True Blood: A Dental Anatomy Complaint

by on Aug.13, 2009, under television

My father-in-law is a dentist, and my younger sister-in-law has assisted him and considered a dental career for herself. She’s also an avid SF reader and watcher. A big Buffy fan, she pays close attention to vampires.

“You know what I don’t like about the vampires on True Blood? Their fangs are in the wrong place. They should be canines, not incisors,” she told me.

By definition, fangs in mammals are canine teeth. You’ve seen ’em. Especially in canines.

wolf

They’re only slightly pointy in humans…

ama_preventive_oralhealth_lev20_theteeth_01…unless you’re a vampire. If you doubt it, just browse these realistic vampire fangs. Go on. They’re not fooling. Those are some sharp canines. (And the little animated goth store assistant is worth clicking over for.)

But the True Blood vampires have something else going on. Something different. Something never before seen:

trueblood1

But wait, you say: those look like kitty fangs!

cat_yawning_canine_teeth

Indeed, they do. And maybe that’s what inspired Alan Ball to move his vamps’ pointies one maxillary location inward. However:

It’s very common for a cat’s eight tiny incisors to fall out.  Frequently, they do this on their own over time without much of a problem, and many cats are missing most of their incisors by the time they are just 5 years old.

The cat excuse won’t fly. Look at the vamp from the True Blood pilot teaser: he’s clearly not missing his incisors. They’re his fangs.

And thus we strike a blow in favor of grounding SF in accurate dental anatomy.

(Looks like s-i-l and I are not the first to gripe.)

UPDATE: We needed to do more research. Yes, fangs in mammals are typically canine teeth, with the notable exception of the vampire bat:

Needless to say, vampires are anatomically specialized. […]  Their upper incisors and canines are large and projecting, and both Common and White-winged vampires only have one pair of upper incisors (the Hairy-legged vampire has two pairs) [pic of teeth from here]. These teeth lack enamel and are shear-like with sharp cutting edges; they appear to be kept sharp by constant contact with the smaller lower incisors and canines.

All hail the Desmodontines! Since Kaitlyn was making an evolutionary argument, it’s a point in her favor  that canine-fanged apes are our closer cousins that incisor-fanged bats. But given that existing vampire mammals use their incisors, I have to withdraw my complaint. You win this round, Alan Ball.

Also, in comments, Jake D makes a good point about the stage value of incisor fangs.

LATE UPDATE: If you found your way here via search, please check out some related fanged delights.

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35 Comments for this entry

  • Joshua Malbin

    I watched about, oh, half of the pilot episode before I decided the writing and acting were both too dumb to waste my time on. Plus those fangs do look completely ridiculous. Do I need to give it another chance?

  • Kaitlyn

    I am the sister-in-law mentioned above.
    I love that one night I talk about something and the next day my family writes about it. It makes me feel like people are listening to all the random stuff I think up <3.

  • Kaitlyn

    I could not watch a show that did not take evolution into account when creating vampire fangs. (though the butchering of scientific theories does not stop me from reading X-men

  • Jake D

    I’m guessing Al opted for a cinematic cheat over anatomical correctness. The fanged star behind this gem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9SzP4CUdNE&fmt=18, told me that you just couldn’t get a good shot of the fangs when they were on the incisors. Josh K, you might have been there for that conversation. I think Jake admitted that the fangs looked ridiculous, which they kinda do, but at least they’re not upstaged by the lips.

  • Heather Joy

    This issue of vampire dental evolution is a tricky one, since vampires are immortal and turn to dust if killed. So it’s kinda hard to do a real evolutionary study of dental remains. Just sayin.

  • Josh K-sky

    Jake (and Jake) make a good point. And that video’s still funny.

  • Joshua Malbin

    I’m sorry, but if they were supposed to be like vampire bats they should have big canines and incisors both. Having only big incisors makes them look like mildly nasty beavers.

  • Josh K-sky

    I really hope that we get incoming hits from the search string “mildly nasty beavers”.

  • jms

    You win this round, Alan Ball.

    NO! Those pointy lateral incisors look ridiculous. And I remain unconvinced by the vampire bat argument — the bat’s lateral incisors are spaced so far apart that they are, basically, where the eyeteeth would be in a proportionally spaced human jaw. Stand firm — you and Kaitlyn are righter than Alan Ball!

    Also, I haven’t been watching the show lately, but I was slightly off-put by the revelation that vampires cry blood. Why would that be? Is that because their bodily fluids are all replaced with blood? Or just their tear ducts? If the former, if I were Sukey I would totally puke, oh my god, just think about it. If the latter, then wouldn’t vampire eyes always be slightly red, as they’d be constantly lubricated by a thin film of blood?

