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Rappers wearing dental grills

By – Bad Breath Expert
Posted: September 27, 2013, Updated: January 24, 2014
SUMMARY: Check out how mouth bling became a thing, and what it means for oral health.

rappers dental grills health

Rappers and gold teeth have long?-been paired together. But what's behind that dental bling? Do they have a shiny smile, or are they just trying to distract people from their bad breath? Among our favorite flow-spitting MCs, let's find out who has craziest mouth jewelry, and what its oral health effects are. 

How did dental grills get started?
Grills first made an appearance in hip hop culture in the 1980s, but didn't reach mainstream popularity until the 2000s, the year after artists like Flavor Flav came shining under the spotlight. Perhaps the grills were a cause of bad breath that led the girls on his show, Flavor of Love, to stop chasing him. OutKast, Lil Jon, Ludacris and Slick Rick have all been cited as helping the trend get off its feet and onto teeth. Don't forget about the Dirty South rappers who certainly brought national attention to the fad as well.

But one "Country Grammar" king stands out. Nelly, who entered the scene with that unforgettable single gold tooth, explained to MTV about its roots. He says he used to put fake gold tooth caps on his mouth at a young age. Despite his mom's warnings to remove them, the St. Louis-based rapper went all out. After releasing the single "Grillz" with Paul Wall, another guy who doesn't mind showing off his blinding smile, Nelly bought a full gold mouth piece of his own..

Dental health effects
Sure, the grills might be appealing to many, but they come with a cost - and we're not just talking about the the price tag that ranges from $20 to more than $20,000.

"It might look like a fashion statement to the youth today, but it really can cause serious damage to your lower teeth," former American Dental Association (ADA) president Kathleen Roth said. "If you're wearing a grill on top, you can chip those bottom teeth easily. You can cause a lot of unhappy gum tissue and oral hygiene is certainly a difficult problem wearing the grill."

Certain mouth pieces are made in silver or gold, while others are lavishly encrusted with diamonds. Whatever the material, grills can be a public enemy to oral health, as bacteria and food can get trapped underneath the grill.

Taking shiny teeth to a whole new level was Lil Wayne, whose grill reportedly cost him $150,000. You'd think he'd be looking for more platinum in other areas - say, albums.

Deteriorating real teeth 
Grills can lead to build-up of dental plaque and tooth decay, since bacteria and food particles can get lodged between the decorative cover and the teeth. They can also discolor your pearly whites, so aspiring MCs, you may want to think twice. Gold grills may be flashy, but no one compliments yellow teeth. Teeth whitening, anyone? Though you may be looking at solutions for some bigger problems.

"It can irritate the gum tissues, and can cause gum infections, can cause gum recession, which is the gum moving away from the tooth, and that can take both support away from the teeth as well," Matt Massina, D.D.S., ADA consumer advisor, explains.

If you're still on the lookout for glimmering gold teeth, make sure you stay up on good oral hygiene habits. Before and after your cipher free-style, brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. During meals, remove the grill and rinse it regularly to avoid food bits and bacteria getting stuck in your bling. 

It is recommended that you talk to your dentist before getting a dental grill to learn how to avoid complications. If you're retiring the mouth piece, you may want to look into some teeth whitening options. You don't want that golden ticket - your real teeth - to go to waste.