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What the Heck are Dental Grillz?

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I'm a dental hygienist, pyrography artist, avid gardener, writer, vegetarian, world traveler, and many other things!

10k solid gold with citrine and topaz, US$350

10k solid gold with citrine and topaz, US$350

The hip hop / rap music scene has certainly affected fashion in the US and worldwide since its inception in the early 1980s. We've gone through huge clocks dangling from huge gold chains, to MC Hammer pants, backwards clothes, kicked baseball hats, super baggy pants, to designer labels, dripping wealth, and what brings us here now: bling!

That's right, bling. There's no point for sporting dental fronts (aka grillz; grills; golds) other than showing off how much money you have or how "gangsta" you are. The most prized are platinum fronts embedded with diamonds, though there's a whole range of precious metals and stones out there that have inevitably been used as well.

Apart from the "real deal," there's also a huge market for "affordable" dental grill knockoffs that your kids can afford, often ranging in price from US$20-40. They're made of gold-plated or silver-plated brass. For those unaware of the dangers, brass is made from copper, zinc, and 2% lead. According to Wikipedia,

The pattern the globules form on the surface of the brass increases the available lead surface area which in turn affects the degree of leaching. In addition, cutting operations can smear the lead globules over the surface. These effects can lead to significant lead leaching from brasses of comparatively low lead content.

WARNING: Be very careful when buying cheap dental grills, as your health may be at risk. Lead permanently affects learning and behavior, and may permanently damage internal organs such as your brain, heart, bones, and kidneys. Instead, save your money and buy a dental grill of solid gold or other precious metal, and get it fitted by a dentist. These often are still affordable ranging from US$300-400.

Paul Wall's $30,000 platinum & diamond grillz

Paul Wall's $30,000 platinum & diamond grillz

Lil Wayne's beautifully blingy grillz

Lil Wayne's beautifully blingy grillz

Different Types of Dental Grillz

  • Custom - Custom dental grillz are formed from dental impression molds or wax bites at the dental office. The impressions are sent to a dental lab, which will make your grillz from scratch. The grillz, when completed, will perfectly conform to your teeth.
  • Do-it-yourself custom - Companies like Grillz by JBone and Gangsta Gold offer the option for you to take your own impressions. The onus is then on you to find a reputable custom grill lab and send them your dental impressions. The grillz, when completed, will perfectly conform to your teeth.
Custom grillz

Custom grillz

  • Ready made - These are the cheaper, quicker option, often made of gold-plated or silver-plated brass. They are not molded to your teeth, but come in generic tooth-shaped patterns. The grillz do not fit snugly, and are more likely to contribute to oral trauma and disease.
  • Precious metal - Pure, solid precious metals are used to create these grillz. Gold, silver, and platinum are among the most popular, with gold and platinum being the most nonreactive metals inside the mouth.
  • Plated brass - As mentioned previously, these are the most common and cheapest grillz, and also contain small amounts of lead. Over time, this lead can leach from the brass and cause long-term physical damage.
$24.99 silver-plated brass grillz

$24.99 silver-plated brass grillz

  • Tooth-shaped - Some grillz take the shape of real teeth, and have a scalloped and defined look to them. Take a look at the Lil Wayne image above for an example of this type of grill.
  • Rows - Some grillz are made of rows of gemstones and do not have a scalloped tooth shape, or any delineation of where each tooth sits behind the grill. See Paul Wall's image above for an example of this type of grill.
  • Frames - Some grillz are made to "frame" teeth, where you can see most of the tooth, but its border is framed with a precious metal. See the picture below for an example of this type of grill.
Teeth framed by solid gold grillz

Teeth framed by solid gold grillz

Oral Hazards of Dental Grillz

  • Plaque / biofilm - Biofilm (aka plaque) can easily adhere to and build up on dental grillz. Biofilm is home to bacteria that cause tooth decay and bad breath, and is the leading cause of the oral disease called gingivitis. More information here.
  • Gingivitis - This oral disease is an infection of the gum tissue and bleeding is usually associated with it, along with redness, irritation, and puffiness of the tissues surrounding the teeth. When biofilm and other debris sits long enough on the gums, open sores develop, leading to bleeding, and general tissue irritation becomes noticeable. Gingivitis is completely reversible with good oral hygiene, but untreated can lead to tooth loss.
Soulja Boy grillz

