Human tooth sharpening is the practice of manually sharpening the teeth, usually the front incisors.
Mentawai people are the native people of the Mentawai Islands, in Siberut, about 100 miles from West Sumatra province, Indonesia.
For the Mentawai people, it is a form of transition for their female folk.
Different culture have their ways of transitioning into puberty – from special dishes, dances, to having to endure pain in order to be called an adult.
In Mentawai, tooth sharpening is meant for women and they believe that the soul and body were separate. If the soul was not pleased by its body it would leave and the person would die.
As a result, the Mentawai people started modifying their bodies to be more beautiful.
In Mentawai culture, those with teeth that have been sharpened are deemed more beautiful.
A revolving world of civilization has resulted in the decline of the tooth sharpening tradition.
To sharpen the tooth, the Mentawai people use a sharpened chisel and another object that acts as a hammer.
They use no anesthetics or pain killers and bite down on a piece of wood. Green bananas are bitten on to reduce pain after the procedure. This increases the chances of having teeth problems and infections but they don’t care.
David Livingstone mentioned a number of African tribes who practiced teeth-filing, including the Bemba, Yao, Makonde, Matambwe, Mboghwa, and Chipeta.
Koesbardiati, Toetik mentions Indonesian tribes that practice human teeth sharpening in the Prehistoric and Islamic populations of Indonesia.
In the Prehistoric Population from Java, Bali, Sumba, and Flores, dental modifications primarily occurred in canines and incisors but not all of the modifications were for survival. The extraction method practiced by the Flores was for beauty purposes.
Human teeth sharpening also continued to occur during the 17th century but this was mostly practiced by those in nobility or those with social prominence. Skeletal remains in the area show that dental filing occurred
In modern times tooth sharpening is usually aesthetic in nature as an extreme form of body modification.
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