British Teeth

"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."
Spike Milligan, "Teeth"

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 American emphasis on cosmetically perfect teeth is viewed as being obsessive, odd and an expensive financial indulgence. note 

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 unless on benefits. 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, something backed up by a 2015 study for the British Medical Journal.

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.

It should be noted that this stereotype is quite offensive. If you're American, and talking to a British person, don't make jokes about their teeth if you fancy keeping yours. Also note that this is a national trope, not an ethnic trope - a plurality of Americans being mostly or partially of British descent.

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.


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  • An ad for BBC America has 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."
  • An ad for Dog treats uses this trope. "Don't let American dogs suffer from British teeth"

    Comic Books 
  • 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 cover blurb for Planetary's second volume claims that this trope couldn't possibly be true, because how else could Warren Ellis have ripped out nearly forty people's throats and bit out their hearts?
    "Hearts are hard. Dense and chewy. You couldn't do it."

    Fan Works 
  • In the Frasier fanfic Dark Horse of the moons, Ros Doyle is being courted by a brother of Daphne Moon who is posted on a Royal Navy ship visiting Seattle. When her daughter develops tooth pain on a visit to the ship, Tim Moon swings it to get her seen by the ship's medical unit, where a dentist performs a minor operation on her. Later on, Niles Crane is utterly aghast at this.
    Niles Crane: You mean to say you took your precious little girl to a British dentist? In many states that legally counts as parental neglect and child abuse!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Austin Powers films pull a few jokes of this nature on the titular spy, who has atrocious teeth. [1] However, this isn't really about Austin being British, but is mainly 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. It's worth noting that most other British characters (from any time period) have better teeth than Austin, and the only character who complains about his teeth is the British agent Miss Kensington.
  • 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.
  • Joked about in The Lord of the Rings DVD commentary (the one with Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan, a.k.a. "Merry and Pippin"). When commenting on the scene of Smeagol turning into Gollum, including a close-up of him devouring a fish with his mangled teeth, Dominic and Billy (who are English and Scottish, respectively) joke that the English Andy Serkis used his real teeth and nails for that scene, then claiming that Scotsmen have perfect teeth used for eating haggis and biting the ends of kilts.
  • The Ladykillers: Professor Marcus has very... unusual teeth (that thankfully weren't the actor's real ones).

  • 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.
  • Avoided, defied, and averted in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason when Bridget recalled herself as a teenager: super skinny, glasses, and braces… and not a body brace.
  • James Clavell Lampshades the disgusting state of British teeth in the nineteenth century in his novel of Hong Kong, Tai Pan. The fact the hero takes care of his teeth—something he learnt from the Chinese—is seen as an aberration, of his "going native". Meanwhile his rival actually dies of bad teeth: an untreated abscess he is "toughening out" and disregarding turns into blood poisoning. Everyone else is waiting eagerly for the day when the last few stumps can be pulled out and they'll get dentures.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Frasier. In "Rdwrer", Daphne is upset at businesses sending Christmas cards after Christmas.
    Daphne: Bloody hell! Five days after Christmas is over and I'm still getting these cards! They do it on purpose, you know. It's always from someone you forgot, and then it's too late to send one back, then they sneer at you for the rest of the year! (reads card) "Peace and Goodwill," my ass! You just lost yourself a customer, Dr. Naran S. Gupta, D.D.S.!
    Martin: (sarcastic) Losing a set of English teeth, he'll feel that!
  • 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.
    • Indeed, Eve Myles (Gwen) has a notable gap between her two top front 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 (1959):
    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.
    Depp: What's nastier than Ricky Gervais's jokes? His teeth.
  • 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.

  • The English members of Gorillaz, Murdoc and 2D, 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.

    Print Media 
  • in MAD Magazine's parody of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry and Cho's romantic arc is summed up in one panel:
    Cho: You're British, I'm British. Just the fact that you've got all your teeth is a turn-on.
  • 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.


    Web Animation 
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • Cracked did a list of severely incorrect stereotypes, with #3 being this trope. Which linked to us. Hi, Cracked!
  • "The Stereotypes Song" mentions "the crooked-ass teeth of an English dude" as an example.
  • Emma Blackery
  • Whateley Universe: The Second Book of Jove (Part 1):
    Belphegor. The boy (you certainly can’t call him a man) is a classic product of the British dental system. Not only does he have rodent-worthy buck teeth, the rest of his teeth are either irregular, or repaired with obvious silver fillings.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 of [sic] 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.
    • Ditto the British nannies from "Tsst"
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • The Mickey Mouse (2013) short "One Man Band" takes place in England and many of the background characters have imperfect teeth.
  • Samurai Jack's ally the Scotsman has a really bad tooth decay problem, visible whenever he smiles. (Which he tends to do a lot more often than Jack.)

    Real Life 
  • Brit Kate Moss has crooked teeth despite being a supermodel.
  • Keira Knightley is proud of having "teeth with character".
  • Christopher Lee had 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.
  • 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.
  • Henry Cavill, a Brit who plays the new (American) Superman, has teeth that aren't perfectly straight, quite evident in the closeup shots. It works well in-universe, since what orthodontist could straighten "teeth of steel."
  • In a notable American counter-example, Patricia Arquette chose not to have her teeth straightened as she didn't feel it was right for her. It hasn't hurt her career.
  • Freddie Mercury of Queen fame didn't move to Britain until the age of seventeen (he was born to an Indian Parsi family in Zanzibar and spent most of his childhood near Mumbai, which was then called Bombay), but he developed a recognizable overbite caused by four extra teeth that pushed his incisors forward. He was self-conscious about it and grew his trademark mustache in an attempt to hide it. He also wanted to fix the condition through surgery but ultimately decided not to go through with the procedure because it would have meant having his jaws wired shut for several weeks, preventing him from working.
  • British-Irish singer/songwriter and Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan is infamous for his terrible teeth, all of which eventually fell out and had to be replaced due to substance abuse.