VietnamCulture and HistoryThe Beauty Trend behind Black Teeth in Vietnam

The Beauty Trend behind Black Teeth in Vietnam

Black teeth in Vietnam are a strange yet familiar tradition that has only fallen into obscurity since the late 20th century. Female commoners and royals alike dye their teeth black. Nowadays, this trend can only be spotted among females from ethnic tribes or women from the oldest generations.

Cultural Reasons Behind Black Teeth in Vietnam

It is assumed that black teeth resulted from long periods of chewing betel nuts (a popular snack in the old days). However, shiny black teeth achieved through chemical dyes differ from the reddish stain of the betel-chewing teeth.

the beauty trend behind black teeth in vietnam betel

This custom originated from the Vietnamese spiritual belief that long white teeth belonged to ghosts, animals, and savages. Consequently, black teeth in Vietnam became a practice to protect humans from supernatural evil forces.

Gradually, black teeth dyeing became a rite of passage for young girls entering adulthood, indicating that she was ready for marriage.

Procedures for Dyeing Black Teeth in Vietnam

Black teeth were the fashion, and fashion always has a price. To be considered “a proper lady” who has black teeth, girls had to undergo pain. Three days prior to the ritual, their mouths were sanitized with charcoal powder, salt, and lime. The process was meant to erode the natural enamel of the teeth so that the ink could seep in, so the girls’ mouths would get very swollen and sore.

The dying process involved natural black dyes like bot canh kien (shellac) and phen den (potato plant). The concoction was applied to teeth every day for 7-10 days, and girls had to refrain from consuming solid and hot foods as they would temper with the dye. After the teeth were stained, a blackening blend of coconut shells and coal was used to create a perfect black finish.

To maintain their teeth’s blackness, women chewed betel regularly and had their teeth repainted occasionally.

Conclusion on Black Teeth in Vietnam

In the 1900s, foreign influences from France and the Western world discouraged the practice of black teeth in Vietnam and gradually replaced them with gleaming white teeth images. Efforts to revive this treatment have been unpromising, as the original materials for the dye are now scarce. Follow our blog to read more about traditional and modern Vietnamese cultures!

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