By The Skin of Your Teeth

Have you ever heard the expression “by the skin of your teeth” and wondered what it meant? After all, teeth don’t have skin—at least not skin like the rest of your body, right?


Most sources feel the phrase comes from the King James Bible translation of Job 19:20. By this point, Job has suffered through an illness that has left him very thin (skin and bones) but he expresses thanks that he has “escaped with the skin of my teeth”.  So the phrase has come to mean barely avoiding something (usually something bad) or barely succeeding at something.


Of course, some people may say that the teeth do develop a skin of sorts. Microscopic bacteria in your mouth form a film (or skin) on the teeth. When it is so thin that it is barely detectible, it is called biofilm. When it gets thicker, it is called plaque. This biofilm is removed when you have your teeth cleaned by your dentist—that’s why your teeth feel so smooth and clean afterward! But it comes back within 24 hours, even if you don’t eat or drink anything.


To keep as close to that fresh from the dentist feeling as you can, be sure to brush your teeth two to three times a day and floss once a day to remove plaque. Ask your dentist or hygienist to show you how to brush and floss correctly. If you do not have a dentist, I invite you to come to my office as a new patient.

Note: Information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals. 

Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist with an office in Lorain, OH since 1999. She is taking new patients. Please call 440-960-1940 to make an appointment. You can find out more about Dr. Robb at