– A common, but peculiar, saying for sure!
We’re glad that you’ve stopped in to visit our Dakota Dental Apple Valley Dentistry blog! Thanks too, for submitting your questions within our “Mouth Myth” or “Tooth Truth” series where our myth-bustin’ Apple Valley dentists, Dr. Shelley and Dr. Bennett, are investigating these old sayings, wives’ tales or commonly held beliefs about teeth, mouths and oral health.
The question we’re busting within this blog post is …
“How did the old saying, ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’ originate?
I’ve heard that it has to do with history’s Trojan Horse. Is this true?”
It is a “Mouth Myth” that this old saying has anything to do with the Trojan Horse.
This old saying has been traced back to the writings of St. Jerome, one of the Latin Fathers of the fourth century, who then labeled it a common proverb. This expression is found within French, Italian, Spanish, and other languages of Europe. The saying references the very poor manners displayed by someone who receives a gift and then examines it for flaws.
Back in the day when this phrase originated, it was not uncommon to receive a horse as a gift and the age/health of a horse can be determined by looking at its teeth. The horse might look young and frisky, but the number or condition of its teeth might predict a glue bottle in its near future!
A horse’s incisors, premolars and molars, once fully developed, continue to erupt as the grinding surface is worn down by chewing. A young adult horse will have teeth that are 4.5-5 inches long, but the majority of the tooth remains below the gum line in the dental socket. The rest of the tooth will slowly emerge from the jaw, erupting about 1/8″ each year, as the horse ages. When the animal reaches old age, the crowns of the teeth are very short and the teeth are often lost altogether.
You may be surprised to find out that human teeth shorten with age as well! As we use our teeth to macerate food, clench, grind and even speak, we wear down the biting edges. Older folks have flat, short front teeth, while young kids have long “scalloped” edges on their front teeth. When Dr. Shelley and Dr. Bennett place crowns, they can change a person’s apparent age by making the anterior crowns slightly longer than their teeth were.
Our smile can definitely age our appearance significantly. People’s teeth also become more discolored and their gums tend to recede as they grow older. Flossing regularly and visiting your Dakota Dental Apple Valley Dental Clinic for general dental services, professional teeth whitening and cosmetic dentistry procedures will conceal any clues as to your age and is truly a “gift” worth considering!
We’ll keep bustin’ em (those old sayings, wives’ tales or commonly held beliefs about teeth, and oral health) as long as you keep submitting em! Submit your question to Dakota Dental Apple Valley Dental Clinic at: https://dakotadental.com/ask-questions/ and watch this blog where we’ll let you know if it’s a Tooth Truth or a Mouth Myth.
Don’t forget, everyone who submits a myth or question for Dakota Dental Apple Valley dentistry to bust will be entered into a drawing to win a free gift – and we know that you’d never, “look a gift horse in the mouth!”