Physiognomy and teeth: an ethnographic study among young and middle-aged Hong Kong adults

Br Dent J. 2002 May 11;192(9):522-5. doi: 10.1038/sj.bdj.4801417.


Objectives: To determine knowledge and beliefs about traditional physiognomy (judging an individual's character from their facial appearance) concerning teeth among young (17-26) and middle-aged (35-44) Hong Kong adults.

Methods: In a cross sectional ethnographical telephone survey, 400 adults were interviewed about 16 traditional physiognomy concerning teeth (in consultation with a Feng Shui specialist).

Results: Most completed the interview (93%, 373). Over half the study group (63%, 234) claimed they had heard of aspects of physiognomy concerning teeth, and a quarter (24%, 88) believed in such ideologies. Variations in knowledge and beliefs were apparent among people of different age (P < 0.01), gender (P < 0.05), educational attainment (P < 0.01), economic status (P < 0.01), place of birth (P < 0.01) and religion (P < 0.01). Their knowledge and belief in aspects of physiognomy concerning teeth was also associated with reported use of dental services (P < 0.01).

Conclusion: Among young and middle-aged adults in Hong Kong, knowledge and beliefs concerning traditional physiognomy regarding teeth is strong, and socio-demographic variations exist in these perceptions. These findings have implications for all those involved in the delivery of dental care in multicultural societies and in raising cultural awareness about traditional health beliefs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Attitude to Health
  • Character
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Dental Care
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Hong Kong / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physiognomy*
  • Religion
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Class
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Tooth / anatomy & histology*