  • Kaitlyn

    Crying blood is not unique to this show but it raises a lot of questions about the anatomy of vampires. Like Josh, I imagine that if their tears were blood then their eyes would always be bloodshot. Also, if all of their bodily fluids were made of blood then wouldn’t they sweat and spit blood too? Now there’s a gross thought!

  • momo

    I just wanted to point out that True Blood wasn’t the first to do the lateral incisor fangs. They were used in The Lost Boys too. http://media.monstersandcritics.com/articles/1368390/article_images/kiefer.jpg
    Also, people always use that image for how stupid True Blood fangs look, but that particular vampire was just some random guy they showed in the first like… 30 seconds of the show, so I would imagine they didn’t waste a lot of time making them look perfect in a still shot. The main characters fangs always look better anyways. Even when they do have weird placement. http://fangbangers.com/gallery/albums/s2-episode-stills/season-2-peek-81-b.jpg

  • Cecilie

    I was just about to start watching True Blood, and i was really looking forward to it!! Cause there is just something about Vampires that makes me tick. But when I saw the preview (I had only been told about the series before) I was SO disappointed! They dont look like vampires at all – not with those ridicules fangs…. =( Which means I wont be bothered to see the serie…

  • Connie

    The placement of the fangs, I don’t think really mattered, just because everything else was pretty true to the ‘original’ vampire image. (besides the crying blood which i thought was odd but still pretty sweet.) They sort of gave justice to vampires and such. Other than that dreaded twilight series (hate it sooo much) But other than that True Blood and Buffy (series) have the most accurate vamps, (the not being able to go into a home without an invitation, or ACTUALLY burning in the sun) but yeah..

  • sabrina

    that’s funny I was searching the net whether anybody else had come up with the true-blood fangs being in the wrong place.. I think that’s what makes the vampires look a bit stupid when they have their fangs out.. I’d prefer the canines as fangs, as they are in most vampire movies..after all it would be much more likely for vampires to have fang-canines. look at some people, they have quite pointed canines, naturally.
    besides that I rather like trueblood..

  • Robin

    I just started watching the series, and luckily the fangs are what bother me most about the show. I admit I’m not disliking the premise, though I can see it getting old real fast.

    But yes, the fang placement bothers me to no end! It’s not even about how stupid they look (well, it is) but from a usability standpoint I don’t see how the vampire could suck blood when his fangs are his incisors. Go on, try it! For one to suck something, one’s lips would have to wrap around the fangsand that is downright difficult to do with incisors as fangs fangs.

    I still love Buffy more.

  • DMoore

    The vampires in true blood have their fangs on their lateral incisors because the creator and designer of the show felt that to have the fangs on the canines would make it harder for a vampire to bite a human since the canine teeth are set alittle bit back from the front of the mouth, so by moving their fangs there they would be able to get more efficient penetration for feeding. (as for the retracting and fang design they were modeled after a snake’s fangs specifically a rattlesnake. In fact if you watch the fangs pop out in the show and pay really close attention then you will see that the human looking lateral incisor actually flips back into the gums revealing the snakelike fangs.)

  • Greg Mallek

    I don’t think Alan Ball wins at all! If you look closely at the vampire bat pic, it indeed does have sharp CENTRAL incisors (its only incisors, according to the link), but the really long, lateral teeth are its CANINES! Put the vamp teeth where they belong!

  • Lake Trout

    I think the lateral incisor fangs, though not completely original, provide a unique twist.

    Also…on a show where such emphasis is placed on frequent extension and retraction of fangs for dramatic affect and to show emotion – having the fangs more up-front seems like it would provide more expression flexibility for the actors.

    The actor does not have to change his expression or pre-cater his expression to fang extension just so the camera can easily see them.

  • Lake Trout

    Also…from watching the show, I’ve noticed that fangs vary in size from vampire to vampire. And from what I’ve noticed this size and nature of fangs is related to the vampire’s relative age and experience.

    It is much easier to see the fang in its entirety (down to the gum line) when they are on the incisors like they are.

    I’d like to think of the fangs (at least in this series) as more of a symbol and device of expression than as a functional tool for feeding…after all, there are many instances in the show where humans, with NO fangs, have easily penetrated a vampire’s skin to feed and have had no problem.

    So if the flaw is the functional aspect of the fangs…I think the flaw lies deeper than just the vampire’s effectiveness in feeding as a result of their fang placement.

  • Gabrielle

    Hey, I’m a dental assistant also and I LOVE True Blood. At first I also thought that the fangs were in the wrong place and should be the canines instead of the laterals. But if you think about it logically, the canines are used for tearing and the laterals for puncturing. Therefore it makes sense that vampires would have fangs on the laterals since their purpose is to puncture the skin and draw blood, rather than tearing at meat like a wolf or a cat. This also explains the vampire bat.

