Decorating Teeth: An Ancient Tradition

Posted on: 29 December 2014

Cosmetic dentistry is a rising trend that helps to prove the appearance of a smile, but not necessarily the function of the smile. Within the trend of cosmetic dentistry, teeth decorating is rising in popularity. In the 1980's, hip hop artists began wearing what were being called "grills" on their teeth. These were essentially metal grills that could be worn on the upper or lower teeth.

These are still popular today, but there is also another type of tooth decoration. Crystals, gems, or diamonds are set onto the teeth to add an additional sparkle to already whitened teeth. However, what most people don't know, is that tooth jewelry is actually an ancient form of mouth decoration.

Ancient Maya

While dentistry has been practiced for at least 9,000 years, tooth jewelry has a slightly different history. The peak of the Mayan civilization is between 250 to 900 A.D. They lived in what is now modern day Guatemala and Mexico and are known for their magnificent temples and advanced capabilities. They have influenced many different advances of our modern-day knowledge, from the areas of astronomy to the agriculture and farming. However, what many people don't realize, is that the Mayans are considered the first people to use mouth decorations, or tooth jewelry.

Ancient skulls have been found where small parts of the teeth were dug out and replaced with jewels, including jade. They were attached with natural resins, such as plant sap, which was then mixed with other chemicals and crushed bones in order to adhere the jewels to the teeth. 


Today, the process is not quite so difficult. Rather than shaving away parts of the teeth, the dentist will simply use a composite resin to attach the jewel, often a small crystal or a gem, to the teeth. This composite will allow the crystal or gem to be attached to the tooth anywhere from six months up to a year. 

Another rising trend in the tooth jewelry department is the tooth tattoo. It sounds made up, but the tooth tattoo is very real. For the customer that wants the tattoo, they must be getting a cap or a crown. The design is tattooed onto the cap or crown before it is put in the customer's mouth. It is just as vibrant and just as permanent as an ink tattoo, but on the teeth. This is an option for those customers who have decided that skin tattoos are not their thing. 

For more information on tooth decor, go to