Teeth play an important role throughout the Bible—both literally and symbolically. As Christians, studying what God’s Word says about teeth can provide valuable insight into His design for our mouths and spiritual truths for our lives. In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll explore the significance of teeth in the Old and New Testaments. Get ready to sink your spiritual teeth into the meaning behind our pearly whites!
You likely don’t give much thought to your teeth on a daily basis—as long as they’re healthy, you go about life chewing, talking, and smiling without issue. But God designed our teeth with great care and purpose. The Bible has a lot to say about teeth, from laws regarding injury to them to poetic mentions of their whiteness. Let’s look at some key references to teeth in the Word and what they reveal about God’s design and desire for our lives.
- Teeth represent vitality and youth in Scripture
- God established laws to protect people’s teeth in the Old Testament
- Jesus mentions gnashing teeth as a picture of despair and anguish
- Clenched teeth illustrate rage and determination in the Bible
- Biblical poetry uses shining, perfect teeth as a metaphor for desirability
- The care and health of our teeth impacts our testimony and ability to serve God
- Extracted teeth symbolize conquering sin through the power of Christ
Now, let’s explore each of these concepts in depth!
Teeth Represent Vitality and Youth
Throughout Scripture, teeth are associated with vigor, strength, and youthfulness. Back in biblical times, people’s teeth naturally deteriorated faster due to lack of dental care and tooth decay from substances like honey. So if someone retained a full set of strong, white teeth into old age, it was truly a feat—and a sign of long life and vitality.
For example, in Deuteronomy 34, God allows Moses to live to 120 years old. The passage notes, “his eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished.” This reference to Moses’ undiminished eyesight and energy likely includes the health of his teeth. God sustained Moses’ vitality into advanced age, keeping his pearly whites intact.
We also find the connection between teeth and youth in 1 Samuel 17. When introducing David as the one who will battle Goliath, Scripture notes, “Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah, whose name was Jesse, and who had eight sons. And the man was old, advanced in years, in the days of Saul.” But in contrast to aged Jesse, David is “a youth, ruddy and good-looking.” The Hebrew emphasizes David’s energetic vitality—including a full set of healthy teeth!
So in the Bible, strong teeth represent vigor and youthfulness, clear signs of God’s blessing and provision. As you brush your pearly whites today, thank God for sustaining your dental health and pray for continued strength and energy to serve Him.
God’s Laws Protected People’s Teeth
In the Law of Moses, God established specific regulations to protect people’s teeth from harm. Exodus 21:24 introduces the well-known “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” principle of retributive justice. If someone knocked out their neighbor’s tooth, the penalty was to have their own tooth knocked out in return.
While this may sound extreme to our modern sensibilities, it ensured people thought twice before assaulting and injuring each other. Knocking out someone’s tooth back then was no small matter—it could cause severe pain, infection, tooth loss, and chewing issues. So this law served as a stern warning against harming others’ dental health.
We also find instructions from God to protect people’s teeth indirectly. Exodus 21:26-27 stipulates that if a master strikes their male or female slave and knocks out their tooth, that slave must be set free. This prevented ruthless masters from abusing slaves and damaging their teeth with impunity.
Additionally, Leviticus 24:19-20 states that if someone injured their neighbor, they received the exact same injury in return: “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” And Deuteronomy 19:21 echoes this law that injury should be directly reciprocated.
While these repayment laws seem extreme by today’s standards, they underscore how seriously God took protecting His people’s teeth and overall welfare. By instituting clear consequences for harming others’ dental health, He ensured teeth received due care and consideration.
Jesus Mentions Gnashing Teeth to Illustrate Despair
When teaching about the kingdom of heaven, Jesus mentioned gnashing or grinding of teeth several times to illustrate the anguish of those cast into outer darkness:
“The sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12 NKJV)
“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name…?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” (Matthew 7:22-23 NKJV)
“Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:30 NKJV)
Jesus’ picture of gnashing teeth conveys utter anguish, despair, and anger. Those sentenced to hell realize their eternal loss and grind their teeth in fury and hopelessness. This graphic image gives us a sobering glimpse of the agony awaiting unrepentant sinners.
Clearly, Jesus selected gnashing of teeth to vividly illustrate the raw human emotion of bitterly regretting one’s sins when it’s too late. Let this motivate us to cling to Him now as Savior, crying out in repentance and faith to be rescued from outer darkness.
Clenched Teeth Illustrate Rage and Determination
In contrast to gnashing teeth in anguish, we also find instances of clenched teeth showing anger and determination. For example, Job 16:9 says, “He tears me in his wrath, and hates me; he gnashes at me with his teeth; my adversary sharpens his gaze on me.” Here Job describes God’s (seemingly) fierce wrath through gnashed teeth.
Another example is Psalm 112:10: “The wicked will see it and be grieved; he will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked shall perish.” This pictures someone grinding their teeth in impotent fury and grief as the righteous prevail.
