Teeth That Go BlingSome celebrities have been flashing more than clean, white teeth at their fans. Under the spotlight, the glint from their mouths comes from “grills” or “grillz”—decorative covers often made of gold, silver or jewel-encrusted precious metals that snap over one or more of their teeth.
Grills, sometimes called “fronts,” generally are removable but some wearers have had their teeth altered with gold crowns to permanently resemble a grill. And some have tried to attach their grill with permanent cement—something that is not meant for internal use and can damage the teeth and tissues!
At present there are no studies that show that grills are harmful to the mouth—but there are no studies that show that their long-term wear is safe, either. Some grills are made from non-precious (base) metals that may cause irritation or metal-allergic reactions.
Boy Meets GrillThe trend toward tooth coverings was boosted in recent years by hip-hop icons and rappers such as Nelly and Paul Wall. Although wealthy musicians and some athletes have spent thousands of dollars to decorate their teeth with grills made of gold and platinum, most teenagers and young adults who want to emulate these celebrities do so by purchasing inexpensive do-it-yourself kits online or purchasing them from local jewelers. Some jewelers and other “grill” vendors are unaware that, in some states, taking an impression of someone's mouth is considered dentistry, which requires a license.
Wearers should be especially careful about brushing and flossing to prevent potential problems. Food and other debris may become trapped between the teeth and the grill allowing bacteria (PDF) to collect and produce acids. The acids can cause tooth decay and harm gum tissue. Bacteria may also contribute to bad breath. There also is the potential for grills to irritate surrounding oral tissues and to wear the enamel away on the opposing teeth.
To prevent problems, wearers should limit the amount of time spent wearing removable grills.
If you already wear a grill, you should remove it before eating. It should be cleaned daily to remove plaque bacteria and food debris. Avoid using jewelry cleaners or any products that are dangerous to ingest.
If you are considering getting a dental grill, make sure you talk to your dentist first. Find out exactly what materials the grill is made of and avoid creating a breeding ground for bacteria. Grills might be trendy for the moment, but “pearly whites” will never go out of style.