Tooth gems are trending — here’s why they’re not a trend

Some are saying a throwback trend is making a “comeback,” while others say it never was a fad to begin with.

Tooth gems, caps and grills were all the rage in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In the Y2K era, the teeth adornments were popularized by the hip-hop community. But aesthetic tooth enhancements date as far back as 800 to 200 B.C. where Etruscan women wore gold teeth and 300 to 9000 A.D. in the Mayan Empire, where dentists implanted jade into the teeth of royalty. 

In places like Japan, Peru and India there has long been a tradition of teeth blackening. And in the U.S., during the 1970s, New York City’s West Indian immigrants introduced grills and caps into the culture, which eventually made them staples in the Black community. 

These days you’ve probably seen tooth gem sellers and wearers flooding your Instagram feed and TikTok FYP where the hashtag #toothgem has over 159 million views. 

What are tooth gems? 

Tooth gems are gems and embellishments that are attached to the surface of the tooth using an adherent. Typically installed by a dentist or technician, the accessories last up to six weeks if temporary. There are also semi-permanent tooth gems that can be worn until you want them removed.  

Tooth gems are available in all different kinds of colorful designs and patterns.

Check out these 22-karat music note charms made with Swarovski crystals. 

In addition to its cultural meaning, the purpose of teeth accessories is typically to add more flare and self-expression into one’s personal style.  

But not everyone feels like this trend is for, well, everyone 

The beauty industry is eager to capitalize on the trend now that white celebrities like Hailey BieberKourtney Kardashian and Ariana Grande have jumped on board. But in the U.S. Black and Brown people have long been stigmatized for their teeth accessories. 

“Sorry but this whole ‘tooth gems’ trend is literally just white people stealing yet another thing from Black culture that they continue to discriminate against when it’s on Black people,” @punksnotdad_ wrote on Twitter

“First off, these are not called ‘tooth gems.’ Second, when Black people wore these in the ’90s you called us ‘ghetto’… remember?” @downtown7thave tweeted in response to a magazine article claiming the trend was making a comeback.

Here’s what dentists have to say about tooth gems

“Finding a dentist who can bond it safely and conservatively is key to keeping the gem on long term,” Dr. Tina Saw DDS of Elevated Smiles told NYLON. “Placing gems does not cause permanent damage, and if you ever decide you no longer want the gem, a dentist can easily pop it off without harm.”

Dr. Saw doesn’t recommend using superglue or attaching the gems yourself because it can lead to permanent damage. But when applied correctly, these accessories are perfectly safe.

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