At roughly the same time that dentistry became a respected profession, teeth became a
sign of biological origin. In the nineteenth century, long, white, uniform teeth signalled
the threat of degeneracy, a counter narrative to evolution predicated on humanity‘s
decline into a primitive, animalistic state. We can trace this anxiety through depictions
of native people‘s teeth in travel narratives, slave narratives, and accounts of the
auction block. The distinctly menacing mouths of white characters, such as Poe‘s Berenice
and Dickens‘s Carker, draw on the fear of degeneracy— a threat to Western civilisation
that coalesces in depictions of the vampiric mouth.