Those who believe that dreams hold meaning have researched some common dream themes in order to find out what makes them so pervasive. One dream type they’ve looked into? The dream that one’s teeth are falling out or rotting. Yep, it’s not just you who has this one!
According to a 2018 study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, 39% of respondents reported that they had experienced teeth dreams at least once. Researchers looked at the possibility that this dream could relate to both dental issues and psychological distress, but no clear answer was found. This could be because dreams don’t necessarily have just one meaning. According to psychologist and dream expert Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., interpreting a dream is more about assessing the emotion that its symbolism evokes in you. It’s more personal than it is literal. That said, here are five common interpretations of what the popular “teeth falling out” dream could mean:
5 potential interpretations of dreaming of teeth falling out:
Feelings of insecurity or shame
In our waking world, teeth don’t usually just fall out—which makes this dream particularly bizarre and could work against the theory that dreams are primarily a means of memory consolidation. Working on the notion that dreams represent feelings more than literal symbolism, it’s possible that teeth falling out could represent confidence and self-esteem. After all, wouldn’t you be a bit insecure if your teeth suddenly fell out or rotted? The next time this dream happens, think about any areas in your life where you’re experiencing shame or self-doubt.
Rebirth or transformation
Popularized by the renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung, teeth falling out could also represent a rebirth or transformation. What happens when your teeth fall out as a child? Your adult teeth come in afterward. In this way, losing your teeth in a dream may not be a bad omen but rather a sign of growth or positive change.
A lack of control
Of course, another popular idea is that losing your teeth in a dream is about control—or lack thereof. It’s safe to say that you probably wouldn’t choose to have your teeth fall out at night. To that end, when you have this dream, you might want to ask yourself if there’s anything going on in your life that makes you feel powerless such as an issue that’s out of your hands or a sudden overwhelming change.
Feelings of loss or grief
Losing your teeth in a dream could also represent a different kind of loss or even grief. It’s undoubtedly upsetting to dream you’ve “lost” your teeth—so, is there something else you’ve lost recently? If your subconscious is attempting to assimilate a real-life loss, it could make you lose other things when you dream.
Could it be literal dental issues?
And finally, there is the possibility that this dream relates to literal dental issues. In the Frontiers in Psychology study, researchers did find that teeth dreams often correlated with dental irritation upon waking up. (Teeth grinding in your sleep, anyone?) However, it’s hard to say whether teeth issues such as grinding caused the dream—or if the dream caused the teeth issues. Still, it could be that the mind may be distorting pain and incorporating it into your dreams.
What to do if you keep having the dream.
According to Naiman, any time you have a recurring dream—particularly one that’s perceived as negative or frightening—it’s a sign of something you’re struggling to mentally digest. Taking the time to dig into what this dream brings up for you emotionally, and subsequently trying to work through it, could help.
“When people are having repeated dreams, it’s really important to address them,” he says. “There’s an old saying from the Talmud that says, ‘A dream unexamined is like a letter unopened.’ So, it’s important to open that letter…attend to it, sit with the dream, and associate with it.”
The next time you have a teeth dream, you can ask yourself questions such as: What does it feel like? What emotion does it bring up? Does it bring up any memories? In doing so, Naiman says you can help the dream interpret itself: “Often there’s a notion locked behind it and when they can interpret the dream, it helps digest it.”
If you’re really struggling to make sense of the dream and it’s bothering you, Naiman says you can also consider talking with a psychologist who is open to discussing dreams and their meanings.
In the meantime, looking closely at the emotions that any and all dreams bring up can help you learn from them—and maybe take a peek into your subconscious, too.
Want to turn your passion for wellbeing into a fulfilling career? Become a Certified Health Coach! Learn more here.