What The Heck Are Dental Grillz?
Have you seen people wearing dental grillz?
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.
THE 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.
- 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.
- 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.
THE 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.
- 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.
CARING FOR YOUR TEETH & DENTAL 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.