Etiquette & superstition: teeth

My root canal is finally finished. It only took five visits to the dentist to complete it; six, if we’re being technical. I don’t care if it’s 2:30, I never want to go to the dentist again.

ETIQUETTE: In western cultures, it is considered rude to use a toothpick at the table. Interestingly, Miss Manners, whom I love, thinks this ban on table toothpick use is illogical and overly fussy. However, Peggy Post, your uncle Ned and all the debutantes in Oklahoma think picking one’s teeth at the table is disgusting, so unless you are having a lunch date with Miss Manners, you should excuse yourself to the restroom should you need to pick your teeth.

In many Asian countries, it is acceptable to pick one’s teeth with a toothpick at the table; of course, this does not give one license to start rooting away at one’s incisors like a dentist with a bad assistant and a rageohol problem. Just cover your mouth with one hand and use the toothpick with the other hand. If you are provided with one of those single-tipped toothpicks with a fancy grooved end, snap off the little finial and rest your toothpick on it as you would use a chopsticks holder at the table.

It is not acceptable anywhere to use a knife, matchbook cover, fingernail, sugar packet or chopsticks to pick one’s teeth at the table. Even Miss Manners agrees on this.

SUPERSTITION: Babies born with teeth will grow up to be murderers. They will also be very clever and lucky. Go figure.

Upon losing a tooth, a person should throw the tooth into the fire and burn it up completely. Otherwise, a dog might come along and eat the tooth, and when that happens, the person who lost the tooth is going to get a dog’s tooth growing in its place. If a pig finds the tooth, same thing. Pig tooth. If the tooth is not eaten by a dog or a pig, it’s still bad news for the person who lost the tooth, as he will be condemned to hell to search for the tooth in a bucket of blood.

Some people who don’t believe in the tooth-burning practice say that you should just throw the old tooth up on the roof or into a tree where a rat or squirrel will find it and ask the rodent nicely to supply you with a stronger tooth.

Photo by twowaystairs on Flickr

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