Teeth and Rebirth

SillyBilly has had a permanent tooth erupting for the last few weeks. It was there, coming up quite shyly behind his slightly loose milk tooth, right in the bottom front. Today the dentist pulled that little shy milk tooth, plus the two next to it for good measure, to allow the permanent teeth to settle in nicely in their appointed spots.

We all know what a momentous occasion the loss of the baby teeth is. How big the child is, moving into a new phase of life! But what does this event mean from a spiritual perspective?

Rudolf Steiner spoke many times about the significance of the change of teeth. He explained that for the first seven years or so, the child’s physical body is being built up by the etheric (or life) body. The peripheral formative forces mold the physical organs and systems, and set them in their right relation and functions.

Another aspect of this formative phase is that the very young child has an inherited physical body, one that is the product of heredity. If you observe a room full of babies, you will see a marked similarity in their forms and faces. It is as their bodies are merely prototypes. In this first phase of human life, the child constantly remolds this inherited body into essentially a brand new, self-created physical body.

This is part of the wisdom behind all of those colds, infections, and childhood diseases: to help the child re-create the physical body anew, so that the child’s spirit can have a distinctive vehicle all its own. When this remolding process is complete, the child has exchanged the generic prototype for his or her true, individualized body. I have recently observed how different SillyBilly’s facial structure is, how he somehow looks “older” and more awake, and more individual.

The change of teeth is a visible, tangible sign of this work. The inherited milk teeth are literally pushed out by the permanent teeth. The child’s etheric forces have done their intense physical work, and can now be freed to help the child’s soul and spirit, with thinking and memory.

This is the wisdom behind Waldorf schools generally waiting until age 6 or so for children to leave kindergarten, so that the child is developmentally ready to begin formalized learning. (Other physical signs of first grade readiness may include the limbs lengthening and the head being in a smaller proportion to the body, the narrowing of the ribcage, the appearance of arches in the feet, and changes in the heart and respiration rates. There are many developmental signposts as well.)

One thing Waldorf teachers and physicians have noticed is that children’s permanent teeth are erupting sooner. Steiner always mentioned age 7 as the time of the change of teeth; now it is more likely to be 5 or 6! Many people theorize that this is a sign of the overall speeding up of child development, possibly exacerbated by the general intellectualization and abstraction of modern life. Perhaps our etheric forces are being forced to finish their work too soon. Some anthroposophical physicians are concerned that this may cause negative health effects in the future, because the etheric forces are somehow weakened by not being allowed to develop in their own time.

And a little backup for all these assertions, from the source:

At about the seventh year the human being is actually born a second time; that is to say, his etheric body is born to free activity just as his physical body is at the moment of physical birth. As before birth the mother’s body works on the human embryo, up to the change of teeth spiritual forces of the cosmic ether in a similar way work upon the etheric body of the human being, and about the seventh year these forces are thrust back just as the maternal body is at the time of birth. Up to the seventh year the etheric body is as if latent in the physical body, and about the time the teeth are changed what happens to the etheric body can be compared to the igniting of a match. It is bound up with the physical body, but now comes to its own free, independent activity. The signal for this free activity of the etheric body is indeed the change of teeth. For anyone who has a deeper insight into nature this change of teeth holds a quite special place.

-Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, 13 December 1906.

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Health, SillyBilly, Uncategorized, waldorf education

17 responses to “Teeth and Rebirth

  1. I have been so relieved that my girls did not develop early for just these reasons.

  2. I’m really just learning about Steiner’s teachings and I love the way you explained this so clearly. I didn’t know about this idea when my daughter was kindergarten age -she started academics early. My son is now four and I’m already getting questions about when I’m going to start teaching him to read! This is where I really need to get a good grasp on what I believe to be true…research…and follow through on those beliefs. Do you recommend any particular books on this subject?

  3. It is such a momentous occasion when our children loose their first tooth. Just wondering why the dentist would pull the teeth out? Kinda forcing the incarnating process. Working in a Waldorf Kindergarten for 5 years it is really interesting to see the children change after they start loosing their teeth. There becomes a fierce need for independence and there is also quite a marked changed physical appearance; their face thins out, their arms and legs grow, in general they loose that baby “roundness”. Just about this time you also hear children telling each other (and parents) “You are not the Boss of me! They are now the masters of their own destiny.
    It is also a new phase in your journey as parents, blessings!

  4. Nana

    My brilliant, beautiful, brave grandson had a rather unusual birth experience. His “extra” month in the womb and the need for additional oxygen for his vital organs for the first 6 weeks has had an effect on his growth and development.

    He lost his baby roundness at an early age and his fine motor skills (including speech) developed more rapidly than his gross motor skills.

    We cannot apply the same standards to him as we do to children born under more propitious circumstances.

  5. I have wondered about the earlier loss of teeth myself. I always remembered it being older…and kids we know are losing first teeth at 4 & 5! Interesting.

  6. Sarah: My son started out more “awake” and got his first tooth at 3 1/2 months! We’ll have to see what the long term effects are.

    Dawn: I’m looking for some articles for you…I’ll email you.

    Lisa Anne: She recommended pulling the front two because of the adult tooth already coming in so crooked. And then the third because it was crooked also. They were all loose already. Honestly if this helps us avoid orthodontic work later, I’m not sorry. I think his incarnation process was “forced” from the beginning, so we’re addressing it in other ways.

