Follow TV Tropes


British Teeth

Go To

"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 the United States, having bad teeth is associated with extreme poverty, slovenliness, and/or drug addiction. Braces are a rite of passage for American teenagers whose parents can afford them. 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 and/or whitened is considered the height of vanity, and cosmetically perfect teeth are often considered unsettling. The American emphasis on flawless teeth is viewed as an expensive indulgence in the UK, the sort of thing that only "Essex girls" (Americans, think Jersey Shore) get done. note 

The reason for Britain's more lax standards on dental beauty are mostly related to the National Health Service (NHS). Basic dentistry is only partly covered by the NHS and the cosmetic side isn't covered at all; the NHS is only concerned with making sure your teeth are healthy, not pretty. British people tend to resent having to pay anything for medical care, leaving dentistry a lower priority than in other countries. But as far as actual dental health goes, a 2009 study by the OECD found that the UK, ironically, has the healthiest teeth in the industrialized world, ahead of the United States even, something backed up by a 2015 study for the British Medical Journal.

For obvious reasons, this is almost exclusively an 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. Also note that this is a national trope, not an ethnic one; a plurality of Americans are 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.


    open/close all folders 

  • 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, it looks fine to me."
  • An ad for Dog treats uses this trope. "Don't let American dogs suffer from British teeth."

    Comic Books 
  • 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 eight people's throats and bit out their hearts?
    "Hearts are hard. Dense and chewy. You couldn't do it."
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Frasier fanfic Dark Horse of the Moons, Roz 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: 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 
  • Played with in Across the Universe (2007), 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.
  • The Austin Powers films pull a few jokes of this nature on the eponymous spy, who has atrocious teeth. The joke is not just that Austin is British, but that, coming from the 1960s, beauty standards were different from what they are when the film was made. In the 1990s, it becomes clear that Austin's personality is what has always made him attractive, not his looks. In the end, he gets his teeth fixed to conform to modern standards, though the sequels give him back his old teeth.
  • Lampshaded and inverted in A Good Year when Max observes that Christie must be American because of her perfect teeth.
  • The Ladykillers (1955): Professor Marcus has very... unusual teeth (that thankfully weren't the actor's real ones).
  • 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 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 the characters in the films are English so maybe it was just a part of those two pirates' character.
  • Despite being set in the UK, Pumpkins only has one example of this in the uncle, who's teeth are yellow, and half of which seem to have fallen out of his mouth.
  • Richie Rich: Richie's English butler, Cadbury, has really sensitive 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.
  • They Shall Not Grow Old features a lot of archive footage of British soldiers smiling at the camera during World War 1, providing a very clear view of the poor state of dental hygiene in the 1910s. One veteran notes that the only use soldiers found for their toothbrush was cleaning their buttons.

  • In an Adrian Mole book, Adrian's Australian dentist comments on how bad British people's teeth are.
  • When Nettie visits Britain in The Color Purple, she notes that English people tend to have crooked and decaying teeth.
  • 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, he wears a fake jaw/teeth which are the opposite of this.
  • 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.
  • Downplayed in Harry Potter, where Hermione has buck teeth but otherwise unremarkable dentition since her parents are dentists. They're not too happy that she gets her front teeth shrunken down by magic (after an incident where they're cursed to grow out), but there's not much they can do about it.
  • 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 
  • Mentioned in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., when the I Am Very British Leo Fitz mentions watching lots of American TV partially because of their nice teeth.
  • 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?
  • 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".
  • John Oliver's character is the butt of these jokes in Community.
    Professor Chang: Oh, shut your pompous vortex of overlapping fangs!
    Duncan: Hey, British dentistry is not on trial here!
  • Fargo season three has V. M. Varga, who owes his dental hygiene to bulimia.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bradley James (Arthur in Merlin) has crooked teeth. Note that this does not stop his status as a Mr. Fanservice.
  • Chop in My Mad Fat Diary. The rest of the gang has normal teeth.
  • On the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Santa Claus (1959):
    Narrator: Boys and girls from England...
    Crow: Have rotten teeth!
  • 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).
  • 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!
  • 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."
  • 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.
    • And the jokes continued in The Grand Tour when, in one promo, Clarkson points out his and May's teeth immediately mark them as British. After getting "Americanized", their new super white teeth are terrifying. Meanwhile, Hammond and his pearly whites escape completely untouched.
  • 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, which some American fans made hostile comments about.
  • 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.

