Teeth falling out or rotting or breaking dreams are common types of dreams that many people have seen. Along with dreaming about flying, falling, being chased and being lost, such dreams are pretty much universal. These dreams pose a challenge to the way we usually interpret dreams.
The best way to interpret your dreams is to relate your dream content with what’s going on in your outer and inner (mental) life.
In a previous article, I pointed out that a simple way to interpret dreams is to focus on the emotional content of your dreams. This is because, as in waking life, emotions can act as guiding mechanisms in dreams.
This follows directly from the understanding that dreams are essentially a form of thinking related to a special type of thinking that cognitive psychologists call simulation.
If dreams are a form of thinking and you want to understand them, ask yourself this simple question: What do you think about most often in your waking life? Your dreams will often reflect just that.
Now, it’s safe to say that most people spend a lot of their waking hours worrying about their problems, goals and unfinished businesses (see Zeigarnik effect).
Our dreams are about the same things. They mostly reflect our waking thoughts about what’s happening in our day-to-day lives and our concerns.1
In other words, dreams often use emotions such as worry and concern to alert us about the problems we’re facing in our lives.
The best example of this is how students see dreams about failing an exam when they have one coming up. This dream is a way their mind warns them they’re unprepared.
In the following sections, I’ll discuss the origins and interpretations of the teeth falling out dream, roughly in the order of most likely to least likely explanation.
1. Concerns about dental health
If you’re concerned about your dental health in your waking life, it makes sense that your dreams should reflect this concern. Teeth falling out dream could reflect your actual concern about your deteriorating or endangered dental health.
The message is direct, and the mind doesn’t use any symbolism. The dream is what it is- your fear of losing teeth. Hence, people who’re undergoing dental procedures are likely to see this dream.
Even someone who feels a slight pain in a tooth may see this dream because the concern is still there, buried in the subconscious. You may have a fleeting moment of concern about your teeth during the day, and you may still end up dreaming about your teeth falling.
2. Oral sensations
Since the time of Freud, psychoanalysts have acknowledged that dreams can sometimes be manifestations of a physical sensation that a dreamer is experiencing.
For example, a person may dream they’re in a desert when they’re sleeping in a hot room. The best example- the one with which many can relate- is when you dream about, say, being in a burning building with a fire alarm buzzing.
A few moments later you wake up and realize that the sound of the fire alarm was your phone’s alarm. Arguably, the dream itself was triggered by the sound of your phone alarm.
If you have a dental problem such as teeth grinding or swollen gums, it is possible that the pain sensations they cause produce your dream of falling teeth.
Interestingly, a study found that dental irritation upon waking is linked to seeing teeth dreams.2
If you don’t grind your teeth at night or don’t feel any pain in your oral cavity but are concerned still about your dental health, you may dream about falling teeth.
These were the simplest and most likely explanations. Now let’s move on to the interesting world of dream symbolism…
3. Concerns about physical appearance
All over the world, people consider a pleasant smile as a key feature of one’s beauty and appearance.
So, dreaming about losing teeth could be your mind’s way of being concerned about your physical appearance. You may dream about falling teeth when anything happens that undermines your physical appearance- getting a pimple, gaining weight, having a bad hair day, etc.
Women generally are more concerned with their physical appearance than men. No wonder then that they dream more often about losing teeth than do men.3
Another dream theme that is common in women and hints at being concerned about physical appearance is ‘dreaming about being inappropriately dressed’.
4. Fear of becoming weak/powerless
Teeth symbolize power. Strong teeth help predators tear their prey’s flesh into pieces. When animals fight, the one with stronger and sharper teeth has an edge over their rival.
Therefore many animals, including us, flash their teeth when they’re angry and want to threaten someone. When you gnarl at someone, you’re basically threatening to bite them. And they’re threatened because they don’t want to get bitten.
In a civilized society, we don’t directly tell them: “I’ll bite you”. We show it.
So dreaming about losing teeth could mean you’re concerned about losing power. Maybe you fear getting demoted at work, or maybe your partner is controlling. Whatever the reason behind your current or impending powerlessness, your mind represents the loss of power with the loss of teeth.
5. Concerns about ageing
This interpretation is related to the previous one. Old people tend to be weak and many lose their teeth. So if you’re concerned about growing old, you might dream about falling teeth.
The question that arises with this interpretation is: Why dream about falling teeth? Why not about getting grey hair, or other signs of ageing?
It may have something to do with how we associate teeth with power. If you have concerns about growing old, the concern will probably be about becoming weak- losing your physical strength and mental ability. Getting grey hair, despite being a symbol of ageing, isn’t concerning. Some even consider it an attractive feature.
6. Personal loss
Dreaming about falling teeth could symbolize a personal loss such as losing a job, a relationship or a family member. This interpretation, popular among the psychoanalytic circles, is based on the fact that we consider our jobs, relationships, and loved ones as part of our identity.
The dream goes one step further and makes these things a part of our body (teeth). The most intimate part of our identity is, after all, our body.
Still, why only teeth? We could’ve dreamt about losing a limb or something when we experience a personal loss. This makes the explanation weak.
7. Major life changes
This one’s related to the previous interpretation. Losing something personal is part of going through a major life change. But the latter can also encompass potentially positive changes such as moving to a new city, getting a new job, or getting into a new relationship.
According to this interpretation, the falling of the teeth represents going through a big change in life, irrespective of whether it turns out good or bad.
According to Carl Jung, dreaming about falling teeth symbolizes giving birth to something new. Falling teeth represent the pain that comes with going through a major change.
Again, why would the mind associate a major change with falling teeth?
One of our first big changes in life comes when we lose our milk teeth as kids. Our parents and other elders reassure us that there’s nothing to worry about and that it means we’re growing up.
It’s possible that our subconscious mind borrows this ‘program’ from childhood and applies it to other big changes that happen in our lives.
Recently, I experienced slight pain in my lower jaw. Soon after, I dreamt that my lower jaw was in my hand and I was examining it just as a medical student would.
While I was looking at my own lower jaw in my own hand, the teeth fell right off of it. When I woke up, I was more concerned about seeing such a weird dream than I was about my jaw which felt a little uncomfortable. Perhaps I’ll soon see a dream warning me about seeing bizarre dreams.
- Domhoff, G. W., & Schneider, A. (2018). Are dreams social simulations? Or are they enactments of conceptions and personal concerns? An empirical and theoretical comparison of two dream theories. Dreaming, 28(1), 1-23.
- Rozen, N., & Soffer-Dudek, N. (2018). Dreams of Teeth Falling Out: An Empirical Investigation of Physiological and Psychological Correlates. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1812.
- Schredl, M., Ciric, P., Götz, S., & Wittmann, L. (2004). Typical dreams: stability and gender differences. The journal of psychology, 138(6), 485-494.