    Also, I just made my own custom fitting fangs for Halloween with dental materials for my laterals! 🙂

  • boogie

    as i thought more and more about it, i sort of dawned on me— as much as i absolutely ABHOR the fang placement, it sort of makes sense.

    canines are associated with— canine species, (i.e. wolves, dogs). there is a strong and historical hatred between vampires and wolves. i think the theory behind the fang placement was to differentiate between vampires and wolves/dogs.

    why would they share dental anatomy if they are historical enemies, it would somehow link the two?

    i dunno. pure speculation.

  • Alicia

    The fangs were modeled after those of a snake. I would also like to point out that its a show about mythical creatures, and a telepathic waitress, and your worried about where the “proper” place for the fangs…

  • Saoirse

    While I don’t know if Charlene Harris / Alan Ball were going for this idea specifically, in their defense, there IS a type of vampire that has fangs at the lateral insisor rather than the canine,Homo Wampyrus Nosferatu, of course, unlike the True Blood vamps, Nosferatu are more disfigured and twisted from the violent way they turn from human to vamp. But still, an example of vampire that do NOT fit the “the canine teeth MUST be the fangs of the vampire” bill.

  • Gene

    The fangs are in the wrong place! Plain and simple… they were moved there for visual effect simplicity (like Lost Boys) and for no other reason. The bat arguments is BS because they would need huge incisors as well. The snake argument is also BS because the fangs on a snake are not incisors – they have many smaller teeth (2 rows of them in fact) where the incisors would be. http://www.seanthomas.net/oldsite/skulls.html

    The incisor fangs in True Blood are no different than 4 fingers on people or animals in most cartoons.

  • Tristan

    Oddly enough, I came across this posting while trying to perform research on the condition of my upper teeth. In my case, my upper canine teeth grew in the position where my lateral incisors should have been. I have no adult teeth where the canines should have been.

  • Bill Compton

    The lateral inscisor fang position in my opinion is better looking and more efficiently useful than canine fangs. As someone has already stated the creators of the show found this more efficient as well. Preferably I’d rather have lateral positioned fangs for puncturing and feeding, especially if they are retractable. I don’t understand the big deal with where they’re at when Twilight so called “vampires” don’t even have fangs and sparkle in the sun like fags. Don’t bash on Trueblood, which is obviously the most realistic vampire themed show on so far. As far as crying blood its supposed to symbolize more of the last remnant of humanity that still exists in them. And they don’t sweat so that argument is redundant. What does bother me is how Bill and Eric both have cut their hair since season one but their body’s are supposed to retain all features from the moment of death, so theoretically it should grow back as soon as it was cut. But get off the fang bashing its really not that crucial of a point to whether TB is a good show or not.

  • Andrew Harrison Taylor

    I AM OF scandanavian decent. I am of .01% of todays poupulation that has k9s in place of my Incisors and naturally straight teeth

  • Dope Fiend

    This is something that originally bothered me – let’s face it, that first vampire looks absolutely ridiculous and it was a terrible way to start the show. I wasn’t a fan of the fangs in The Lost Boys, either.
    But I got used to it, and other vamps in the show don’t make it look so bad. Whether it’s anatomically correct or not I can’t say, and neither can anyone because vampires are fictional. I was convinced the fangs should be on the canines for a long time, but when I really thought about it I’m not so sure.
    It might be easier to suck blood through incisor-holes, but then it also makes sense for canines to grow into fangs because they are already our sharpest teeth.
    I think it’s the rather pathetic sound of the fang extension and lack of other changes that bother me. I’m not asking for full Lost Boys/Buffy-style facial transformation, but the rapid descent of incisor fangs with that little clicking sound really annoys me, it just looks so fake.

  • de

    fangs are premolar, not canine, or any other..

  • Rannon

    so your point is that vampires can not have incisor fangs based purely upon scientific fact when the facts are that vampires cannot exist at all,therefore saying that their fangs are in the wrong place renders your argument barely shits and giggles worth

  • Dawn

    I love Vamp shows, Started to watch True blood and the minute I saw the teeth (fangs) I thought is the a comedy?? it looks like a joke, canceled recordings and changed the channel.

  • Tyler

    I think you need to give it another chance. I am on Season 4 now, and the acting for me is EXTREMELY realistic and the storyline is brilliant! Give it another try. You won’t regret it.

  • Taylor Morgan

    Ever heard of vomerine teeth, found in some reptiles and amphibians? That would be interesting, having fangs on the upper palate…Or maybe, the fangs are on the lower jaw, jabbing upward with a bulldog-like bite? There’s a lot more ways to do vampires, and the more it crosses into Uncanny Valley territory, the better.

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