I've read this sentence in some novel.

He stayed standing in the doorway, not bending down eager and wet toothed like some grown- ups did with kids.

I don't know 'wet toothed' mean.

Could you let me know it?

  • 11
    It's not a common phrase or an idiom. It seems to be from the point of view of the child who has the eager adult's face in his face, and is noticing the close-up details, such as spittle on the teeth.
    – TimR
    May 9, 2016 at 13:18
  • 2
    A source needs to be added to your question.
    – user3169
    May 9, 2016 at 19:38
  • Which novel you saw this in would help a little bit, but I think there is enough context here that we can answer it. One think that I can add to what @TRomano said is that the eager, bent-over grown-up must have a big smile, otherwise the kid would not be able to tell that their teeth are wet.
    – ColleenV
    May 9, 2016 at 20:45
  • 3
    Novelists often look for uncommon phrases to use.
    – Ringo
    May 10, 2016 at 6:57
  • Please include the name of the novel. Is it translated from another language. A search for the single phrase "wet-toothed" or "wet toothed" returns no important items except for this request, and less than 4000 references that aren't connected. May 13, 2016 at 13:47

1 Answer 1


Since this question has been out a while with no answer, I will combine some of the thoughts from the comments into an answer.

The phrase wet-toothed isn't common. The author made it up to create a picture of an adult who patronizes, or treats in a condescending way, kids. These adults bend over and smile big smiles and are eager to get the kids to like them, where the "he" in the sentence just stands in the doorway like he might if he had been introduced to another grown-up.

Wet-toothed is a good description because it tells us they have a big smile on their face, but it's not a smile that the kid thinks is nice or sincere. It's a smile full of spit and teeth and is kind of yucky. If the kid had liked the smile, the author might have written something like "an easy grin" or "a smile and a twinkle in his eye" or something more flattering than "wet-toothed".

For me, 'toothed' also evokes something predatory, like this line from an Alfred Lord Tennyson poem - Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw.

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