The Magic of Teeth

Developed by Guest Curator, Chloe Walls


Manuel Ocampo, Untitled (Ghost Teeth), 2008, Acrylic on Canvas, 130 x 184 cm.
Photo credits: Bertrand Huet / Tutti image.
Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels

Magic exists in various forms other than what can be seen on TV and in movies. Folklore and practices have been a magical component of societies all over the world. These legends, beliefs, and superstitions are passed down from generation to generation and become entwined into the culture. Due to the nature of spoken history these cultural fables may be updated, altered, or recorded over time. This leads to new variations that can inspire even more folklore that is more representative of the culture at that time.

Understanding a community’s traditional beliefs can give insight on the people’s problems, aspirations, and daily life. Stories are created to warn children in hopes of making them better behaved, rituals are created to prevent unwanted events, and legends are created as beacons of inspiration. As a part of daily life, teeth have become incorporated into various aspects of culture.

Many civilizations, both modern and ancient, have incorporated teeth into their customs. Whether in their meticulous treatment of teeth or the stories about them, it is clear that groups around the world recognized the importance of teeth. By analyzing these different stories, the true cultural impact of teeth can be seen. Throughout human history the magic of the teeth has  inspired folklore, impacted rituals, and led to a new type of fairy.


Tuesday - Friday: 10am to 4pm


31 S. Greene St. Baltimore, MD 21201



The Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry is an auxiliary enterprise of the University of Maryland, School of Dentistry at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

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