The Passion Gap: An interesting South African Phenomenon

For most people, keeping your teeth until your old age is a strong desire. Many people have anxiety dreams about losing their teeth, and certainly wouldn’t look for any reason to lose them on purpose. However, in South Africa, you can find a fair number of people who have their front teeth removed. Yes, you heard it, they remove their teeth on purpose, and it’s not rotten teeth, it’s healthy teeth. Tooth removal have strong roots throughout history and in many cultures so let’s take a look at how this came to be the “hip thing” in this specific South African community.

While it’s not unusual to have cosmetic procedures done to teeth, from gold fillings and grills to porcelain veneers, purposefully removing teeth is slightly less common, to say the least. So what is the passion gap happen and where did it start?

The passion gap, as it’s known – sometimes called the *Cape Flats smile – is when the front incisors are removed to leave a gap. The origins of this procedure aren’t exactly clear, but many people have looked into it. The University of Cape Town polled over two thousand residents of the city and found that 41% of them had extracted their teeth. Of these, 42.6% said they did so due to peer pressure, while 36.3% said that they did it to be fashionable. 11% did it for a medical reason or because of an accident, and 10.1% due to gang influence.

South African Phenomenon

Gangs are a very big part of the Cape Flat “culture” unfortunately and the area is plagued with brutal sexual and physical violence and has long been speculated that the passion gap has a very unfortunate sexual aspect to it. Thus the name “Passion Gap”. Although this is a chicken egg situation as we don’t know what came first, the passion gap or the plaguing gang violence.

Another interesting thing about the passion gap is that it is not gender or age based. There is a mix of men, woman and children, although the children is usually influenced by the parents, but in general the only thing the passion gappers have in common is a low income. Which brings some people to the conclusion that it started as a precautionary measure and then became a trend.

While it’s difficult to pin down the actual origins of the passion gap, there is evidence of tooth modification going back to around 500AD. So, although the passion gap itself might be newer, cosmetic changes to teeth certainly aren’t. But if any of these people want their teeth to grow back, they would be better off choosing to play powerball and hoping for a win.

*Cape Flats

The Cape Flats is a big part of Cape Town which is the most Southern Capital of South Africa. It is surrounded by mountainous areas and this are is flat; thus the name. It is a lower income area with many shanty towns and a melting pot of cultures.