Trends from the ’90s—think scrunchies, bomber jackets and hoop earrings—have made a comeback. While these updated clothing staples are making waves on our social media feeds (and in our closets), another emerging trend from way back when is starting to pique our interest.
Tooth gems, otherwise known as tooth bling, are small rhinestone jewels that are glued to the front of the tooth using an adhesive and/or light source. While these gems are usually quite subtle, other forms of tooth bling like jewel-encrusted caps or grills—teeth covers made out of gold, silver, or diamonds—stand out in a crowd. Though this trend is becoming more popular now (thanks, TikTok), Atlanta, GA cosmetic dentist Ronald Goldstein, DDS says it’s actually been around for centuries.
“In Egypt, jadeite inlays were carved into front teeth to make the smile stand out for both aesthetic and psychological reasons,” explains Dr. Goldstein. “We knew it was done while the person was alive because the jaws of the deceased individuals were X-rayed and presented tooth abscesses around many of the teeth. In more modern times, certain individuals have dentists create gold crowns on top of their front teeth in some cases and others where the dentist actually prepares the teeth for full crowns made of gold to be displayed on the front teeth as a show of wealth, or to make the individual stand out.”
Despite the trend’s longevity, Dr. Goldstein says there can be some dangers depending on what is being attached and how the procedure is performed. “The dangers can range from inability to properly clean the tooth with tooth brushing to the possibility of tooth discoloration and even gum inflammation if the gem is improperly placed,” he says. “Also, some individuals have used ‘sticky super glue’ which is difficult to control where and how much is applied.” If the adhesive material is not applied properly, Dr. Goldstein says that can cause “gum inflammation, soreness, and even swelling or shrinkage of the gum tissue resulting in an unattractive smile line.”
Wellington, FL cosmetic dentist Sam S. Sadati, DDS contends that another major danger with this trend coincides with the size of the gem. “They could potentially break or damage the opposing teeth if they are placed in a wrong spot or positioned without considering the biting movements. It could also damage inside of the lip or cheeks if they are sharp or large,” he says.
The Path to Avoidance
While there are a list of dangers associated with teeth bling, New York cosmetic dentist Nargiz Schmidt, DDS says that they can be easily avoided. “It is not necessary to drill or damage the surface if a tooth when placing a gem,” she says. According to Dr. Goldstein, sanding or drilling into the tooth can damage the enamel and possibly injure the tooth nerve.
“Additionally, it’s widespread that these gems are placed by people who are not dentists,” says Dr. Schmidt, who urges that the procedure be done by a board-certified dentist or dental professional, should you be interested. “Also, only certain dental-grade adhesives should be used to avoid permanent damage to the tooth structure. If you feel that this trend’s aesthetic is for you, make sure only nontoxic gems and materials are used.”