French Expression of the Day: Dents du bonheur

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French Expression of the Day: Dents du bonheur
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This French expression is something you might hear while at the dentist, or maybe after winning the lottery too.


Why do I need to know dents du bonheur?

Because your teeth might be both beautiful and lucky.

What does it mean?

Dents du bonheur roughly pronounced dahn duh bohn-urr – is a French expression that translates precisely to “teeth of happiness”, but it has little to do with tasting something delicious and smiling with joy. 

This expression actually refers to a certain orthodontic situation - when someone has a gap between their two front teeth (or “diastema”, if we want to get scientific). 


For the French, having a space between your teeth is not considered unsightly. In fact, for many it is seen as a mark of beauty and most importantly, a sign of good luck.

French singer and actress Vanessa Paradis shows off her 'teeth of happiness'. Photo: Yohan BONNET/AFP

It's said that the 'lucky' aspect of the tooth gap comes from the Napoleonic period. Napoleon instituted conscription in France to fill the ranks of his army, but men who had a gap between their front teeth were excused being conscripted. The reason for this was that the design of the rifle at the time required soldiers to hold it with both hands and bite the tip off the ammunition with their incisors - men with a tooth gap were thought to be incapable of doing this so were excused military service and the possibility of death in action.

Use it like this

Elle s'est rendue chez l'orthodontiste qui lui a immédiatement prescrit un appareil dentaire pour réparer ses dents du bonheur. – She went to the orthodontist and he immediately recommended braces to fix the gap between her front teeth.

Tout le monde me dit que ma réussite est due à mes dents du bonheur. – Everyone tells me my success is thanks to my lucky gap between my front teeth.


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