Toothless Dreams: One Image, Many Meanings

From Understanding Dreams Blog with Psychology Today

Ever wonder why you dream that your teeth are falling out?

KEY POINTS

  • It is common to dream about the image of teeth falling out.
  • Three dreamers who experienced this image had completely different situations happening in their lives.
  • The situations that trigger any dream are specific to the dreamer’s waking situation and relation to the metaphor. 

Some systems of dream interpretation assert that this common image has an invariable meaning, that it is about loss, important life changes, anxiety, and jealousy. However, the image of teeth falling out, like all dream images, takes its meaning from the dreamer’s personal history and associations, and the specific situation they are discussing with themselves in the conversation that is the dream.

Here are a few examples that illustrate how dreams with a common theme can have different meanings based on each dreamer’s definition of that common image.

The Dreams

Jackson: “I had the craziest dream this morning. I was with family and all of a sudden, I was playing with my tooth with my tongue. It felt looser than normal, so I tried to take it out on my own accord, and I pulled it out with my family around me. As soon as I did, it uncovered something, and they were all disgusted because there was a bug under my tooth.”

Cheryl: “I was helping a little girl pull out a loose tooth but, in the dream, as I pulled the one tooth out, all the others fell with it!”

Harold: “For weeks now, I keep dreaming my teeth are falling out.”

The Conversations

Jackson: Considering the symbol of the bug under the tooth, I asked Jackson, “Have you had any situation recently where something is rattling around in your mind and you want to get it out?”

He answered, “I recently decided to break up with my girlfriend. There are things I haven’t been telling her about. I haven’t been honest with her. I’ve been eating it up a bit.”

I put forth a possibility for Jackson to consider. “If I had a dream like yours, my dream would be there to encourage me to get out in the open what’s bugging me. Literally.”

He responded, “It is confusing to me that my family was there in the dream; it has nothing to do with them.”

I inquired, “Who was in the dream from your family?”

“My youngest brother and my eldest sister.”

“Tell me a few things about your brother and sister.”

Jackson explained, “My little brother is 8 years old, funny, outgoing and cute, and my sister is annoying, but very caring and emotional.”

Cheryl:

In my conversation with Cheryl, we focused on the dream’s plot. I said, “In the dream you are trying to do a good deed by offering help to the little girl. It seems like you got so much more than you bargained for. Is there some recent waking life situation that tells a similar story?”

Cheryl connected. “My mom is dying. Her friends are calling to check in for news and honestly, I have been feeling overwhelmed. I decided to just give a small tidbit of information hoping to leave people satisfied, but so far, once I give out even a small piece of information it serves only as a beginning to a barrage of further questioning.”

Harold:

When Harold and I discussed his dreams, I moved right to the symbol and inquired, “How would you describe teeth falling out to a child who is unfamiliar with this event?”

Harold responded, “Your teeth falling out is inevitable and it happens to all of us when we are about 6 or 7 years old. It is an event we have no control over.”

I asked, “Do you have any situation or ‘event’ in your life that you feel is inevitable and out of your control?”

Harold sadly responded, “I made no connection to dreaming about my teeth, but the answer is now obvious. My wife informed me a few days ago she is filing for divorce. Honestly, I don’t even get that her announcement surprised me so. Now that I think about it, there were so many signs. I shouldn’t be so surprised.”

What We Can Learn

Each of these dreamers used the image of teeth falling out to tell themselves something about their own feelings, and to present behaviors and solutions for their situation.

To Jackson, I offered, “Your siblings in the dream point you towards different ways of handling your situation. On one side, at eight, your youngest brother represents the childish aspect of your personality. In not coming out with the truth to your girlfriend, it’s fair to say you’ve been behaving like a child, as he would.

On the other side, your eldest sister is caring and emotional. You will want to adopt her personality traits when you go to deliver this difficult message to your girlfriend.”

Where Jackson’s dream was about holding back information, Cheryl’s dream reflects her giving too much information “out.” Cheryl’s dream reminds her to take more care of herself during this difficult time. Her job is to care for her sick mom and herself, not to constantly respond to her mother’s friends.

Harold used the metaphor of teeth falling out as a reflection of the inevitable. His dream was preparing him for the eventuality of his wife leaving their marriage, a situation Harold was trying desperately to avoid but needed to accept.

While the image of teeth falling out is common, the situations that trigger any dream are very specific to the dreamer’s waking situation and relation to the metaphor. The meaning of an image always comes back to the individual’s perception, based on their unique life experience, and offers a wonderful way to appreciate our differences.

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