The bedazzling trend from the ‘90s and early 2000s made everything shine–and the obsession with sparkle never really left. Tooth gems–in the form of diamonds, crystals, or rhinestones being bonded to a tooth–have been a glittering detail on the smiles of many celebrities throughout the years, and now, teeth jewelry is cropping up on TikTok and Instagram. A more minimalist alternative for teeth grills, the semi-permanent accessory is both edgy and delicate.
Known as the Diamond Dentist, Dr. Anjali Rajpal is one of the leading professionals making killer diamond-embellished smiles. The Beverly Hills-based dentist decorates teeth with petite diamonds and Swarovski crystals to highlight a dazzling grin. Responsible for Hailey Baldwin’s dainty crystal smile, Katy Perry’s gold Nike logo tooth, and Pink’s diamond dental jewelry, Dr. Rajpal has been up close and personal with a number of stars’ pearly whites.
Before high-profile models like Adwoa Aboah–who sported a crystal-detailed Chanel tooth charm–hopped on the trend, teeth accessories adorned grins dating back to ancient times, from 800 BC. The Etruscans, who existed in what is now Italy, were known to weave their teeth with bands of gold wire. Then, in 300 AD to 900 AD, Mayan royals drilled holes into their teeth and filled them with gold and semiprecious jewels, like jade and turquoise. While teeth ornaments beautified appearances, they could also hold deeper significance. For the Mayans, the custom was believed to ensure prosperity. Meanwhile, in the early Philippines and China, gold grills followed ancient mythology and divinity, connecting dental accessories with spiritual meaning and purpose.
In more recent history, teeth gems have become embedded in American pop culture, specifically in the hip hop scene. New Yorker-turned-Atlantan jeweler Eddie Plein was the father of gold grills in the ‘80s—creating the dental decor for rappers Big Daddy Kane, Kool G. Rap, and Flavor Flav. Other celebrities then began sporting grills and tooth gems as fashion statements, and the dental bling craze was thrust into the spotlight with Nelly’s 2005 hit “Grillz,” which was all about diamond-encrusted gold grills. While tooth gems offer more subtle shine, the eye-catching detail will always be symbolic of the hip hop culture it was born from.
Here, Dr. Rajpal tells us more about the origins of teeth gems, what you can expect when you get one applied, and why you shouldn’t copy the TikTokers trying it at home.
L’OFFICIEL: You've been applying tooth gems on celebrity clients for years now. Why do you think they're coming back in style, or did they ever leave?
Dr. Anjali Rajpal: Maybe because it didn't blow up too fast, it didn't burn out too fast? There is no reason for it to go out of style just yet. It is really a fun stylistic piece to show off. And because not everyone is wearing tooth gems, it makes it more special and ultimately a longer-lasting trend. Beautiful smiles are captivating and the joy they express is contagious. When you add a touch of shine to them, it makes them even more eye-catching.
L’O: Appropriation versus appreciation is a big topic in fashion. What should people know about the origins of the tooth gem trend before trying it for themselves?
AR: Well, teeth jewelry has always been a thing since ancient times. Teeth gems specifically became a popular trend in Sweden and throughout Europe back in the '90s. It didn't quite make it here around then, but we had teeth grills surfacing here around that time in the late '80s. The nice thing with teeth gems is that they still make a fashionable statement, but are not as extravagant and extreme as grills. So it is a nice piece that you can wear all day without having to take in and out like a grill. I believe they are more hygienic as well.
L'O: What is the procedure for getting a tooth gem?
AR: In my office, the procedure involves the selection of jewels, visualization of the design, and then application of dental materials to bond the jewels to the tooth in a harmless conservative fashion. I make sure that there is no damage to the tooth structure and that they are smoothly polished so that they are comfortable to the lips and can be brushed easily.
L’O: How long do they last?
AR: They can last for as long as the client chooses. They can last years if one likes or they can be worn just to make a statement for a weekend and removed after. They are bonded to the tooth so they need to be debonded and polished off, restoring the tooth to its initial natural state.
L’O: How do you make each application unique to each customer?
AR: It is always a unique collaboration. Each client usually has something in mind for what they desire, and we artistically create something together that he/she is excited about.
L’O: Have you noticed a certain demographic of customers asking for this treatment?
AR: It is always an adventure working with different personalities to see what suits each client best. Most of my clients are young and stylish, however, it appeals to every generation. Some have the jewels placed to add a bit of edginess to their style, while others like it to be more of a sophisticated polished look, like an elegant piece of jewelry. One of my clients was my friend's grandmother a few years ago and she still rocks her teeth jewel to this day.
L’O: What do you think about the tooth gems becoming a popular DIY trend on the TikTok app? Is at-home application safe?
AR: I do not advise any DIY placement of jewels. They are unlikely to adhere properly for a reasonable amount of time. Also, if the material used to place them is not flush with the tooth, then it can just act as a bacterial trap. I think being in the hands of an experienced dentist like me is a safer way to go.