Looking around at people who wear gold grills, shiny fake teeth, and gem-studded retainers, it's easy to dismiss this kind of dental bling as just another crazy fad. But fads go in and out of style – and this isn't the first time that humans have felt the need to glitz up their teeth. From ancient Mayan civilizations to the gold and silver wires lining the teeth of the ancient Egyptians, humans have been accessorizing their teeth as far back as records of ancient dentistry go. So if you're curious about this magpie-like tendency to appreciate the shinier things in life (and then stick them in their mouths), then here's what you need to know about ancient dental bling.
Pretty, sparkly stones of any color have long been a fascination of humanity's, to the point that people, ancient and modern, sometimes implant these jewels into their smiles. The ancient Mayans, ever concerned with making their cities, monuments, and (apparently) smiles look as beautiful as possible, have been found (due to skeleton evidence) to have actually asked their dentists to carve out notches and grooves in their teeth, leaving room for gems to be inserted – kind of the same thing as modern-day gem-encrusted dental grills. Even more remarkably, perhaps, these gems weren't just for the royalty; as near as archeologists have been able to discover, a bedazzled smile wasn't a mark of status and has been found in the mouths of skeletons rich and poor – though most commonly in the mouths of men.
Gold, silver, platinum – you name it, people have put it in their mouths. This goes further than simply biting a piece of gold to assure yourself of its validity, however – this is about augmenting your smile with these precious metals. Gold wire bridges (meant to keep a false tooth in place) and even gold teeth themselves seem to have been a popular means in ancient Egypt of supplanting missing teeth – a common enough problem, due to the ancient Egyptians' diet of tough vegetables and tougher roots. While the Egyptians were busy outfitting their teeth in gleaming gold, however, the Greeks and Romans preferred a slightly more natural look by using silver. These decorations tell us more than one might think; unlike ancient and medieval settlers of Europe (and eventually the Americas, particularly North America), whose skeletons reveal ubiquitous tooth loss, the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks seem to have understood the importance of having a full head of teeth, and thus augmented with these precious metals most of the time when they lost one.
If you're interested in replacing a damaged or missing tooth with gold, contact a clinic like Carpenter Dental.