English Teeth! HEROES' Teeth!
Hear them click! and clack!
Let's sing a song of praise to them -
Three Cheers for the Brown, Grey and Black.
Brits in (usually American) media are commonly stereotyped
as being completely indifferent to the physical appearance of their teeth. Expect much joshing by the pens of non-Brits at this, portraying British teeth as being a horrific monstrosity.
The reasoning behind this trope has its roots largely in cultural differences
. In America having bad teeth is associated with being extremely poor - not being able to afford the dentist is like not being able to afford basic medical care. Thus there is an enormous cultural stigma to not having perfect teeth. In Britain, on the other hand, for various reasons there is no such class stigma. Indeed the reverse seems to be true: having one's teeth artificially straightened or whitened is seen as a form of vanity, and cosmetically perfect teeth are seen as somewhat odd
The reason for Britain's more lax standards on dental beauty are probably related to the National Health Service (NHS). Dentistry is the only part of the socialised healthcare system where the British people are expected to pay the costs of at least some of the work. British people tend to resent having to pay anything at all, leaving cosmetic dental care lower on their order of priorities than in other countries. As far as actual dental health goes, a 2009 study by the OECD
found the UK to have some of the industrialized world's better dental health, ahead of the United States overall.
For obvious reasons, this is almost an exclusive American and British trope, as not everyone outside the English-speaking world has the same views regarding British dental health, if they even care about the topic.
For actors having a gleaming smile no matter what kind of character they are playing, see Eternally Pearly-White Teeth
, and see Twinkle Smile
for a visual effect used to emphasize this. Compare with Asian Buck Teeth
- An ad for BBC America had an animated queen claiming that various British stereotypes aren't true (including the teeth one), but then having them happen in the background once she turns her head. "They say One's dentistry is diabolical, looks fine to me."
- The British adult comic Viz mercilessly turned the trope on its head in a one-off strip called Crystal's Big Chance. This was about an American girl who wanted to become a cheerleader, but was regarded as hideously ugly because one of her front teeth was just slightly out of line. She eventually got her happy ending and was hailed as beautiful at the end despite the enormous braces she now wore.
- The Austin Powers films pull a few jokes of this nature on the titular spy, who has atrocious teeth. This is in part to show how times have changed since the 1960's, when straight teeth weren't as highly prized, and also furthers the point that it's Austin's personality that makes him attractive, not his looks. He does some dental work before the first movie ends. But in the following movie, they revert to being horrible when Austin time travels.
- The two English pirates from Pirates of the Caribbean qualify. Apparently everyone else who spent months at a time on a ship in the Caribbean had access to a really good dentist. Of course, most of characters in the films are English so maybe it was just a part of those two pirates' character.
- Lampshaded and inverted in A Good Year when Max observes that Christie must be American because of her perfect teeth.
- Shanghai Knights: Owen Wilson's character flirts with a pretty young English damsel, only for her to smile and send him running from her moldy choppers.
- Richie Rich: Richie's English butler, Cadbury, has really sensitive teeth.
- Played with in Across the Universe, when Jude, a Brit, notes of the American Lucy, "My god — you have perfect teeth!" He tells her that people back home have horrible teeth, and feigns not knowing what braces are.
- Seems to come up in The Count of Monte Cristo. Despite rotting in prison for over a decade, Dantes/The Count has perfect, white teeth, but in his persona as English aristocrat Lord Wilmore, wears a fake jaw/teeth which are the opposite of this.
- In an Adrian Mole book, Adrian's Australian dentist comments on how bad British people's teeth are.
- The Goldfinch: Theo notes that Boris, who has lived all around the world, has grey, crooked and "un-American" teeth. By contrast, he notes that a man who looks like the quintessential Texan has flawlessly white and straight teeth.
- Torchwood lampshades this stereotype with Captain Jack Harkness saying, "You want scary? Compare teeth with a British guy." The Brits return the favour by mocking Jack for his perfect, and presumably American, set of teeth.
- Chop in My Mad Fat Diary. The rest of the gang has normal teeth.
- British attitudes on both ends are seen in Top Gear. The hosts mock both Jeremy Clarkson for his yellowing teeth and Richard Hammond for supposedly getting his teeth whitened.
- John Oliver is the butt of these jokes in Community.
Professor Chang: Shut your gaping vortex of overlapping fangs!
- Stephen Fry and Craig Ferguson discussed this, with Stephen doubting Craig was even British because his teeth looked so good and Craig commenting that they were mostly his but that things had been done to them when he passed through immigration.
- Peter Capaldi (who was also speaking with Craig Ferguson) once referred to The Thick of It as "The West Wing with bad teeth and swearing."
- On 30 Rock, trying to lighten the tension on an awkward date, Liz jokes about this to a British man she met in the orthodontist's office. He's never heard the stereotype before and is offended. It's Liz Lemon, what do you expect?
