Q: What does it mean when you dream one of your front teeth falls out, you’re really upset about it, and everyone else dismisses it as no big deal?
A: It wasn’t long ago that we explored a tooth-falling-out dream here, but this one is quite different, and it’s also a great example of how some strange images are collectively shared in our unconscious ponderings. I’ll begin by saying that this dream doesn’t, in a world full of dream dictionaries, mean anything clear-cut or distinct. I can’t, therefore, offer you a pat, one line answer. While the images may be in some ways shared among many of us, the really important stuff that the dream is reflecting, as part of your internal processing, is unique to you. You can know what it means intellectually, but it’s not until you engage it that it will provide much value to you.In seeking to understand this dream, I needed to know more about it. I asked you for some more details and you responded:
It was my front right tooth [that was falling out] and it was much smaller than my teeth actually are. It also came out clean with no blood and I kept trying to push it back in there because I really didn’t want to lose it. Finally, the tooth came out and the gap where it used to be closed up a little. Then another person in the dream said ‘don’t worry, the gap will close up and you won’t even notice it’s gone.’
These details that you offered are wonderful. Importantly, the tooth was much smaller than the rest, which immediately evokes the image of childhood teeth, which, as distinct from adult teeth, are lost naturally and can be let go of without fear. Also, very importantly, it came out easily and without blood, suggesting that there is no wound in its absence. Finally, your inclination was to keep the tooth in place (of course, you were worried about losing it!), but when the tooth finally fell-out, the space where it had been began to close-up. Someone told you “don’t worry… you won’t even notice it’s gone.”
Whew! These details are so important. I shared with you my sense that this dream is reflecting some big anxiety that you’re experiencing these days, but it is also providing you with quite of bit of reassurance, if you’re able to see it. The unconscious mind can be privy to a great deal of insight and information that we have not yet been able to consciously take-in. In our continued dialogue, you shared with me that you have moved recently, and that many relationships have shifted as well. You have, in fact, endured loss, and in response to the fear and anxiety around the changes, you may be trying to keep things just as they are. It seems it’s time to let the changes happen, trust, and let go of the fight. Change and loss rarely feel good, but these changes you’re experiencing are part of a natural course of events and, while shocking, are part of your natural growth. Remember to take some deep breaths and trust the process you’re currently in. You may not understand how, but the gaps you see now will close and soon, you will no longer notice what you’ve lost.
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Satya is a psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and work with individuals in their late teens, 20s and 30s. www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com
Q: I’ve been having a recurring dream in which I discover that my teeth are falling-out (I’ve heard this is a common one). In the dream, I am doing some mundane task when all of a sudden I reach into my mouth and pull-out one of my teeth. Subsequently, I realize that numerous teeth are loose. Before I know it, I have a handful of teeth in my hand. I am consumed with a feeling of panic.
A: Yup, you’re absolutely right, this is a very common dream (and so unpleasant!). I would even venture to say that this may be the most common dream that people share with other people after having it, it’s just so weird!
First, let’s review that recurring dreams show-up when things are sort of stuck, when there’s an issue or emotion that is working its way through our systems and can’t quite get resolved. The easiest way to get recurring dreams to go away (should you want to be rid of one) is to write the dream down and talk it through with someone who can help you objectively explore it. What you’re looking for is the emotion in the images, that is, it’s not an entirely intellectual process. For instance, you know you feel panic in this dream, but what kind? What does it remind you of? What are the specific fears wrapped-up in it? The emotion will have to find its way out of your system and be felt. Unfortunately, no impersonal dream interpretation can accomplish this task fully without your participation. The “aha!” moments are just too personal, too particular, and have to be experienced to be transformative.
But let’s see if we can get a head-start on this process! Teeth. Teeth are the very beginning of the digestion process, they break-down food before it enters our stomach so that the nutrients can be better integrated into our systems. Symbolically, they can point to the beginning of a similar process of psychic digestion, trying to process information and events that enter our awareness. If they’re falling out, it may suggest that we’re struggling to integrate something, perhaps as a result of being overwhelmed by it. Importantly, teeth also fall-out naturally at only a couple of stages of life: early childhood when we are gaining our adult teeth, and in old age. We’ve got bare gums when we’re babies and often when we’re old.
The shared experience between babies and the elderly is one of a lack of autonomy, a feeling of sort of being swept along by your own physical needs and the requirements of the outer world; for both stages in life, personal choice and personal desire are something of a luxury. You say you’re regularly doing some mundane task in this dream, which suggests to me a feeling of monotony and boredom in your life. I venture to say that for you, this dream is pointing to a feeling of persistent boredom and a loss of autonomy in your life, a feeling of being infantilized (by work or school?), and then panicked about how to reverse that experience and regain a sense of adulthood and control. My guess is that your panic in this dream involves an anticipatory feeling of having to face the world now. These teeth-falling-out dreams may be a version of the naked-in-public dreams: pure panic, terror, and a sense of desperation — “how am I going to get out of this situation and make this go away?”
So, I’m terribly curious about the nuances of your emotions when you discover that you’re losing teeth. I wonder about that panic. Perhaps the notions of not being in control of your day-to-day existence, of having to face the world before you’re calm and collected (a bit naked), resonates. What more is in there? These images may point to themes that others experience too, but the nuances are yours alone. What are the very specific fears and contemplations about the future, unique only to you, that arise when you look in your hand and see a handful of teeth? What do those feelings remind you of from your waking life?
Have you had a dream like this? Leave a comment and share!
Satya is a psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in Jungian psychology and the years of Quarter-Life. www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com