My, What Pretty Teeth You Have!

Bedazzled teeth, a throwback to the hip-hop culture of the 80s and 90s, have emerged as the latest social media virtual beauty craze.

By Theresa Ahearn

Blinged-out teeth are becoming increasingly popular among social media users. Grills, often known as "grillz" or "fronts," are decorative covers made of gold, silver, or jewel-encrusted precious metals that snap over teeth. (“Grills And the Mystery - PRWire”) They've become a craze in mainstream society, thanks to celebrities like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, and Nelly wearing blinged-out smiles. Grillz are typically removable, however, some grill wearers have had gold crowns implanted on their teeth to permanently transform them.

With the growing popularity of blinged teeth, it's worth asking: What are blinged teeth, where did they come from, and are they safe to use?

The History of Jeweled Teeth

Many people are unaware that blinged-out teeth have a long history. In fact, archaeologists discovered a pair of gold-wire-wrapped teeth dating from the seventh century B.C. in central Italy. They were most likely the primitive dentures of ancient Etruria's upper class.  During the classic period – from 300s A.D. to 900s A.D.– Mayan royals would drill holes into their upper teeth measuring three millimeters in diameter and fill them with jade. This was a trend that only kings and queens or those of great wealth could afford. Jeweled-out smiles are still worn by many people in southeastern Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala. Throughout the Middle Ages in Europe, Filipinos filed down their teeth and decorated them with gold, believing that Melu the god of creation had gold teeth. It was not until the 15th century that Giovanni de Arcoli, an Italian professor of medicine, first advised that cavities be filled with gold to preserve them.

When grillz initially arrived in the United States in the early 1980s, it was mostly through African immigrants who were experiencing financial hardship. Gold grills were one of the cheapest ways to fill a cavity. It was not until the advent of hip-hop music videos in the 1980s that led to the reclamation of the modern-day grillz as a symbol of empowerment rather than a sign of poverty. Grillz became even more popular in the early 21st century, famously appearing in the 2005 number one single "Grillz," by Nelly, Paul Wall, Big Gipp, and Ali.

The CHROM Tooth Polish Trend

Grillz are still popular in hip-hop and pop culture today, and they're frequently utilized to express one's identity and flaunt something eye-catching. Other trends have been influenced by Grillz, such as the latest TikTok craze, CHROM teeth polish. The item has garnered a lot of attention among content creators who wish to show off their creativity. The polish, like nail polish, can be directly applied to the teeth and lasts for 24 hours. It is available in a range of colors, from baby blue to shimmering silver. Another color option is to use the polish to give the appearance of gleaming white teeth. However, those who want to whiten their teeth should seek the counsel of a professional rather than using such products. Though the manufacturer claims that CHROM polish is completely safe, it's unclear what long-term use would bring. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the product has gone under peer review for safety.

What Dentists Should Know

Dentists should educate patients about the risks of enhancing their smile in any way, whether it's with a grill, CHROM polish, or jewels and gems. Though grillz should not harm oral health on their own, dentists should teach patients how to clean the grill as well as the need for flossing and brushing as usual. Patients should be informed that some metals might cause irritation and that if they develop a rash or bleeding, they should stop using them. Finally, dentists should inform patients about new products that are on the market. Not all famous social media products are safe, and many like CHROM polish have not been thoroughly researched by the medical community to determine long-term side effects.

Author: Theresa Ahearn is a freelance writer, currently residing in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the New York Institute of Technology and Master of Science from Central Connecticut State University. When not writing she can be found fishing or traveling someplace new.

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