A woman and a dentist in a modern dental practice. The woman is having tooth jewellery applied to her teeth.

Tooth Jewellery Through the Ages: A Historical Journey

Tooth Jewellery Through the Ages: A Historical Journey

Tooth jewellery has not only captured the modern imagination but is also steeped in a rich history that traverses centuries and continents. With its roots embedded deep in the practices of ancient civilizations, tooth jewellery has evolved into a fashionable statement in the contemporary world. Today, whether you are looking for tooth gems near you or contemplating purchasing a tooth gems kit to personalize your smile, the fascination with decorating teeth remains as vibrant as ever. This blend of tradition and trend illustrates tooth jewellery’s unique capacity to bridge past and present, making it a significant aspect of cultural expression and personal style.

As we embark on this historical journey, our exploration will span from the ancient practice of embedding precious materials into teeth to the variety of tooth gems designs and tooth gems ideas prevalent in the 21st century. Whether it was the gold-adorned smiles of ancient dignitaries or the modern-day inclination towards tooth gems on the Gold Coast or tooth gems in Brisbane, the allure of dental adornments has persisted. We will delve into the resurgence of tooth jewellery in the late 20th century, examining how advancements in dental technology and changing fashion sensibilities have influenced its popularity and accessibility, including the variation in tooth gems price and the spread of tooth gems across Australia. This narrative not only highlights the aesthetic appeal of tooth jewellery but also underscores its role in self-expression across different eras and cultures.

Ancient Civilizations and Tooth Jewellery

Historical Records

Archaeological evidence indicates that the practice of tooth decoration dates back to ancient civilizations. The earliest known use of tooth gems was in the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations of Mesoamerica, where materials like jade and turquoise were embedded into the teeth of both males and females. This form of dental adornment was not merely aesthetic but also symbolized social status, wealth, and spiritual beliefs. Mayans, for instance, believed that these decorations brought them closer to their gods and enhanced their physical appearance. Similarly, the Chinese during the Ming Dynasty adorned their teeth with gold and intricate designs to reflect their royal status and protect against misfortune.

In Southeast Asia, countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia have a rich history of using tooth gems as a form of self-expression and beauty enhancement. Traditional Thai tooth gems, known as ‘phet mae som’ or ‘som fak’, were typically crafted from gold or silver and featured detailed designs, highlighting the artistry involved in this practice.

Cultural Significance and Symbolism

Tooth jewellery in ancient cultures often carried deeper symbolic meanings. In ancient China, the use of tooth gems was intertwined with the concept of yin and yang, symbolizing harmony, and balance. The adornment of teeth with precious stones like jade, gold, and silver among Chinese royalty and aristocracy was not only a display of wealth but also served as a spiritual safeguard.

In the Americas, the Mayans used specific stones such as jadeite and pyrite for tooth embellishment, reflecting a connection to their deities and an affirmation of their societal status. Archaeological findings in the Mayan ruins of Tikal suggest that elaborate dental work was indicative of a high societal position.

The practice also extended to Neolithic times, where teeth were modified and worn as pendants, suggesting profound symbolic value among the people of Çatalhöyük. This form of adornment indicated a deep cultural and spiritual significance, emphasizing the multifaceted roles that tooth jewellery played in ancient societies.

A woman and a dentist in a modern dental practice. The woman is having tooth jewellery applied to her teeth. The scene is in a modern dentist office

Tooth Jewellery in Different Eras

Medieval Times to the Renaissance

During the Medieval period, the use of tooth jewellery was not widely documented, but the Renaissance brought a renewed interest in bodily adornment, including the decoration of teeth. This era, known for its revival of classical learning and values, saw jewellers incorporating more symmetry and proportion into their designs. Inspired by ancient Greek and Roman motifs, these designs often featured precious metals and stones, which were sometimes used in dental decorations.

The Renaissance also saw the use of devotional pendants and cameos, which although primarily worn as necklaces or brooches, influenced the ornamental practices related to tooth jewellery. These items often depicted biblical scenes or mythological subjects, adding a layer of cultural significance to the practice of adorning one’s appearance.

19th and Early 20th Century Practices

Moving into the 19th century, particularly during the Victorian era, tooth jewellery became more symbolic and sentimental. The era, characterized by Queen Victoria’s reign, saw advancements in dental technology and jewellery making. Techniques such as the introduction of new clasps and settings allowed for more intricate dental adornments, which were not only decorative but also held personal significance.

In addition to the use of precious metals and stones, there were practices involving the use of pulverized stones such as rock alum and crushed pearls rubbed onto the teeth. This not only aimed to enhance the whiteness of the teeth but, regrettably, often led to the erosion of tooth enamel.

Furthermore, the early 20th century saw the continuation of using precious materials in tooth jewellery. The Belle Époque period, for instance, emphasized delicate designs with the use of platinum and diamonds, reflecting the era’s fascination with elegance and refinement in jewellery making.

This historical exploration reveals how tooth jewellery has been a part of human adornment for centuries, with each era contributing new materials, techniques, and symbolic meanings to the practice.

The Resurgence in the Late 20th Century

Influence of Music and Pop Culture

The late 20th century witnessed a significant resurgence in tooth jewellery, primarily influenced by the burgeoning hip-hop culture. This period saw the introduction of gold teeth and grills as symbols of wealth, status, and identity within the music industry. Icons like Nelly, Lil Wayne, and Kanye West not only embraced these styles but also prominently featured them in their public appearances and music videos. This adoption by high-profile artists helped cement tooth jewellery as a fashionable statement across broader audiences.

