Gold teeth can be seen mending or adorning the mouths of pop stars. It’s been memorialized in music videos and movies. When sociologists look back at this time in history, however, it will not be the first time that gold has been displayed in flashy adornments on teeth.
While adorning teeth in gold is more of a fashion statement than a medical necessity, there are other clinical reasons a dentist will consider using it in the mouth. Some of our patients at Josey Lane Dentistry come in with cavities that have been filled with gold, for instance. Gold is the best material for filling and restoring teeth since it fits the tooth more accurately and wears down more like the enamel of natural teeth.
Today, gold fillings are mainly used in areas where there is limited space, or in cases of bruxism. Another benefit is that gold fillings are of such a resilient metal that they do not oxidize or turn black on the surface like amalgam fillings sometimes do. In other words, unlike other materials that see discoloration with time, this is not a worry with gold. Gold fillings can last upward of 20 years.
While gold can have a very practical use in the mouth, it can also be a display of cultural and fashion sense. Here’s the history and the modern look at the dental applications of gold on teeth.
Tooth adornments throughout history
The overarching practice of tooth adornment dates back thousands of years. Today, related practices continue to carried out around the world. When looking back at studies of gold chompers throughout history, human remains have shown the placement of gold in the mouth to symbolize milestones like the transition into adulthood.
Archeologists also commonly reference a mummy found in a Roman tomb in Egypt which had two teeth bound together with a gold wire. The founders believed that this might not have been purely aesthetic, but also for chewing purposes.
In ancient accounts among the Chinese, many references of “gold teeth” date back to the 7th century AD. Teeth were decorated by the insertion of several golden inlays into small perforations cut into the enamel of the upper incisors.
In certain areas of the Philippines, Bhutan and surrounding countries, the practice of inlaying small gold discs, often multiple, in the surfaces of anterior teeth was also prevalent.
Modern-day tooth adornments
Common in pop culture, a grill (also known as “golds”), is a type of jewelry (usually gold) worn over the teeth. Hip hop artists like Raheem the Dream and Kilo Ali began wearing grills in the early 1980s. New Yorker Eddie Plein, owner of Eddie’s Gold Teeth, is often credited with bringing the trend to New York.
Grills also became popular in the Southern U.S., especially in Houston and Memphis, even as they rose and fell from popularity elsewhere. Grills continued to enjoy popularity through 2010, and peaked with celebrity wearers such as Kanye West, Rhianna and Christ Brown.
Thoughts from your Carrollton dentists on Josey Lane
If you are curious what we think about grills here in the Josey Lane Dentistry Carrollton office, the truth is that there aren’t enough studies (for our liking) that simply look at grills. That said, what we do know is that grills that are permanently attached to the teeth though dental adhesive can cause permanent damage to teeth and surrounding tissue.
If you really do want a grill, it’s important to look into options that are removable. If you wear a grill, you should also 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 to collect and produce acids. Those acids cause tooth decay and do harm to surrounding gum tissue. The bacteria will also contribute to bad breath. These are just a few of many reasons why it’s important to remove it while eating as well as cleaned daily.
While the use of gold to adorn teeth has existed for thousands of years but in a variety of forms, a strong, pearly smile never goes out of style—so keep your teeth healthy!