Tiny tooth jewelry replacing grills as hot
By Tara Cuslidge The Gazette (Colorado Springs,
Mouth grills are so last year. The newest
(and some say safer) way to display dental bling: tooth
jewelry. Unlike grills - mouthpieces that blanket the teeth
like gaudily bejeweled braces - tooth jewelry is seen as
a less ostentatious, less expensive and less intrusive way
to sparkle when you smile.
Monika Linau, owner of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based
DecoDent, sells a range of tooth crystals and jewelry that
includes crosses, aliens, Nike-swoosh lookalikes, and gems
in heart and star shapes. The jewels are meant to be attached
by dentists with a composite substance. "It's basically
the same process as a colored tooth filling," said Linau,
who was a dental hygienist in Germany before settling in
Santa Barbara in 1999. "Every dentist can do it within five
to 10 minutes."
It isn't a new concept: Ancient Mayans once
used more invasive techniques, drilling into teeth to insert
gems. More recently, tooth jewels have become popular in
Europe, Japan and Brazil, Linau said. They're just starting
to catch on in the United States, Linau said, but tooth
jewels still lack the street status of grills, which got
their cachet from the rap and hip-hop community, and a hit
song that sang their praises.
Many dentists aren't thrilled by grills, and
not all of them are ready to bite at tooth jewelry, either.
"I don't think I would get involved in that sort of thing,"
said Colorado Springs, Colo., dentist Debbie Roubal. "It
doesn't sound like the safest thing to do." Roubal, who
hasn't worked with teeth jewelry, said problems can arise
with tooth decorations, including enamel wear and fractures.
The American Dental Association doesn't mention tooth jewelry
on its Web site, although it warns people who wear grills
to practice good oral hygiene, limit wear and brush regularly.
Dr. Matthew Messina, an American Dental Association consumer
adviser who has a private practice in Cleveland, said there
are worries associated with tooth jewelry - especially for
people who install their own.
Dejon Stewart, a 17-year-old student at Sierra
High School in the Colorado Springs area, said he's seen
girls at his high school glue what appear to be fake diamonds
from nail sets onto their teeth. Messina blanches at the
thought. "There's a difference between (putting) something
in your mouth and on your skin," Messina said. "A lot of
the adhesives that are used are relatively toxic." Messina
said it's not about the ADA or dentists not liking the style.
A badly installed tooth jewel could result in serious problems.
"You're just creating a situation where all kinds of bacteria
and plaque will stick to it and irritate the gums around
it," he said. The dentist-installed products may be safer,
he said, and Linau insists her products aren't harmful.
Deco-Dent typically sells the jewels directly
to dentists through its Web site, decodent.us, and sends
an instruction page to them for proper attachment. A jewel
will remain on the tooth from eight months to two years
or more, or until the wearer goes back to the dentist to
have it removed, Linau said. "The only downside is that
you can't just take off the jewel," she said, because the
jewels must also be professionally removed.
She, too, encourages wearers to practice good
oral hygiene. "That's why it's important a dentist does
it," she said. The DecoDent site also sells self-install
kits, which Linau calls a "diluted version" of what the
Prices range from $25 for a temporary self-install
kit to $35 for one dentist-installed jewel to $255 for a
set of 14 dentist-installed gems. Dentists' charges to install
the jewels will vary, Linau said. Even if tooth jewels prove
safe, there's no guarantee they'll catch on. "I've seen
some diamonds on teeth," Stewart said recently during a
trip to the mall. "It doesn't look right."