Acts 7 contains a clear portrait of clenched teeth depicting rage. As Stephen rebukes the Sanhedrin and they cover their ears, “they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him.” Luke adds, “And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul,” who would become Paul. We can imagine Saul’s teeth tightly clenched in anger as he watched Stephen’s stoning.
So in Scripture, gnashing or grinding teeth can illustrate intense fury and determination—sometimes righteous, sometimes unrighteous. Consider times when you’ve clenched your teeth in anger or gritted them with resolve. Our teeth and mouths mirror strong emotions. May we use them wisely for God’s purposes.
Biblical Poetry Uses Shining Teeth as a Metaphor for Desirability
Throughout Scripture’s poetic passages, bright white teeth appear as a metaphor for beauty, health, and desirability. The Song of Solomon is a key example: “Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes which have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and none is barren among them.” (Song 4:2 NKJV).
This praise song celebrates the bride’s perfect teeth and compares them to healthy ewes. It implies her teeth are white, evenly spaced, flawless—worthy of admiration.
Similarly, Song 6:6 declares, “Your teeth are like a flock of sheep which go up from the washing; every one bears twins, and there is not one barren among them.” Again, the bride’s radiant, symmetrical teeth are praised.
In Acts 20:11, “when he had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed,” Paul talks all night with the believers at Troas before leaving. The phrase “broken bread and eaten” likely means Paul enjoyed a meal there. Eating a full supper and talking for hours required good dental health and endurance.
So the Bible uses shining teeth as poetic imagery for blessing, health, strength, and attractiveness. May we praise God for the gift of teeth and ask Him to make our smiles radiant for His glory.
The Care and Health of Our Teeth Impacts Our Testimony
As modern believers, the state of our dental health can impact our lives and Christian testimony in ways we may not consider. Here are some examples:
- Poor dental care can lower our effectiveness for God. Tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss can sap our energy and vitality. This makes it hard to focus during prayer and Bible study or fully exert ourselves in ministry.
- Dental issues can become distracting. Toothaches, dental surgeries, and trips to the dentist all draw time, attention, and money away from God’s work. They can discourage and frustrate us from wholeheartedly pursuing Kingdom priorities.
- Missing or damaged teeth give a bad impression. In a culture obsessed with image and appearance, missing teeth or smile gaps may cause others to dismiss our witness. This is unfortunate but true. We must steward our dental health to avoid this stumbling block.
- A bright, joyful smile attracts people to Christ. As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Taking excellent care of our teeth leads to vibrant, radiant smiles that reflect God’s love and the joy of the Lord. What a winsome witness!
So the Bible doesn’t directly tell us to floss and brush every day. But stewarding our dental health enables us to serve God with wholeness and avoid distraction. Let’s honor Him with strong teeth and smiles that draw people to the Son!
Extracted Teeth Symbolize Conquering Sin Through Christ
Finally, the Bible uses extracted or falling out teeth as a symbol for overcoming sin in our lives. For instance, Deuteronomy 32:24 warns that “the teeth of beasts I will send upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.” Here, “beasts” represents enemy nations who attacked Israel when they strayed from God. Their teeth inflict harm like poisonous serpent fangs.
In Daniel 7:7 and Revelation 13:2, beasts symbolize worldly kingdoms opposing God’s reign. Their “great iron teeth” depict how they fiercely devour and destroy. But Daniel 7:25 foretells how the saints will ultimately possess the kingdom by divine judgment.
So when we extract teeth—especially molars used for chewing food—it can picture extracting and breaking sin’s hold through repentance and the power of Christ. Just as a dentist pulls a painful rotten tooth, Jesus can rip the deeply rooted sins from our hearts, bringing spiritual healing and wholeness. What an encouragement to turn to Him for forgiveness and deliverance!
Beloved, as we tend our teeth each day, let’s apply these biblical insights. May our physical dental care spur us to seek the Lord’s spiritual cleansing and renewal in our hearts—the true source of a radiant, joyful smile that glorifies Him.
What unexpected gems we uncover when digging into Scripture about teeth! From laws in the Torah to the Psalms’ poetic imagery, teeth weave throughout the Bible—revealing God’s design, wisdom, and care for our mouths. Jesus selected gnashing teeth to dramatically illustrate despair and darkness. Extracted teeth picture removing sin’s grip from our lives. May these insights inspire us to value our teeth and smile as gifts from our Creator. Let’s bless others by using them for God’s redemptive purposes.
As you brush and floss today, praise the Lord for the gift of teeth. Thank Him that you can enjoy eating, speaking clearly, smiling, and adding beauty to His world. Ask God to continue protecting and strengthening your mouth, teeth, and gums. Renew your commitment to steward your dental health to exalt Christ.
And remember beloved, when trials come and you feel overwhelmed, don’t grit your teeth in anger and worry. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of your faith. Say to Him in prayer, “Your Word promises ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). I believe You are greater than this trial. Empower me to shine for You like polished white teeth, Lord. Use my mouth to spread Your hope, truth, and love. Fill my heart with praise!”
God bless you, beloved child of the King. Go in joy and confidence with the Lord of light beaming through your smile today!