What is a ‘grill’? Isn’t it something you barbeque on? Yes it is, but it is also a piece of metal jewelry worn on the individual’s teeth. Urban Dictionary defines it as “caps or fitting worn over ones teeth, either on top, bottom, or both. To be mostly made out of gold, silver, diamond or platinum” (Urban Dictionary). This isn’t a new jewelry phenomenon, but it really became a trendy one, largely in the hip hop community during the 1980’s- 2000’s.
Grills, or commonly spelled, grillz (or also known as fronts) have a variety of theories and stories of how they started and who wore them first but the most common answer happens to be that grillz began as one gold tooth in a rappers mouth and in the 80’s expanded hip hop jewelry fashion by making an entire mouth piece. Rappers such as, Flava Flav from Public Enemy, are attributed to making the style trendy at first (King Ice). Grillz became a fashion statement to set the hip hop industry apart from the other music cultures. It helped to bring to life the edginess and “freshness” and the overall uniqueness of the hip hop fashion industry in comparison to other music related fashions (King Ice). Eventually rappers were getting full mouth grillz made out of gold, platinum or silver with diamonds embedded on them. Grillz were so popular, largely because they helped make the rapper or individual stand out from the crowd. Some people find grillz offensive and it help create the non-conforming attitude that the hip hop industry likes. Some people view grills as a sign of violence, drugs or crime (King Ice). Other reasons people wear grills included giving the wearer a tough persona. Another reason is it showed how much wealth the rapper or person had because their teeth are all decked out in white or yellow gold or sterling silver, platinum, real diamonds or cubic zirconia (Grill Mouth). In recent years, it’s not only the hip hop community who spend their money on grillz, just about anyone can afford a grill, even though they aren’t as high quality. Some schools had to start banning students from wearing them to school (Sims) and famous celebrities outside of the hip hop world, such as Johnny Depp (wore them to the Oscars one year) and Madonna have been seen wearing grillz (Grill Mouth).
When it comes to creating a grill for a customer, it is very similar to making a retainer or taking an impression of someone’s teeth at the dentist office. A jewelry maker (or better yet a dentist) will take an imprinted mold of the customer’s teeth. After this the piece will be custom fitted to the customers liking, and then the jeweler will cast it in gold, silver, platinum and diamond or add colored diamonds all over, or whatever else the wearer would like customized to their jewelry piece. The jeweler then takes a wax as an adhesive to the grill. They heat the wax until it is boiling and soft and then put it on the gold, silver, platinum or diamond grill then put it on the users’ teeth (King Ice). Gold is one of the best metals to use to make a grill because it is bendable; it is also sturdy and can withstand corrosion. (Fashion Bomb Daily). What is unique about this jewelry fad is the jeweler can really customize and create any design the wearer is looking for. Whether it is, a themed grill, an “iced out” grill, or a humorous one it can be done. After the grill has been customized the wearer can easily pop the grill on or off just like someone would with a retainer. This may sound uncomfortable to stick a bedazzled piece of jewelry in your mouth, but if done properly the grill should be comfortable and easy to snap in and out of your mouth (Grill Mouth). It is important for the wearer’s health to choose one made out of gold, silver or platinum not only because a cheaper material will look bad, but a sturdy metal will help reduce the number of infections the wearer could possibly get from wearing the grillz (Grill Mouth).
The biggest problem and concern with this piece of jewelry is infection on ones teeth and mouth. With removable grillz, one must floss and brush more frequently than an individual who does not wear them. Some grillz are made from non-precious metals (base metals) and can make the wearers teeth sensitive and also can cause an allergic reaction (The Journal of the American Dental Association). They have to make sure to thoroughly wash the grillz in a strong anti-septic that the metal can withstand, but never jewelry cleaners because the ingredients can be dangerous to the individual once they place the grill back in their mouth (The Journal of the American Dental Association). Infection is common and sensitivity around the gums and teeth if grillz are wore for prolonged periods of time or when the wearer is sleeping or eating. Grillz have been known to cause a variety of oral issues, such as tooth decay, enamel erosion and bad breath. However, there is no research proving that grillz are dangerous to oral health, but there is also no research saying they are not (The Journal of the American Dental Association). To reduce this issue, some people, such as rapper Paul Wall, have had permanent grillz put in, so they’re always ‘flossin’(flossin means someone who is so proud of their jewelry that they’re always showing it off).
Many parents are worried about the message grillz send to their kids but what many of those who are concerned don’t realize is that it is just simply a fashion statement jewelry piece. It is not to influence gangs or promote drug use or violence; it is simply just a way to make the wearer different (King Ice). No matter how grillz came about or who’s was the first to put a piece of jewelry in their mouth, this modern piece of jewelry making and wearing is still going strong today and is probably not going to disappear anytime soon.
Fashion Bomb Daily. Black History Fashion Trend: Gold Teeth and Grills. 10 February 2010. WEB. 3 April 2013.
Fresh, Mikey. Paul Wall's History of Grillz: Paul Counts Down his Favorite Chompers With Mikey Fresh. 2 June 2010. WEB. 3 April 2013.
Grill Mouth. History of Mouth Grills. n.d. WEB. 3 April 2013.
King Ice. The Hip Hop Grillz Question. 2013. WEB. 3 April 2013.
Sims, Brian. Hip Hop DX. 16 July 2006. WEB. 3 April 2013.
The Journal of the American Dental Association. Grills, 'Grillz' and Fronts. August 2006. WEB. 3 April 2013.
Urban Dictionary. Urban Dictionary. 2013. WEB. 3 April 2013.