Author Archives: gmatthews

Abstract – The Practice of Tooth Darkening in Southeastern Asia and the Pacific

Though it is common practice in the western hemisphere to cosmetically whiten teeth, another aesthetic often preferred in Southeastern Asia and the Pacific islands is to darken the teeth. Tooth darkening dates back nearly 3,000 years, and has not only been  practiced as a cosmetic enhancement, but it  also serves as a symbol of the wearer’s spirituality. The primary method of darkening the teeth involves the chewing of a leaf-nut mixture, known as trau-cau. Continued chewing of trau-cau stains the teeth, resulting in the desired blackening effect. Another method of darkening the teeth is to paint the teeth with black lacquer, known in Japan as Ohaguro. Ohaguro has since been banned in Japan, but it is still practiced in areas of Southeast Asia as an alternative to traditional trau-cau chewing.