  • The British Dan Bull made a song aptly titled "British Teeth." He acknowledges (if not slightly exaggerates) the fact that his teeth isn't aesthetically pleasing, and that he doesn't really mind it at all.

    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.


    Video Games 
  • Balthazar, an overweight Pirate Captain boss from Jitsu Squad, have seriously gawd-awful teeth on him. It's not visible during gameplay, but pretty obvious during a cutscene that has a Gross-Up Close-Up. To be fair, pirates aren't known to have healthy teeth because of scurvy.
  • Sir Raleigh the Frog of Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is a Welsh frog who boasts some horrific dental hygiene in his intro cutscene.
  • The Chucky the Chipmunk commercial for British Choco Corn Puffies that come on during the credits for You Don't Know Jack Volume 1 will be loved by mothers because it contains one important ingredient...floride!
    British kid: So me teeth donít fall out!
    Chucky: Thatís right, snaggle-tooth.

    Web Animation 
  • Salad Fingers: The titular character. 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 
  • Invoked by "Lord Mingeworthy" from the Brandon Rogers Normal British People sketch, as he wears fake British Teeth in the hopes of looking more like a stereotypical British.
  • Cracked did a list of severely incorrect stereotypes, with #3 being this trope. Which linked to us. Hi, Cracked!
  • Epic Rap Battles of History:
    • Frank Sinatra started out his battle against Freddie Mercury with a joke about the latter's huge teeth. He also addresses Mercury as "Jaws of Life" in the second verse.
      Frank Sinatra: Woah! What's wrong with your face, baby? Yikes!
      With those teeth when you're through, there'll be no dust left to bite!
    • Similarly, James Bond opens his battle against Austin Powers with this blistering insult:
      James Bond: I've beefed with Le Chiffre and No and Blofeld with a cheek scar
      But they were not as rotten or as crooked as your teeth are!
  • "The Stereotypes Song" mentions "the crooked-ass teeth of an English dude" as an example.
  • Whateley Universe: The Second Book of Jove (Part 1):
    Belphegor. The boy (you certainly canít call him a man) is a classic product of the British dental system. Not only does he have rodent-worthy buck teeth, but the rest of his teeth are also either irregular or repaired with obvious silver fillings.

    Western Animation 
  • Part of Aardman Animations Signature Style and one of the rare British examples.
  • 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 Amazing World of Gumball: In the episode "The Deal", Gumball says that Richard's attempt to rap about his day (where the only thing he did of note was finding a fry under the sofa) was the rap equivalent of British dental work.
  • Arcane: While there's obviously no Britain in Runterra and it's downplayed since Caitlyn only has a very tiny gap in her front teeth, it's noticeable that the British-accented daughter of such a wealthy family has an imperfection with her teeth while someone like Vi who grew up in the slums has perfect teeth.
  • 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.
  • 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 an English colony.
  • Just about every British character who appears on Family Guy, to the point of a Running Gag. The Griffins' British counterparts have these in a "Viewer Mail" segment.
  • 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?
  • Evil Brit Ned from Get Ace has teeth so crooked and jagged that they're still visible even when he's in his otherwise-flawless disguises. They're the second reason why he wants to get his braces back from Ace.
  • In Harley Quinn (2019), Clayface is depicted as an Evil Brit whose Shapeshifter Default Form has a gob full of crooked yellow teeth.
  • The Mickey Mouse (2013) short "One Man Band" takes place in England and many of the background characters have imperfect teeth.
  • In Over the Garden Wall, Auntie Whispers (played by the very British Tim Curry) has teeth are sparse, crooked, and tar-black.
  • At the end of Ferb's grandfather (who is British)'s flashback scene in the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Flying Fishmonger", a woman claims that she has to go home and not brush her 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). His wife as well has teeth just as bad as his, but somehow this didn't pass down to their Amazon Brigade of daughters.
  • 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.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Last Exit to Springfield", a dentist terrifies Ralph Wiggum into healthy dental habits by showing him a book titled "The Big Book of of [sic] British Smiles".
  • South Park:
  • Alluded to in the Total Drama season three episode "I See London..." which takes place in the Tower of London. Courtney finds a golden toothpick and an emerald-studded toothbrush in the banquet hall and scoffs, "What is wrong with these royals and their dentistry?"


Video Example(s):


The Big Book of British Smiles

The image for the trope, a dentist scares his patients into better dental hygiene, using a book of British Smiles.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / BritishTeeth

Media sources: