One of the best parts of growing up is getting over the childhood fear that a monster is hiding under your bed. Sure, I still wake up in a sweat from time to time after dreaming about locking myself out of my apartment, but I can usually shake off the spooks by the time I've rolled myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth. But the dream that still rocks to me my very core is the one where—drumroll, please—I lose a tooth.
I've only had this nightmare (I'm a drama queen, not sorry) a handful of times, and when I do, my mouth actually hurts the next day. It's a downright haunting experience to lose your teeth! Even if it's not real! Which is why I need to know what my brain is thinking, and if there's anything I can do to in my waking life to trick my subconscious into never dreaming about it again. Here, two experts explain what's going on in your mind when you dream about losing your teeth.
First of all, the "losing teeth" dream is super common, so know that you're not alone.
Apparently, nearly everyone experiences this dream because we can all remember what it felt like to lose a tooth when we were kids. "We all have memories—conscious and unconscious—around our milk teeth falling out, and having gaps in our teeth before our new teeth grew," explains Jane Teresa Anderson, a dream analyst and therapist. (By the way, milk teeth = baby teeth.)
"During those childhood years, we may experience all sorts of worries and concerns, perhaps being teased about having gaps in our smile, perhaps losing our confidence," points out Anderson. Simply put, those feelings are returning, symbolically-speaking, in your dream. Yikes!
But don't freak out. "Halle Berry has this dream, too!" Lauri Loewenberg, a dream expert who has worked with celebs, including Hoda Kotb and Kelly Pickler, tells Cosmopolitan. Okay, fine, I'm feeling a bit less bad about my weird psyche. I guess?
But so what does the dream signify?
In non-shocking news, dreaming that you've lost a tooth has more than one meaning. According to Loewenberg, "Dreams involving the mouth or throat area are most often connected to communication issues in waking life. When your teeth fall out in a dream, it is usually because you have said something without thinking about it first." In other words, your teeth are acting as a metaphor for words falling out of your mouth. Deep.
"If you dream that you have missing teeth, ask yourself where, over the past couple of days, you have felt a sense of something missing in your life," recommends Anderson. "If in your dream, you're embarrassed to talk because one or more teeth are missing, you may be feeling—or fearing—a lack of confidence," she added.
That's the thing: Dream analyses all depend on what's going on in your real life, specifically. "Our dreams are unique. While millions of people may dream about their teeth falling out, it's the other details in the dream that help pinpoint the exact interpretation," notes Anderson.
"To get a feeling for the meaning of your dream, focus on how you felt about your teeth falling out," she suggests. Are you feeling afraid of that loss? Or could you be subconsciously reliving something embarrassing that happened in your waking life? Spend some time reflecting on your dream, even if it's uncomfortable, in order to diagnose its meaning to you.
Okay, so what should I do if I dream about losing my teeth over and over again?
If losing your teeth is a recurring dream, your mind is probably trying to tell you something. "Recurring dreams are often connected to an ongoing issue (the dream continues until the issue is resolved) or they can be connected to a recurring behavior pattern that needs correcting: every time you exhibit the behavior, you have the dream," Loewenberg explains.
Is there anything I can do to stop having this dream?
If you want to get rid of this haunting dental dream sequence, Anderson recommends confronting (eek!) the image of your teeth falling out—yep, even though it's freaky. "When you wake up, reimagine the dream but with your teeth staying in place, firm and strong," says Anderson. "Imagine yourself acting and feeling firm and strong too. This helps reprogram your unconscious mind to resolve the issue."
And remember: There's nothing to panic about.
While yes, losing your teeth in a dream is often uncomfortable, it's not a reason to freak out. You still have those pearly whites, baby, and hey, maybe it has you thinking critically about an issue that's been bubbling in the back of your mind. It's called growth, y'all.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.