The world has witnessed some bizarre and painful beauty rituals that, when viewed from a modern angle, seem more terrifying than aesthetically pleasing.

One of these rituals is practised by the Bagobo– an ethnic group from the Philippines.

A Bagobo woman

How It’s Done

This process is done by holding a wooden stick between the teeth, following which the teeth are filed into the desired shape. Next, the teeth are coloured black using natural materials- either a deposit that is created by charring bamboo or a powder extracted from the almond tree.

While this process is taking place, the person getting their teeth sharpened is not allowed to drink water, eat anything sour, and, for some reason, attend a funeral, because these activities are said to affect the colour of the teeth.

Women blackening their teeth

The Mentawai Version Of This Practice

The Mentawai people believe that sharpened teeth make them look more attractive to the opposite sex.

However, instead of filing their teeth into long, needle-like points like the Bagobo, they shape their teeth to resemble those of a wild animal- broader, with pointed tips.

The Mentawai are known to indulge in other forms of body modification, too- like full-body tattooing in patterns resembling dots and stripes.

A Mentawai woman getting her teeth sharpened. In the background, we can see the Mentawai man’s full-body tattoos

Read More: Africans Used To Hide Escape Maps From Slavery In Their Hairstyles

Why Did People Sharpen And Colour Their Teeth?

This practice does not seem to be as popular in present day society (thank God!). However, it does make one wonder why people thought that sharpening and blackening their teeth was preferable to having natural teeth.

Tribes in Indonesia and Vietnam also follow this practice of filing and colouring their teeth, although the materials used to colour the teeth black vary from community to community- the Vietnamese favoured the use of enamel.

It was believed that the teeth represent negative feelings like anger and jealousy, and so by filing and dyeing them, these negative tendencies could also be suppressed and controlled. Some communities did it simply because they felt it added to their aesthetic value.

Madonna displaying her grills

In conclusion, it can be said that from the teeth filing and sharpening practices of the days of old to the usage of gemstone implants and grills in the modern day, human beings have historically rarely left their teeth alone.

Let’s hope that the next time we decide to modify our teeth, we don’t make ourselves look terrifying in the process.

Image Credits: Google Images

Sources:, The Silk Merchant’s Daughter, Wikipedia, Daily Mail

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