Thursday, June 10, 2010

Black teeth, a cultural sign of beauty

Betelnut  is the fruit of the Areca tree.­ It is chewed for its exhilarating lift.­ Betel chewing has been claimed to produce a sense of well-being, euphoria, heightened alertness, sweating, salivation, a hot sensation in the body and increased capacity to work.­ Betel chewing with its associated discoloration of teeth might lie at the root of the teeth blackening practice in Southeast Asia.
Other masticants were eventually added to areca nut in order to amplify the visual effect that had taken on different cultural ascriptions related to sexual maturation and becoming a full member of society. Striving to accomplish evenly black teeth led to the adoption of plant-based methods for teeth blackening that were increasingly sophisticated and culminated in week-long processes requiring a dozen ingredients.
Indigenous reports have long claimed that teeth blackening strengthened the gums as well as teeth and and acted as a preventative measure against the action of the ‘tooth worm’, thought to be responsible for cavities.
Wood tar can be heated and applied to the teeth as a blackening agent, or chewing a plant product with known colouring agents can be considered the simplest approach to dying one`s teeth.











© Kieron Nelson 2010 "Vanishing Cultures Photography"

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