The practice of tooth filing and intentional tooth extraction is a longstanding cultural practice among some Angolan tribes, notable the Himba people living in the southern regions.
Anthropologists speculate that the Angolan teeth filing practice is a remarkable cultural hangover dating back to slavery. From 1575 onwards, Portuguese slavers shipped Angolans in shameful quantities to Brazil. As slaves were partly valued by the quality of their teeth, the local tribes took to intentionally despoiling their teeth to dissuade an attraction by Angolan slave gatherers. The practice still remains today, centuries after abolition.
Normally in Himba men, their two front incisors filed into a v-shaped notch revealing a triangular gap whenever they smile. In Himba women, this ‘v’ is equally produced as well as the removal of the four central bottom front teeth. Though the Himba women see these dental alterations as a feature of beauty, there is speculation that the bottom teeth are knocked out or filed to mimic that of a cow, in deference to their animistic cow worship rituals.