    Nana: Yes, your observations all point to SillyBilly’s unusual and early development. In Waldorf parlance, we would call him a “nerve-sense” kid, with the fine motor and verbal skills, also his tendency to be thin and dry-skinned.

    Denise: I’ve heard in many places anecdotally that children are really developing earlier. Both the change of teeth and puberty.

  7. malyvacsiga

    I have an unusual request. Your posting is so welll written and so clear, that I would like to translate it and post it on my blog, NATURALLY giving you FULL credit for it. If you allow me. (I would leave the SillyBilly references out.)
    If you say you’d rather, I didn’t, that’s fine too. 🙂

  8. Hi Sylvie, I would be honored!

  9. Albert

    This is really refreshing. My daugther jus lost her first tooth and is losing another after turning 5 on 02/11/08. We are seeing so many changes in her in reasoning and speech as well as behaviour. However, we argued that a third set would follow after this set. Is this the last time and is there any possibility of any tooth regrowing if she ever loses another after this?


  10. Vicki Flanagan

    I’m wondering if you’ve ever heard anything about children who take their time losing their first baby teeth? My son, who is a healthy eight year old, turns nine next month, and still has not lost a tooth. He is in third grade at a Waldorf School, and we are all puzzled.
    Thanks in advance for any insights you might share.
    Vicki (an early childhood teacher)

  11. Joan

    My 6.5 year old daughter is the only girl in her first grade class who has not lost a tooth. She is also behind in reading. I have always felt that there was a connection. she looks very young and her speech is also not as developed as her classmates’. She is very coordinated and is often noticed for this, except of course, in school, where she is half the size of the p.e./gym stars. She is one of the youngest in her class and I believe has developmental delay compared to them as well. She is pretty, athletic and nice which has saved her socially but it iS very frustrating to feel that school does more harm than good. When I read comments about holding kids back I am constantly faced with all of the parents writing that it is crazy and that their child started k at some ridiculously young age and ended up at harvard. It is also socially acceptable for boys and not girls. But I believe this is because young girls shut down and the young boys act out. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated

  12. Joan, it sounds like you are a wonderful observer of your daughter. I would just say that you should follow your instincts and not question yourself too much just because others do. It’s funny how children more and more are considered “delayed” because of shortening timeframes! My daughter is 6 and has not lost a tooth yet, but is a very advanced reader. I know she will lose her teeth when the time is right. Holding children back in school has advantages and disadvantages, intellectually and socially. That’s one that has no standard answer but must be reviewed for each child, family, and school/class. The other thing is that I think today we are pushing and pushing for kids to grow up instead of loving their childishness and nurturing it. I love that my daughter is still a bit babyish in some ways… there is plenty of time for her to develop at her own pace. Also know that being “behind” in reading early on is not necessarily a problem later. Some children start slowly but then often later are prodigious and proficient readers who, more importantly, LOVE reading because they were not forced into it.

  13. I think the reason why dentists pull ’em baby teeth is not just to force the “reincarnation” process. Rather, they do it to prevent infections and other abnormal cases that the falling tooth might inflict on your precious angel’s gums and mouth.

  14. My granddaughter will be 6 yrs old this June…She has a full mouth of teeth..I noticed the other day that on her bottom row, front that there is another full tooth behind her front lower teeth. What does this mean?, and Should I be concerned for her first set of teeth?


  15. Serelle, I think it’s likely your granddaughter just got her teeth early, as my son did, and that there is a misalignment of that adult tooth underneath the baby tooth. I had one like that — had to get the baby tooth pulled eventually after the adult tooth was all the way in! I think in that sort of situation the adult tooth will move into place after the baby tooth comes out, so it’s not much of a worry.

  16. Karen

    Hello, I am a Waldorf Early Childhood teacher and am enjoying your site. I have a grandchild who was born with 2 teeth already in her mouth. The were tiny and loose so were taken out the next day. She is now almost 4 and has no teeth there in front on the bottom – they were her milk teeth. She is definitely a nerve sense child, very awake – I just wondered if anyone else had any thoughts or insights to share. I wonder about a child who comes with those forces already so established. Thank you.

  17. My (now almost 20yo) daughter had a weird thing happen when her teeth came in. She had not lost her baby teeth, but her adult teeth began coming in, making for a month full of teeth.

    Though she was a 6yo in Waldorf kindergarten at the time, I didn’t know enough about Steiner then, or the teeth, so I was just dealing with this through the ordinary dentistry route.

    The dentist recommended a lot of teeth pulling (I can’t recall how much), saying her mouth would be overcrowded.

    My daughter has grown up to be artistic, creative, a writer, a self-taught pianist, but at age 17 she developed juvenile cyclonic epilepsy, which she still has and quite possibly always will.

    A lot of things have stopped for her — she had to take time off from college, is on a lot of meds, doesn’t work, and lives at home, spending far too much time in bed (meds make her shaky, dizzy, and nauseous.)

    I’m now looking back (partly in regret) feeling I didn’t do her right by her teeth. Also wondering what might have been missed in just pulling teeth.

    I’m hoping now to find Steinerian ways to support her health (along with diet, fresh air, yoga, etc.) but need her compliance to get there.

    I don’t know if I really have a question — like can adult Eurthymy help — or whether I just want to send a note of caution out there to folks to be observant, patient, and trusting about the body’s own developmental processes and not in such a hurry to “correct” them. I wish I had known then of holistic dentistry and just more insight in general into Steiner’s insights into the teeth. I really feel a deep connection to what he shared with the world on this as truth — more than just science, but spiritual science, and that matters!

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