Do Teeth Have a Gender?

Can you tell a person's gender just by looking at his or her teeth? Have you ever had a patient who thought their teeth were too "masculine" or "feminine"? The results from studies that compare male and female tooth sizes and shapes are conflicting, but at the end of the day it's all about fit and patient satisfaction.

Boy Teeth vs. Girl Teeth

Some morphometric studies suggest that there is a statistically significant size difference between particular male and female teeth—incisors tending to be the distinguishing tooth. In a 2009 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers compared the teeth of a group of female-to-male transsexuals to male and female participants. They reported the following:

"Significant differences between males and females were found in BL (buccolingual) measures of all maxillary teeth as well as mandibular lateral incisor and canine. Within the MD (mesiodistal) measures, the most distinguishing were maxillary and mandibular canines and the first molars."

As an aside, the study also concluded that the transsexual participants had tooth measurements that were in between the male and female measurements, which they claim suggests a "genetic basis of transsexualism."

Not Even Experts Can Tell

Yet other studies refute the difference or at the least claim that people (dental professionals and civilians) are able to consistently identify a person's gender based on analysis of teeth. In one such study, researchers at the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin's Centre for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery conducted a study in which both dental experts and non-professionals were shown 50 images of the anterior oral region of men and women aged between seven and 75; they were asked to identify the sex of the person's teeth in each image. The correct sex was identified in 50 percent of the images. The study concluded that not even experts can determine sex based on looking at one's teeth alone.

It's All About Fit

Like with so many things in dentistry, it all comes down to fitting the teeth to the person. Maybe a patient feels his teeth are too small for his face, and they way he expresses it is by saying his teeth look "feminine"—or too large and thus they look "masculine."

When treating people who are going through the process of gender reassignment, the look of their teeth or smile often comes up. Sometimes it's just a matter of addressing imperfections, but other times it's about fit. One cosmetic dentist in Southern California specializes in gender reassignment cases and puts it this way:

"If you are undergoing the process of gender reassignment, you'll want to consider how your smile plays into your overall confidence and sense of self. [We] can reshape your smile to fit your facial features."

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