- An old SNL episode had a "commercial" with Mike Myers playing the pitchman for "Hedley & Wyche, the British toothpaste." Each tube contains two teaspoons of pure cane sugar, for a smile that says, "Yum! That was good."
Chris Farley: And it tastes great on a cracker!
- On the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Santa Claus":
Narrator: Boys and girls from England...
Crow: Have rotten teeth!
- Bradley James (Arthur in Merlin) has crooked teeth. Note that this does not stop his status as an Mr. Fanservice.
- Comes up every so often in Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Both versions, thanks to the recurring American cast members in both. One example from Scenes From a Hat:
Chip Esten: British Dentistry.
- Arrested Development: Slightly different take as George Sr. describes the British as having bad breath. Played straight as referenced by a pub called "The Crooked Fang".
- The title character in Sherlock correctly identifies someone as American on the basis of his tan and his teeth (they are indeed flawless and spectacularly white).
- Life's Too Short: One of Johnny Depp's anti-Gervais jokes uses this as its punchline.
- Horrible Histories: Used as a contrast between American and British soldiers in a WWII sketch. Also implied by a few Horrible toothpaste recipes, including one whose main ingredient is sugar-paste.
- Cracked did a list of severely incorrect stereotypes, with #3 being this trope. Which linked to us. Hi, Cracked!
- "The Stereotypes Song" mentions "the crookedass teeth of an English dude" as an example.
- Emma Blackery
- The titular character from Salad Fingers. The appearance of his teeth actually varies from frame to frame - sharp, tiny, huge, missing etc. - but they are always ugly, yellow and somewhat crooked. Of course, Salad Fingers' nationality isn't known for sure to be British, but he is from a British flash series and has a British accent.
- In one episode of The Simpsons, a dentist terrifies Ralph Wiggum into healthy dental habits by showing him a book called "The Big Book of British Smiles".
- This happens to nearly the whole cast in an episode of The Fairly OddParents when Timmy accidentally prevents the Revolutionary War from happening and causes the USA to remain English colonies.
- In South Park episode "The Snuke" when America gets invaded by Britain, the British army (decked out in Redcoats of course) have noticeably terrible teeth.
- Just about every British character who appears on Family Guy. They re-use jokes a lot, so expect to see it often.
- In the Sealab 2021 episode "Let 'Em Eat Corn", Captain Shanks gets his hands on some nukes from two British guys in exchange for paying to have their dreadful teeth fixed.
- Both Murdoc and 2D of Gorillaz fame have some pretty messed up mouths, although both their cases are justified. 2D was hit by a car and lost several teeth, (not to mention bruising his eyes,) as a result; Murdoc just has hideous hygiene standards all around and clearly never bothered to take care of his teeth. Of course, their creators are British, so it's understandable that they didn't want to play into the stereotype.
- British Kyle of Fanboy and Chum Chum has large buck teeth as well as braces. Though it's not as if the non-British titular duo has perfect teeth...
- Futurama, "All the Presidents' Heads":
Bender: Say, how is it that we've got socialized medicine [shows missing teeth] but me teeth still loo' like this?
- Batman has Jervis Tetch, or the Mad Hatter. His teeth are especially noticeable in the Animated Series, and he sports a rather nice Brit accent to boot.
- Finn from Adventure Time has rather wonky teeth (according to Word of God, it's because "he bites trees and rocks and stuff"). This got lampshaded in the MAD parody, "Avenger Time", when Captain America gets redesigned to look like Finn:
Iron Man: Check out your teeth. What are we, in England?
- Brit Kate Moss has crooked teeth despite being a supermodel.
- Keira Knightley is proud of having "teeth with character".
- Christopher Lee has rather interestingly crooked lower teeth.
- It was a custom in some areas in Scotland before modern dentistry to have the bride's teeth removed as a dowry.
- In some of the more remote areas (as with any part of the world) there can be pretty distinctive dental features.
- There was a small-scale outcry in the British press after US magazine New Republic released a front cover with a picture of Kate Middleton's teeth Photoshopped to look yellow and rotting, as a reference to the stereotype (the issue contained several articles about the political and economic future of Britain.) In real life, Kate's dentist claimed that her orthodontist performed "micro-rotations" on her teeth so they would be slightly out of line, as it was felt this looked more natural than a perfectly straight and gleaming smile.
- Christopher Hitchens mentions the teeth problem in his article "On the Limits of Self-Improvement" in Vanity Fair.
The fanglike teeth are what is sometimes called “British”: sturdy, if unevenly spaced, and have turned an alarming shade of yellow and brown, attributable perhaps to strong coffee as well as to nicotine, Pinot Noir, and other potations.
- Shane McGowan is a very prominent example of this trope played straight...unlike his fanglike maw.◊