by Frank Nelson - Friday, Jan. 28-2005

The new style in smile

In business, it helps to have a dazzling smile. But for Santa Barbara entrepreneur Monika Gruenwald, that dazzling smile is her business. Ms. Gruenwald is hoping DecoDent, her new venture into tooth jewelry, will leave her and her customers with plenty to smile about.

A former dental assistant in Germany, she discovered the European craze for flashing a bejeweled smile during a return to her native land; she had a tiny crystal fitted to a tooth and has been delighted with the reaction ever since. "Most people think it's the coolest thing and haven't seen it before," says Ms. Gruenwald, who now imports and sells the crystals, which come in two sizes and three colors: clear crystal, light blue and ruby red. She has a small, clear one, which is the most popular type in Germany. It's very subtle, and she says people don't even notice until it catches the light.

Cut into 12 facets and coated to reflect light like a diamond, the glass crystals should be fitted by a dentist in a simple procedure that Ms. Gruenwald says takes about five minutes. The dentist first etches a tiny spot on the tooth to roughen the surface slightly before fixing the crystal in place using light-cured bonding material.

It should stay there at least two or three years, but it's an easy matter for the dentist to remove it at any time and re-polish the tooth surface. Theoretically, people could glue on their own tooth jewels, but Ms. Gruenwald is so opposed to them even trying something so potentially risky that she only supplies direct to dentists.Total price for the tooth gem and fitting is around $100.

Ms. Gruenwald, 32, who has been in Santa Barbara since 1999, says the beauty of this latest trend in body art is that it is not permanent, like a tattoo, nor is it invasive, like body piercing. She says that in Germany, tooth jewelry appeals mostly to women in their teens to about 35 or 40, and even in some cases women in their 60s. The jewelry doesn't affect eating or dental care.

Ms. Gruenwald is hoping to build DecoDent into a sustainable business, but in the meantime she is holding down a part-time job with a local export company while attending school in the evenings and working toward a bachelor's degree.


DecoDent, 517 W.Quinto St.#B, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Tel. (805) 637-8158, Fax (805) 685-4743