Mouth grills are so last year. The newest
(and some say safer) way to display dental bling: tooth
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 look-alikes,
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 U.S., 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 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-yearold student at Sierra
High School, 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, www.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
dentists install. 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 Citadel mall. "It doesn't
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