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British Teeth

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"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 many 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. 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 the work, and even those on benefits only get a discount. 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 that the UK, ironically, has the healthiest teeth in the industrialised world, ahead of the United States overall, 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 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.


    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, 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (1955): Professor Marcus has very... unusual teeth (that thankfully weren't the actor's real ones).
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • When Nettie visits Britain in The Color Purple she notes that English people tend to have crooked and decaying teeth.

    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, which some American fans made hostile comments about.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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 a 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.
  • Fargo season three has V. M. Varga, who owes his dental hygiene to bulimia.
  • 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.

    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 

    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!
  • "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, but the rest of his teeth are also 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). 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 Amazing World of Gumball 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.
  • 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.


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