Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Halloween Look at Fangs

As a dentist, it’s amusing to me that a key part of Halloween has to do with teeth...fangs, those sharp, pointed teeth that made Count Dracula king of the horror movies.  

Off the silver screen, and in the wild, a fang is a long, pointed tooth used to tear flesh, hold prey and even inject venom. In mammals, a fang is a canine tooth that’s used for biting and ripping apart flesh. In snakes, fangs are the vehicles through which venom is injected.  Apes also have fangs, which they use for threats and fighting.  Even spiders have fangs.  Fangs are most common in carnivores and omnivores, but some herbivores, such as fruit bats, carry them as well.

Do humans have fangs?  The answer is no.  However, humans do have canine teeth -- the third tooth on each side of the upper center, and in some people, those canines can be very sharp and pointed, almost fang-like.  But, they’re just teeth -- not fangs -- so no need to purchase garlic or wooden stakes.  Occasionally, a patient will be concerned about the appearance of “fangs,” and we can easily file them down to achieve a more normal look.   

So where did fang and vampire folklore originate?  Vampires are mythological beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence (usually blood) of living creatures.  Although vampire-like creatures have been recorded in many cultures, and may even go back to prehistoric times, the term vampire became popular in the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria, and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism.

However, it is Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula that is the quintessential vampire novel and the basis of modern vampire fiction.  In fact, a few years ago, I visited the very spooky ruined Benedictine Whitby Abbey in Whitby, England, a small town on the North Sea, that is said to have been the inspiration for Bram Stoker.  The ruined abbey sits high atop a hill overlooking the sea, and though I know vampires aren’t real, it is definitely a place I wouldn’t want to visit after dark!

I wish all my readers a fun and safe Halloween...enjoy a scary movie -- especially one that features fangs!

If you are looking for a dentist in the Chicago area, please consider Wilmette Dental, a North Shore tradition in family dentistry for more than 30 years.   Feel free to call our office at 847-251-0085 or request an appointment online at

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