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Yaeba dentistry: The appeal of pointy teeth

Image copyright Jiro Kumakura

For a few years now, there has been a craze among young women in Japan for "snaggle teeth" that look a bit like vampire fangs.

It began in 2011, when many teenagers wanted to look like the actress and singer Tomomi Itano.

Image copyright Getty Images

What made her special?

Not only was she the lead singer of the band AKB48, she also had a yaeba or "double tooth".

At the dentist, a yaeba procedure places a ceramic protruding false tooth over a patient's upper canine tooth.

Some are fixed, while others are removable for mealtimes and sleeping.

The price for a removable yaeba is about 31,000 yen ($270). Adding a Swarovski crystal costs 61,000 yen ($540).

Image copyright Jiro Kumakura

The resulting look is a crooked, or "snaggly", tooth-line.

Even though Tomomi Itano has now her "extra" tooth removed, young women still seek the yaeba look.

Image copyright Jiro Kumakura

"There are many thoughts about why we like yaeba," says Yasutaka Maekawa, author of the book Yaeba Girl.

"Some say it originated from Japanese traditional aesthetic sense of wabi, which means that we find beauty in imperfect shapes."

TYB48 - a play on Tomomi Itano's band AKB48 - was a yaeba all-girl group launched in 2011 to promote a dental clinic.

Image copyright TVB48
Image copyright TYB48

The group was active for two years.

"We were invited to many events and stages as well as interviews by the media," says Rika Yuzuki, a former band member who is now a mum.

Image copyright Jiro Kumakura

When they performed, she wore an ornamental yaeba - which was removable.

She says she didn't feel "kawaii" - which means cute or sweet in Japanese - but she knew yaeba was popular among young women.

Rino Komagata is a 23-year-old singer who has a natural yaeba.

"I am not fond of my teeth. However, because I hate injections and anaesthetics, I am determined to live with them.

"People say to me, 'Your teeth are just like a squirrel's.'"

Image copyright Jiro Kumakura

With some celebrities like Tomomi Itano correcting their "snaggletooth" looks, the yaeba boom is over.

But dental clinic manager Kazuyoshi Takagi says new patients wanting yaeba caps come in "once or twice a month".

Image copyright Jiro Kumakura

Singer and model Karin Ogino wants to keep her fang.

She appears on the cover of Yasutaka Maekawa's book Yaeba Girl.

She says she has sometimes thought about having orthodontic treatment to correct the yaeba, but her fans have asked her to leave it as it is.

Image copyright Jiro Kumakura

"I might have them extracted in the future. Having double teeth causes problems, such as hitting the microphone while singing."

Image copyright Jiro Kumakura

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