A tooth filing ceremony (mesangih or mepandes) is one of the ceremonies that a Balinese must undergo when they come of age. Depending on the finances of the family, they will take place at the onset of puberty or at the latest, when they die. To reduce costs, often families wait till enough children are old enough to have a mass ceremony, rather than having each child done individually.
The ceremony is symbolic essentially of three things: a coming of age, a transition from animal to human represented by the filing of the sharp canines, and the control of the six human evils: desire (kama), greed (lobha), anger (krodha), intoxication or being under the influence of strong emotion (mada), confusion (moha), and jealousy (matsarya).
It is a joyous affair with a lot of colourful offerings and gentle music. The music is played on two gender wayang instruments, particularly suited because of their calming sound and soothing scale. Those present will be family members and invited guests. The people who have their teeth filed are often dressed in fairly ornamental garb with the women donning gold-gilded headdresses.
It takes about ten minutes for each participant to have their teeth filed by the lay priest and is said to be fairly painless. They do however use cloves to numb the mouth slightly. Those not wishing to have their teeth actually physically filed for cosmetic or health reasons may choose to have the ceremony performed only symbolically.
The ceremony, in typically Balinese style, is completed by a buffet of spicy food, sliced fruit and strong coffee or sweet tea.