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Over the past 20 years, dental grills have become more widely known due to their popularity in hip-hop culture. They’re the dental equivalent of a diamond ring or gold chain, making smiles a display of wealth.
In this article, we’ll talk about the history of grills and the process of making and fitting them. We’ll also discuss some of the potential risks associated with grills.
Grills or “fronts” are a form of dental jewelry, often made from gold, silver, or platinum. In many cases, they’re inlaid with diamonds or other gemstones.
Earlier grills involved grinding down teeth to fit crowns. However, most grills today are metal veneers that fit over teeth without reshaping.
Various forms of decorative tooth modification have existed throughout history.
Modern grills have a more recent origin.1, 3 They emerged from the gold teeth that became fashionable in the early hip-hop scene in New York City. Rappers from the NYC area, like Slick Rick and Flavor Flav, sported gold crowns in the 1980s and 1990s.
Later in the 1990s, jewelry designer Johnny Dang and rapper Paul Wall, both based in Houston, began to commission grills. Their bejeweled smile designs were more elaborate than gold teeth, and some cost thousands of dollars.
Grills had become more widely known by the mid-2000s, partly thanks to rapper Nelly’s 2005 single “Grillz” (which featured Wall). Since then, athletes and other people outside of hip-hop have been seen wearing them.
Dental grills can differ according to several variables:
Most grills are designed around your natural teeth so that they fit snugly but can be removed at any time. A grill that isn’t custom-fitted is likely to be uncomfortable and may be more difficult to put on and take off.
When you order a dental grill, the production process will resemble the following:
Because a grill is ultimately a foreign object that spends time in your mouth, it can pose dental health issues. Knowing how and why these issues arise will help you prevent them.
Wearing grills for a long time can cause plaque and bacteria to accumulate underneath them.
Food debris can also become trapped behind the grill, adding to the problem. This is especially a risk with permanent installments, as you won’t be able to clean your natural teeth with a toothbrush or floss.
The soft tissues of your mouth can be sensitive to certain kinds of metal. For example, it’s not uncommon to have a gold allergy.4
Having a metal you’re allergic to in your mouth for prolonged periods can lead to contact stomatitis. This is when the gums, and possibly the lips, become inflamed.
If you notice symptoms of an allergy, contact your dentist and grill manufacturer. However, to prevent any issues, taking an allergy test before having a grill made is recommended.
The fit of your grill is also a factor that may impact your oral health. Grills that don’t fit properly can cause gum pain, lip irritation, and tooth damage.
This is another reason to opt for a removable grill over a permanent one. Adjusting the fit of a removable grill is easier and less time-consuming.
It’s important to care for your grill just like your natural teeth. Proper care will help prevent dental problems and keep your grill looking its best.
To keep your grills clean, do the following after taking them out:
You can also polish your grill with a non-toxic jewelry cleaning solution. Just be sure to rinse and dry them afterward.
Removable grills are much easier to care for than permanent ones. The steps above don’t apply to permanent grills.
Permanent grills will require you to use extra care when brushing to avoid causing damage. You’ll also be unable to reach all the surfaces of your natural teeth.
Dentists and grill manufacturers will tend to recommend removable grills. They’re better for safety, health, and convenience.
The cost of a grill varies widely. Basic models that only cover a few teeth typically cost a few hundred dollars, while more elaborate pieces cost over $30,000.
You can expect to pay between $100 and $250 per tooth for authentic gold grills. More expensive grills can cost $1,000 per tooth or more.
Most grills are removable, and it’s best to take advantage of this. Eating, drinking, smoking, and practicing oral hygiene while wearing grills will tend to be impractical or damage the jewelry. It can also harm your oral health.
Most grills are made with gold, silver, or platinum. Some manufacturers offer alternatives for those on a budget or with a metal allergy.
For example, one Florida-based provider of grills offers an “Alternative Gold Alloy” that resembles gold in color but is made from cheaper metals.
You should see your dentist at least twice a year whether you have grills or not. It’s also best to consult your dentist before investing in grills.
If you decide on permanent installments, you’ll benefit from more frequent dental appointments to ensure your teeth and gums remain healthy.
Note that most dentists will advise against permanent grills.
Permanent and/or ill-fitting grills will likely affect how you speak and eat. Grills are usually designed to be removable so that you can maintain oral hygiene and other habits.
Dental grills are a well-known form of dental jewelry. Originating in hip-hop culture, they’ve garnered an increasingly high profile both in and out of hip-hop.
Generally made from precious metals, grills are designed to fit your teeth and be easy to remove. High-quality grills can be worn safely and shouldn’t prevent you from taking good care of your teeth.
However, there are some risks to be aware of, and existing oral health issues could make grills less safe. Talk to your dentist before committing to a grill.
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