The Not So Modern Dental Modification Trend
Rapper Flavour Flav is often credited as being the originator of the ‘grill’ (a removable piece of jewelry worn over the teeth), baring his trademark look through the 80’s. These days, grills are having a moment in the spotlight as A list celebrities have been seen sporting them. Usually custom fit, made of gold or platinum, and often set with diamonds, it’s a look that can set you back tens of thousands of dollars, or more.
But fear not cuspid cuties, as dental bling is slowly chomping its way into mainstream culture. Many jewelry, aesthetic, and yes, even piercing shops are offering tooth gemming as a service. The procedure essentially involves adhering a shiny rhinestone to your tooth/teeth to add that little bit of sparkle that all of the whitening strips in the world just can’t deliver. The procedure is temporary, does not damage your teeth, and will set you back less them $100.
(Take that celebrities!)
As you stare yourself down in the mirror, deciding which incisor needs some sparkle, you’re probably thinking that this whole thing is a fun new trend. But that’s where you’re wrong!
Historians have found evidence of ancient dentistry dating back thousands of years! Sumerians, Egyptians, Mayans, they all had sophisticated and effective ways of dealing with cavities, tooth decay, and other oral issues.
The Mayans, a civilization that lived in what we know refer to as Southern Mexico and Central America, also used to alter their teeth in the name of beauty. Teeth were sharpened, carved, or drilled with tools made from hard stones, like obsidian (volcanic glass). Ornamental stones, often jade, were permanently affixed to the tooth with natural plant based resins.
While we have no way of knowing how the Mayans went about their dental practices, we do know that there are several plants in the region that could have been used an anesthetic, making the procedures more bearable. However, if you’ve ever chipped a tooth, or worn down your enamel by insistently gnawing on your lip or tongue jewelry, you can imagine how painful it would have been for these carved out teeth to come into contact with hot or cold foods.
(Such is the price of beauty.)
So if, when you go to get your next tattoo/piercing/tooth ornament, your parent/partner/coworker is accusing you of buying into a silly trend, or expressing needless rebellion, tell them you’re simply appreciating your cultural heritage.
I wouldn’t hold my breath for the day that historians discover the Mayans wearing short shorts or crop tops. You’re on your own with that one.