Teeth play a huge part in the perception of one’s self, as well as the perception of others. We spend billions of dollars each year on toothpastes, whiteners, braces, dental visits, and dental surgery in order to project “perfect” teeth. Over the past several years we in the U.S. have become part of a contest to see who can have the whitest, shiniest, most regular teeth around. It’s a narcissistic epidemic. So when an accident occurs which re-aligns teeth it is a major tragedy.
Little children go through awkward periods of development, including the period when their teeth do all kinds of strange things…like fall out and grow in. We think it’s cute and brush it off as a natural thing. But when it happens to an adult, we go berserk.
A funny, less-than-flattering word comes into play when a tooth is so bent, broken, or irregular as to protrude from the mouth like a fang. We refer to it as a snaggletooth. If we’re fortunate and have the insurance or the money, it’s taken care of before anyone else can see it. But many people are burdened with having to display the solitary body part for some time…some for the rest of their lives. It is not unheard of that the snaggletooth term becomes an unfortunate, permanent nickname, creating embarrassment and emotional issues for the bearer.
There is no definitive origin base for the word. It’s a folk term based upon the idea that a snaggle is something that protrudes. It is most often used as a dental issue, however. There is a sense in which arborist might use the term for a branch or limb of a tree or bush that protrudes awkwardly from the rest of the foliage. But that’s a rare use.
The bottom line of its use is that it is an unfortunate and cruel term that describes an already-difficult and embarrassing situation. People who have protruding teeth from childhood and are unable to redirect them may be stuck with the look for their whole lives. Like most cruelty, it is likely to be a permanent fixture, describing something that is not able to be corrected. It’s not my suggestion that this word become a regular term in our vocabularies.
Image Credit: frpblog