Anthropology, may be available on Amazon.

But you have to appreciate that such methodologies are generally used for robust comparative studies, and may be more detailed than what you're looking for.

Some reviews found on Pubmed that may take your interest:

Biological spacetime and the temporal integration of functional modules: A case study of dento-gnathic developmental timing.

A Curriculum Vitae of Teeth: Evolution, Generation, Regeneration.

Evolution and development of teeth.

Alveolar bone dehiscences and fenestrations: an anatomical study and review.

Tooth microstructure tracks the pace of human life-history evolution.

I didn't read any of these, they just looked like they had some cool figures.
posted by kisch mokusch at 2:44 PM on February 12, 2010

Sorry, meant to include an example of a paper using the Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System:
A closer look at Neanderthal postcanine dental morphology: The mandibular dentition.

posted by kisch mokusch at 3:18 PM on February 12, 2010

Well, it didn't peak my interest, but one of the blogs I read regularly did a multipart series titled "Malocclusion: Disease of Civilization". I realize it's not totally what you are looking for, but there may be references to further studies within.
posted by smalls at 3:47 PM on February 12, 2010

Was it this? Even if it wasn't, it sounds like what you are talking about.
posted by Violet Hour at 8:15 PM on February 12, 2010

I guess one thing you might be interested in is yet another quirky thing in Japan. A significant amount of Japanese men find crooked teeth attractive (especially teeth that overlap and hyperdontic canines). It's often called Yaeba. I guess it's interesting because a somewhat specific crooked tooth pattern is considered desirable. Magibon is perhaps a good example of someone who became quite popular in Japan at least partially due to the fact that her teeth fit the pattern. In contrast many of her US fans were turned off by the revelation that her teeth were messed up. She was initially self conscious but has since gotten over it.
posted by Procloeon at 9:24 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in a tooth guide. it's a denture lab's guide to choosing the pattern of teeth to place in a denture.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:58 AM on February 13, 2010

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