My teeth feel like they are going to come out, and I feel them and I start to pull them out. I feel really upset about this because I’m afraid it’s going to look really bad. I then look in the mirror and I say to myself, well, it’s not that bad; but they still keep coming.

And the really weird thing is that I’m at a party and the mirror is in the bathroom. And that’s the end.

–angela, age 36, married, philadelphia, PA

Hi Angela,

Thanks for sending in such a classic example of a “teeth falling out” dream. The good news is that there’s no need to make a dentist’s appointment. Your teeth most likely are very healthy and are in no danger of actually falling out. The bad news? Oh heck! You’re growing older — just like the rest of us!

Dreams of teeth falling out are universally associated with concerns about appearance. The dreams may seem puzzling at first, but next time you look in the mirror, consider how important your teeth are in your presentation to others. The first thing another person sees when they meet us is our smile.

Your dream contains all the clues we need to solve its puzzle. Not only are you looking in a mirror (afraid that you are going to look bad) but you are doing it in a public setting. You’re at a party! Why does the dream choose this seemingly bizarre context for your concerns? It’s easy! When you’re at a party, appearances are at a premium.

Appearance issues evolve with age. When we are teens, teeth falling out dreams may reflect concerns about fitting in with a group, or knowing the right thing to say in a certain situation — in addition to physical appearance issues. As we grow older, the dreams often reflect concerns about attractiveness. They are especially common after we suffer setbacks in relationships such as breakups or divorce. As we grow older still, soon we are concerned with the effects of age: wrinkles, gray hairs, sagging muscle tone and extra weight.

As you say in your dream, “it’s not that bad, but they still keep coming.” What is the symbolic meaning of “they?” Most likely it’s those extra years that keep adding up!

Next time you look in the mirror, be sure to give yourself a big smile — for being so smart, wise, and wonderful — in addition to being beautiful! 🙂

Charles McPhee is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a master’s in communication management from the University of Southern California. He received his board certification to perform polysomnographic testing for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders in 1992. McPhee is the former Director of the Sleep Apnea Patient Treatment Program at the Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Barbara, California; the former coordinator of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA , and the former coordinator of the sleep research laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD. Please visit his website for further information.