Glam Up Your Smile: Exploring Tooth Gems, Jewelry, and Piercing

In the world of fashion, bling is back. From clothes and shoes to phone cases and jewelry. But is dental bling a thing? The answer is YES! This fashion trend of tooth glam comes in different forms, too. Let’s see how tooth jewelry, dental gems, and oral piercings have brought a new meaning to flashing your pearly whites and what dental professionals have to say.

Ways to brighten your smile

People spend a lot of money and time on their teeth: dental procedures to correct imperfections, and braces to help straighten them and correct the bite. Then, various whitening procedures to get that perfect Hollywood smile. But, something is still missing, like an extra sparkle. Dental bling may be just the thing you are looking for.

Dental embellishments aren’t a new concept. Some ancient Mayan cultures would adorn teeth with gems, like jade and turquoise. These gems often signified status, wealth, or simply a rite of passage to adulthood. Today, adding dental glam is more about self-expression. Let’s compare three types of dental accessories that can brighten your smile and make it uniquely yours.

Tooth jewelry

Tooth jewelry is a broad term that includes things like permanent jewel crowns, dental grills, and tooth piercings. Tooth jewelry is more permanent than tooth gems. These types of bling are usually done by a dental professional and can last for months or even years. Here is what you need to know about each:

Jewel crowns

Jewel crowns

Similar to a regular dental crown procedure. Typically, these crowns are made of either white or yellow gold. They can have a shape, like a heart or star cutout in the front of the crown, so the white tooth surface is still visible. Or, the crown has a jewel permanently fixed to the front surface. Due to the cost of gold and the added gems, these crowns can be more expensive than regular dental crowns. Dental crowns typically range from $800–1,500 per tooth.

Dental grills

Dental grills

These are often referred to as 'grillz.' This removable appliance is made to fit over one or more of your natural teeth. A dental impression is made of your teeth so the grill fits and lowers the risk of damage. Most dental grills are typically made of gold or silver precious metals and can be encrusted with gems. The cost for a grill can start at $150 per tooth and go up depending on the embellishments.

Tooth piercings and gems

Dental piercings and gems

Tooth piercings are semi-permanent tooth jewels. Most do not actually pierce the enamel. Instead, a dental composite, or dental filling material, is placed on the tooth surface and a gem is placed in it. The composite material is then cured or hardened with a dental light for about 30–60 seconds. The gem can then be worn for months or years with proper care. These can be placed by some tattoo artists or other trained professionals since the actual tooth is not altered in the process. Tooth piercings can start at around $25 and up.

Tooth gems are typically temporary and non-invasive. Crystals or colorful gems are affixed to the enamel surface using a dental-safe adhesive. They are easily removed when the wearer decides they are ready to take them off. Tooth gems are popular because they are relatively easy to place, do not alter the tooth, and are cheaper. You can also easily customize your smile with gems of different shapes, sizes, and colors. These gems are made of non-toxic materials. Gem kits are available starting at around $20. The tooth gems and tooth piercings look very similar — they are just different in how they are placed.

Oral piercings

Oral piercings are a very common form of self-expression. Oral piercings can be complex and should be done by a trained professional to avoid oral health risks. There are many types of oral piercings, like:

Tongue piercing

This is the most common oral piercing. This piercing can be on the midline of the tongue, through the top side of the tongue, or under the tongue on the lingual frenulum.

Tongue piercing

Lip piercings

Can be in multiple locations on the upper or lower lip.

Lip piercings

Cheek piercings

Typically done in the area where dimples would form.

Cheek piercings

Smiley or frowny piercing

This is done on the upper or lower labial frenulum. Depending on which is done, the jewelry ring either faces up like a smile or down like a frown, hence the names smiley or frowny.

Smiley or frowny piercing

Trans-gum piercing

This is done in the gingiva area between the two upper front teeth. Generally, the ball of the piercing is on the front, just under the upper lip, and a flat piece lies on the roof of the mouth.

Trans-gum piercing

Oral piercings are usually done using biocompatible materials, like surgical steel jewelry, to reduce the risk of allergic reactions. However, some people can be sensitive to surgical steel. Other hypoallergenic materials, like acrylic or plexiglass jewelry, are available as well. Oral piercings can range from $50–100.

Do dentists approve these procedures?

The main concern of a dental professional is your oral health. Dentists are trained in the complexities of oral anatomy, tooth structures, and proper function. Therefore, dental professionals do not recommend any dental accessories that negatively affect the teeth and oral structures. Here are a few of the biggest concerns mentioned by dentist Dr. Christie Jaquess:

  • Dental gems and tooth piercings are typically placed on the surface of the teeth using an adhesive. While this does not adversely affect the teeth, it can increase irritation of the gums if placed close to the gumline. The glue can also cause plaque build-up and increase the risk of developing cavities.
  • If dental grills are not designed properly, they can cause wear on tooth structures or break teeth. Removable appliances can harbor bacteria that cause cavities and periodontal issues.
  • Some oral piercings can increase enamel damage, cause gum recession, and even result in tooth loss, depending on where they are placed. Surgical steel piercings can rub on the soft tissue in the mouth. In an accident or fall, these can be detrimental to the lips and cheeks. Oral piercings often end up clanging on the teeth and causing fractures in the enamel. However, these issues usually appear over time the longer a piercing is worn.

Safety and risks

Different types of dental bling can have lasting effects on your oral health. So, it's important to carefully consider each one before making your decision. Some dental glam is easily removed without damage, while others can alter your teeth for a lifetime. According to Dr. Jaquess, you can reduce some of the dental risks of wearing dental accessories by following these suggestions:

  1. Have a dental professional place tooth gems and jewelry.
  2. Oral piercings should be done by a professional piercer who has been certified in those piercings. Doing it yourself may cause irreversible nerve damage that can affect how you eat, drink, or speak.
  3. Research the piercing you want before you go so you know what to expect. Each piercing has its own risks of complications, depending on where it is placed.
  4. Choose acrylic or plexiglass jewelry when possible to protect teeth and gums from damage.
  5. Custom grills are a safer option than a one-size-fits-most grill because they are made to fit your teeth.
  6. Clean and disinfect grills regularly to remove harmful bacteria. Don’t forget to properly clean your teeth before and after wearing a grill to help prevent cavities.

While working in the prison system, Dr. Jaquess often sees patients with permanent gold crowns on the front teeth. When asked if they would choose this personal self-expression again, each one stated it was just a phase and regretted having a permanent procedure done. Therefore, Dr Jaquess suggests always sticking to removable or temporary types of bling. This way, you can go back to your natural smile if you ever decide to.

Taking care of your dental and oral health

Dental jewelry and gems should be treated as any dental restoration, whether they are permanent or temporary. Proper oral care is essential. So, make sure you include regular brushing and flossing two times daily, as well as routine dental visits with your dentist. Your dental team can help identify any areas of concern with your dental accessories. This can help prevent damage and keep your smile healthy.

Dental gems, tooth jewelry, and oral piercings can add sparkle to your smile. But it's important to seek an experienced dentist or other professional to prevent dental risks and damage. The right bling can help keep you smiling.

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