The 2007 horror-comedy film ‘Teeth’ has developed a cult following for its outrageous premise of a teenage girl discovering she has vagina dentata – sharp teeth inside her vagina. But is this totally wild concept based on any truth or real medical cases? Let’s analyze the facts behind the fiction.
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‘Teeth’ instantly garnered attention when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival for putting a fantastical spin on the coming-of-age genre. The movie follows Dawn, an innocent teenager living near a nuclear power plant who realizes she has vagina dentata – a mythic condition where teeth grow inside the vagina. As Dawn learns to harness her power, ‘Teeth’ subverts stereotypes about female sexuality in contemporary American society.
But could vagina dentata actually occur in real life? What medical facts inspired this creative film? As we’ll explore, while ‘Teeth’ makes for an entertaining and thought-provoking watch, the condition portrayed is medically implausible and not backed by science. However, some surprising real-world connections reveal what sparked the idea for this cult classic.
Examining the Premise Behind ‘Teeth’
The core premise of ‘Teeth’ is that Dawn discovers she has vagina dentata – meaning actual teeth inside her vagina. As she comes to terms with this, she learns to control her anatomically-impossible biting power. But right away, experts confirm that human teeth developing in this location is biologically impossible.
“Vagina dentata is an imaginary condition,” affirms Dr. Jill McDevitt, a sexologist with a doctorate in human sexuality. “Human teeth contain blood vessels, nerves, roots, and living pulp. None of that is present in vaginal tissue, so teeth could never possibly erupt from there.”
So while ‘Teeth’ makes for great horror-comedy, real-life human anatomy precludes the literal plot device that sets the story in motion. However, some ask – could the film actually be a symbolic portrayal of extremely rare medical conditions?
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Investigating Symbolic Connections
Since literal vagina dentata is ruled out, some viewers have suggested ‘Teeth’ may symbolically reference distressing but real gynecological issues. Specifically, vaginal complications from the drug DES, and rare cases of sacrococcygeal teratomas. Let’s break down the facts:
Drug DES complications: From the 1940s to 1971, some pregnant women took the synthetic estrogen DES to prevent miscarriage – until it was shown to cause abnormalities in offspring. In under 1% of cases, DES daughters developed benign vaginal growths called clear cell adenocarcinoma. However, experts note these growths lack “teeth” and pose no harm if removed.
Sacrococcygeal teratomas: These are tumors containing abnormal tissues like hair, bones, teeth. They arise in infants from primordial cells gone awry. While rarely containing “teeth”, they occur externally near the tailbone, not the vagina.
So ultimately, the conditions above differ significantly from the “vagina dentata” of the film. The premise remains solidly in the realm of fantasy. Indeed, director Mitchell Lichtenstein clarifies that ‘Teeth’ is “not in any way based on medical reality”.
Still, exploring real medicine that may have inspired the idea makes for intriguing discussion. As Nicola Davis investigates in The Guardian, linking the film to serious gynecological issues shows how “the idea of vagina dentata may have been dreamed up by men, but it has been claimed by women as a symbol of the fear of female sexuality”.
Behind the Scenes – The Origin Story
If vagina dentata isn’t medically real, how did Mitchell Lichtenstein come up with the concept for ‘Teeth’? In multiple interviews, he explains that the core idea came from his wife Lori’s gynecologist joking to her about a mythic condition called “vagina dentata.”
Amused by this, Lichtenstein researched the ancient folklore of man-eating female genitals, finding vagina dentata legends in various cultures spanning centuries. He then worked all this into a tongue-in-cheek screenplay adding today’s issues of female power and autonomy.
The filmmaker clarifies that “the whole thing is an extended metaphor about abstinence-only sex education” – critiquing conservative attitudes about sexuality. So ultimately, ‘Teeth’ serves as provocative social commentary versus plausible medical drama. Audiences and critics alike applaud the film’s ability to tackle real issues through delightfully weird fantasy.
Medical Reality Check
To recap, while ‘Teeth’ has become a cult classic:
- Vagina dentata is an imaginary condition – human teeth can’t possibly develop internally in this location
- The premise is medically inaccurate and not based directly on real-life gynecological issues
- The origin involved the term being used jokingly, then evolved into thought-provoking social commentary
However, the film’s taboo premise sparks important conversations about female sexuality. And after all – truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction.
So next time you watch ‘Teeth’, enjoy the weird ride knowing that dawn’s toothy situation thankfully isn’t grounded in reality. While her story is outlandishly fictitious, it serves as a biting metaphor about an issue that affects women in all too real ways.
|Type of Condition
|Can Manifest as Teeth?
|Vagina Dentata (from the film ‘Teeth’)
|Mythical condition of teeth growing in vagina
|No – biologically impossible in humans
|Drug DES Complications
|Growths in ~1% of prenatal DES exposure cases
|No – benign growths lacking teeth
|Rare tumor near tailbone containing tissues like teeth
|No – external, not vaginal
While ‘Teeth’ puts a fantastical spin on coming-of-age themes, the concept of actual vagina dentata is not grounded in medical science. The premise of teeth growing internally in the vaginal canal defies human anatomy. However, the film’s outrageous premise served as a creative vehicle to explore issues surrounding female power. So next viewing, appreciate ‘Teeth’ as a uniquely clever contributor to an important cultural conversation – and be grateful vagina dentata is purely imaginary!