The Golden History of Golden Teeth and Grillz: Adding One More Reason to Smile
Since the beginning of time, jewelry has been worn by humans to adorn their bodies. While it began with necklaces and rings, teeth soon became the new body part of accessorizing.
A grill is a dental item of jewelry worn over the teeth. Grillz and golden teeth have grown fashionable in recent years.
Most hip-hop artists, in particular, adorn their teeth with various metals such as gold, silver, bronze, platinum, and diamonds.
Teeth jewelry became popular among celebrities in the 1980s, but history predates way before that.
History of Golden Teeth and Grillz
The history of teeth jewelry is thought to have begun with the Egyptian civilization. Archaeologists unearthed two teeth wrapped in gold wire alongside a deceased individual from ancient Egypt a few years ago, prompting speculation.
Upon more investigation, it was discovered that the persons in question were most likely missing teeth, and the gold wire was only a pendant necklace. Following the debunking of Egyptians as the originators of golden teeth, Etruscans have taken that spot.
Etruscan civilization was a wealthy civilization that lived in ancient Italy from 750 BCE. They had a lavish lifestyle, so it is no surprise that the Etruscans embellished their teeth with gold.
Teeth jewelry's impact expanded from the Middle East and Europe to every corner of the globe. Mayans used gemstones like Jade to give a splash of color to their gold teeth, making them stand out.
They also bore a hole in their teeth to allow colorful pebbles to be embedded in them. However, there isn't a lot of material available regarding the Roman and Spanish periods and grills.
Still, given how well Grillz had done before them, it wouldn't be surprising if the civilization followed suit. Fast forward to the contemporary age, and gold had a purpose other than being used as jewelry.
In the 1800s, dentists began using gold as a precious material for repairing cavities in teeth. As a result, gold fillings are far older than amalgam, composite, or porcelain fillings.
Golden teeth and grills have become popular again since the 1900s. However, they did not achieve their pinnacle until the 1970s.
Grillz in Modern Era
While the popular belief is that hip-hop gave rise to the trend of teeth jewelry, filmmaker Djali Brown-Cepeda says otherwise. She told GQ that it was salsa that popularized Grillz.
Via her digital archives, Nuevayorkinos and BLK THEN, which showcased New York City's Latinx and Black heritage, she revealed that Puerto Rican teens and Black partygoers' teeth were adorned with gold.
In the same interview, model Emmanuel Popoteur emphasized the influence of hip-hop on golden teeth. He reminisced about his father telling him that in the 80s' if someone didn't have a gold tooth, then they "weren't poppin."
In the early 1980s, hip-hop musicians like Raheem the Dream and Kilo Ali started sporting grills. Then, big Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap., both from New York, openly donned gold teeth, and other rappers like OutKast, Goodie Mob, Ludacris, and Lil Jon followed suit.
Grills were often featured in hip-hop music during this time, most notably in Rapper Nelly, Paul Wall, Big Gipp, and Ali's number one hit 'Grillz' from 2005 and other Wall's songs. Wall is recognized for both his rapping and his grilling company; among his clientele are Kanye West and Cam'ron.
Many singers started referring to Grillz in their songs. They also started sporting it in music videos, award ceremonies, and photoshoots, among others.