The visibility of tooth jewellery was further amplified by its presence in the media and its association with success in the hip-hop community. As these artists rose in fame, so did the desirability of tooth jewellery, making it a sought-after accessory among fans and followers who wanted to emulate their favourite musicians. This trend was not limited to the United States but spread globally, influencing fashion trends on an international scale.

The Role of Hip-Hop

Hip-hop played a crucial role in transforming tooth jewellery from niche dental modifications to mainstream fashion accessories. The genre’s evolution throughout the 1980s and 1990s introduced more elaborate and luxurious symbols of success, including the use of dental grills made from precious metals and stones. Early adopters like Flavour Flav and Slick Rick were instrumental in popularizing these accessories, which were initially a part of their stage personas but soon became a staple in hip-hop fashion.

As hip-hop culture continued to grow and influence various aspects of society, tooth jewellery became intertwined with expressions of cultural identity and social status. The adoption of grills and gold teeth became a way for individuals to assert their identity and affiliations, reflecting both personal style and cultural connectivity. This period also saw the democratization of such fashion statements, with innovations allowing for more accessible and varied designs, making tooth jewellery a more inclusive trend.

The resurgence of tooth jewellery in the late 20th century is a testament to its enduring appeal and its ability to adapt to contemporary cultural dynamics. As you explore tooth gems near you or consider different tooth gems designs and ideas, you are participating in a tradition that has deep historical roots and a rich cultural narrative, continuously shaped by the music and fashion of the time.

A woman is having tooth jewellery applied to her teeth. The scene is well-lit, and clean

Contemporary Tooth Jewellery

Advancements in Materials and Application

In the realm of contemporary tooth jewellery, significant advancements in materials and application methods have been observed. Modern tooth gems are not only about aesthetics but also about durability and safety. Materials such as Swarovski crystals, 14ct rose and yellow gold, and even diamonds are now commonly used, providing a variety of options to meet individual tastes and budgets. The application process has evolved significantly; dental professionals now use advanced bonding agents specifically designed for dental use. This ensures that the tooth gems stay securely in place without damaging the tooth’s surface. For instance, the use of etching acid creates a porous surface on the tooth, followed by a resin bond like that used for braces, ensuring that the gems are not only beautiful but also securely attached.

Popular Designs and Styles Today

The contemporary scene of tooth jewellery is vibrant with a plethora of designs and styles that cater to diverse aesthetic preferences. The trend of “confetti,” which involves multiple gems placed across the teeth, is particularly popular, allowing for a maximalist expression of personal style. Traditional designs like butterflies, flowers, and cherries continue to be in demand, but newer, more daring designs such as teardrops on canines and iridescent Swarovski AB crystals are also gaining popularity. These designs reflect the individual’s personality and are often seen as a form of self-expression. Moreover, the influence of celebrities like Hailey Bieber, Drake, and Beyoncé, who have publicly flaunted their tooth gems, has propelled the popularity of these dental accessories, turning them into a must-have fashion statement. The affordability and accessibility of tooth jewellery have also played a significant role in its widespread adoption, with prices starting at reasonable rates, making it accessible to a broader audience.


Throughout the ages, tooth jewellery has remarkably bridged the gap between ancient tradition and modern fashion, transforming from a symbol of status and spirituality into a contemporary expression of individuality and style. This journey from the precious stone-encrusted smiles of ancient civilizations to the trendy and varied designs of today’s tooth gems highlights the enduring appeal and versatility of tooth adornments. By tracing the evolution of tooth jewellery, we have seen not just changes in materials and methodologies, but also the constant human desire to beautify and personalize one’s appearance in ways that resonate with cultural and personal identity.

The resurgence of tooth jewellery in popular culture, bolstered by advancements in dental technology and the influence of celebrities, underscores its significance in modern-day fashion and self-expression. As we continue to explore and embrace these decorative trends, we are not only participating in a storied tradition but also contributing to the ongoing narrative of human creativity and style. Whether for aesthetic pleasure, cultural connection, or personal expression, tooth jewellery remains a fascinating and vibrant facet of adornment, inviting us all to leave a mark on its glittering history.


  1. What is the historical background of tooth jewellery?
    Tooth jewellery dates back to the Mayan Empire, where it was one of the earliest known forms. Archaeological findings show that Mayans drilled holes into their teeth to insert precious stones like jade, using tree sap as an adhesive.
  2. How have different cultures historically treated tooth modification?
    Throughout history, various cultures have used tooth modification as a form of beautification and status symbol. The ancient Maya elite would drill their teeth to insert gemstones or reshape them into different forms. Similarly, Vikings in Europe were known to carve grooves and designs into their teeth, as a mark of identity or status.
  3. Can you describe the evolution of teeth decoration practices?
    Teeth decoration has been practiced since as early as 1800 B.C. The Mayans were pioneers in this art, using materials like jade, turquoise, gold, and hematite. They would drill teeth and use natural adhesives such as plant sap to secure the decorations.
  4. What do you call the practice of attaching jewels to teeth?
    The modern practice of affixing jewels to teeth is known as tooth gems. These gems are bonded directly to the tooth’s enamel.

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Tooth Jewellery Through the Ages: A Historical Journey
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Tooth Jewellery Through the Ages: A Historical Journey
Tooth jewellery has not only captured the modern imagination but is also steeped in a rich history that traverses centuries and continents.
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Smiles By Natasha
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