Soulja Boy grillz

  • Tooth decay - Oral bacteria (biofilm) + Acid + Sugar = Tooth Decay. Dental grillz will trap food and biofilm, leaving teeth much more susceptible to decay.
  • Tooth abrasion - Metal in the mouth will grind teeth down, eventually exposing dentin (the layer under enamel), increasing the likelihood of tooth sensitivity and decay.
  • Gum recession - Anything pushing on the gum tissue (including brushing too hard) will eventually lead to the receding of these tissues. This means more tooth surface will be exposed to the environment, increasing the possibility of decay. This cannot be reversed, and is a leading cause of tooth sensitivity.
  • Tooth discoloration - Various metals can cause tooth and tissue discoloration. These discolorations may be reversible or permanent.
  • Tooth chipping - Metal is tougher than enamel, and dental grillz make it more likely that teeth can be chipped and cracked.
  • Allergic reaction - Some metals may cause irritation and an allergic reaction. Things to look out for include sloughing of your cheek tissues; sloughing of your gum tissue; irritation, swelling of the lips, tongue, and uvula; tightness in the throat; vomiting.
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Caring For Your Teeth & Grillz

  • Remove grillz - Every time you eat or drink, at night, or whenever you sleep.
  • Brush grillz - Twice daily when you brush your teeth. Pay special attention to the surface that touches your teeth. Use baking soda or mild, clear hand soap. Rinse well. Follow manufacturer's directions.
  • Floss once daily - As recommended by hygienists and dentists.
  • Use mouth wash - Such as ACT Restoring Mouthwash, which will restore minerals to the teeth and help prevent decay.
  • Visit your dental hygienist - Every 6 months. S/he will be able to assess any tooth or tissue damage and give you advice on how best to maintain your oral health.

Seven-year-old boy swallows grill

Gold Grill Target of Robbers

14k Gold Teeth dental grillz

Thug Fashion dental grillz

Colgate dental grillz page

Grill jewelry on Wikipedia

© 2011 Kate P


gordon nash on July 25, 2016:


Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on December 06, 2011:

Thanks for the great feedback, you guys. And I'm still seeing them in pre-pubescent boys at the mall food court. I think it looks silly, but whatever makes people feel good is okay with me! :)

Derdriu on December 06, 2011:

Faceless39: What a helpful, informative, timely summary of the grillz fad! It is most helpful the way in which you describe the different grillz styles in the context of price, material and health.

Thank you for sharing, etc.,


howtohandbook from Riyadh on December 06, 2011:

Good shot!

JCielo from England on December 06, 2011:

I don't know what to say apart from I'm gobsmacked! Really interesting hub and the images are brilliant. Voted up and awesome.

THEHuG5 on December 05, 2011:

I had no idea that they dated all the way back to the Mayans that's interesting.I haven't seen anyone with a grill in a long time (well except for some rappers) so I guessed that they went out of style. I have never seen a woman with a grill that's awful lol!

Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on December 05, 2011:

Yeah, I think they look dumb, too lol. Unfortunately they're still very much in use, and apparently date back to Mayan days (when they'd inlay jewels into their teeth.) Frankly though I agree; what will that guy look like in his 80s!? Ha. Also even more fugly are the girls who wear these things. Nothing says class like a big ole grill!

THEHuG5 on December 05, 2011:

Very very interesting hub! Thank goodness grillz are sooo 5 years ago! I remember guys in my middle school and high school would have cheap versions of those ugly things in. They look stupid. If you haven't heard that song by Nelly called "Grillz" you should check it out. It's quite catchy but I think it jumped off the whole craze. I actually think there is a rapper with a permanent grill. He should look very charming when he's 80 with a gold mouth. Definitely voting this up it was a pleasure to read :)

Justsilvie on December 05, 2011:

Interesting Hub!

I thought grown men walking around with pants that looked like they were two year old after a bathroom accident was hideous but this fad takes UGLY TO A NEW HIGH… In fact DAMN UGLY would be a stronger description.

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