For every Balinese Hindu, the tooth-filing (potong gigi in Indonesian or mesangih or mepandes in Balinese) ceremony is a right of passage in the series of coming-of-age ceremonies. The filing down of the canines is symbolic of the change from animal to human, and it also represents the controlling of desire, greed, anger, strong emotion, confusion and jealousy.
This is a very family-centric ceremony as the person or persons involved are very vulnerable at the time their teeth are filed and must therefore be surrounded by family members to protect them. This doesn’t mean you won’t ever see a tooth filing, the Balinese often undertake this ceremony as part of the marriage rites as it saves on the cost of having the two ceremonies separately. Some villages even hold mass tooth filings for anyone who has not had them done yet. The actual filing is done by a priest who files in stages so the filed teeth can be looked at in the mirror and made straighter or flatter. This isn’t just a religious ceremony, but a cosmetic procedure as well, after all. As the wife of a Balinese man, I had my teeth filed at our wedding ceremony. It was terrifying at first but much more pleasant than the dentist in the end. Ask drivers, hotel staff, or other people you might get to know in Bali to see if you can get invited to a tooth filing.