What Are Turkey Teeth And How Can You Avoid The Look?

Given the many food-based beauty trends that have cropped up, it's easy to mistake "Turkey teeth" as a new one to try just in time for Thanksgiving — except for the fact that turkeys don't have teeth. 

The truth is, "Turkey teeth" is the moniker social media gave to perfectly straight, even-shaped, white teeth that have become ubiquitous among celebrities and TV personalities. It doesn't refer to the fowl but to the transcontinental country that's now known as the destination for getting procedures that create a camera-ready smile. The BBC credited "Love Island" star Jack Fincham as one of the first personalities to speak about it. Prior to joining the reality TV show, Fincham had flown to Turkey in 2018 to get 10 of his teeth crowned at a fraction of what he would have paid in England. "So I thought I'd rather just go to Turkey, get a bit of sun, have a laugh," the report quoted him. "I didn't really know what a crown was. And I didn't know it was quite as invasive as it was." 

Dental care can be prohibitively expensive, so the cut-price cost offered by some Turkish clinics is tempting to people who want to have a photogenic smile to boost their attractiveness. Per Dentaly, cosmetic procedures there go for 60 to 70% less than they do in the US, plus one gets to enjoy an overseas trip on the side. However, some dentists and former patients are raising alarms about the risks of getting Turkey teeth, including severely botched procedures. In fact, many people are now using the term 'Turkey teeth' specifically to refer to those very instances of dental work gone very wrong.

Getting this look involves having the teeth shaved down to stubs

Crowns are usually recommended by dentists for severely damaged teeth or after a root canal. "One of the main reasons people need dental crowns is because a cavity has eroded more than 50% of the tooth, so a crown is used to replace the missing tooth structure," Dr. Gary Liu told Forbes. Coming in a variety of materials, they're placed like caps over teeth that have been shaved down to stubs after their decayed or damaged sections have been removed, and then set with cement. Dr. Sara Hahn explained to The Washington Post that removing the teeth's enamel leaves the dentin underneath exposed, which has microscopic openings that lead right to the nerve beneath. Once the protective barrier of enamel gets eroded, it's easy for bacteria and infection to set in, leading to the possibility of a root canal or extraction in the future. Proper aftercare must thus be observed. 

Dr. Kailesh Solanki told ITV that both veneers and crowns require filing down the enamel, though the latter necessitates a bigger removal of the tooth's natural structure. Since a crown needs to be replaced anywhere between five to 15 years (per Healthline), more of the remaining enamel gets removed. "At some point, the tooth is just not going to be strong enough to hold whatever you want to put on top of it," Hahn warned The Washington Post. "It will snap."

For every Turkey teeth success story, there is a horror one

Makeup artist Lizz Purr and content creator @jrizzyjeremy have shared on TikTok how getting affordable dental work in Turkey has given them the smile they've always wanted. Not everyone does so out of vanity, though. Vlogger Amanda Turner shared that she took interest in the surgery after she developed dental problems during pregnancy. According to the story she shared on the YouTube channel "Truly," an Instagram ad convinced her to get "a [mouthful] of beautiful teeth" from a dentist in Turkey, especially when the root canal and extraction she actually needed would be included for free. At the clinic, the dental team told her she needed to have 28 crowns placed on her teeth. Though she didn't think her problems were that bad, she trusted their judgment as professionals. 

The treatment, however, became a painful ordeal: On top of the anesthesia not working and Turner not receiving any temporary crowns to wear to protect her filed-down teeth, she was given dental bridges, which are several pieces of teeth replacement glued together, rather than 28 individual crowns. They were ill-fitting and difficult to clean, and they caused Turner a lot of pain, time, and money to fix once she returned home. 

Other Turkey teeth patients have had even worse outcomes. The UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office reported that since 2019, 22 British citizens have died while on a medical tourism trip to Turkey, with one dying after taking teeth-whitening medication and two going into a coma, per Leicester Live.

There are risky pay-offs to low costs, quick consultations, and red-carpet treatment

Aside from the promise of getting TV-ready teeth at a lower cost, the Turkey teeth procedure typically involves VIP treatment like luxury transfers from the airport and five-star accommodations, as shared by Purr, @jrizzyjeremy, and Turner. However, crowns as the immediate recommendation offered by Turkey teeth purveyors have raised red flags for many dentists. London-based Bond Dental Clinic's Dr. Surina Sehghal experienced this after consulting with a Turkish clinic over chat. She shared her experience and insights in a two-part TikTok post:


We are SHOCKED by what Dr Surina was told when she looked into a Turkish Dentist #turkey #turkeydentist #turkeyteeth #dentalhygienist #dentalstudent #turkishdentist #dentalnurse #dentist #loveisland #katieprice

♬ original sound – Bonddental


PART TWO on 'Turkey Teeth' #dentists#dentist#turkeyteeth#turkey#teeth#teethwhitening#tooth#dentalstudent#dentist#loveisland#dentalhygienist#dentalassistant

♬ original sound – Bonddental

According to Parade, every millimeter counts when shaving down a tooth to avoid excruciating, long-term nerve and bone damage. It also requires follow-up appointments in case of infection or if a crown cracks or falls due to improper sizing. This would be difficult when one's dentist is overseas. Turkey teeth patients who have developed complications end up spending a lot of money for quality corrective dental care, and according to an Independent interviewee, it has been difficult to find a professional in her home country who would be willing to fix the problems stemming from her overseas treatment.

Per Parade, Dr. Jordan Weber believes dentists must discuss safer, better treatment options first if patients have only misaligned or stained teeth. Dr. Sargon Lazarof also explained that budget dental procedures signal lower-quality material and patient care. Dentists who charge more, no matter where they're based, do so because they adhere to strict guidelines for their patients' welfare. Patients who are looking to straighten their teeth or fix any other imperfection should seek consultations with an accredited dentist in their country, that way if anything goes wrong, they know they can receive care to fix it. If cost is an issue, check to see if that particular dentist offers payment plans or other methods of billing, such as credit cards.

Normalize having natural, healthy teeth

Social media and television flood us with images of blindingly white, cookie-cutter smiles, so it's easy to understand why people feel compelled to attain one too — even at the expense of their teeth's structure and health. Dr. Hahn had spotted the trend of so many celebrities sporting the same "perfect" set of teeth, and shared they were alarmed to see younger and younger patients coming in to get veneers or have their already-existing ones fixed. "There was this idealization of veneers, or this perfect Hollywood smile," she told The Washington Post

To combat this, she fosters transparent discussions through her TikTok account, where she analyzes celebrities' teeth for veneers or crowns. But rather than judging their choices, she simply lays out for the public the benefits and risks of cosmetic dental work. She also expresses appreciation for the celebrities' smiles, especially those who have kept their natural teeth. This has helped followers view their own teeth more positively. " ... [The] most common comment I've had is that I've helped people realize that their smiles are beautiful," she told The Washington Post. 


#stitch with @Olivia L. #greenscreen #barbarapalvin #veneercheck

♬ Storytelling – Adriel


Recognizing the unique beauty and character of your natural smile can help you sidestep the urge to look Hollywood-perfect. Having a dentist who truly cares about your dental health is instrumental too. As attractive as Turkey teeth may look, with their flawless, white, and artificial symmetry, nothing can beat having healthy, natural teeth and gums. If your smile ain't broken, no need to fix it.