Stories

Lemme see yer grills

Why settle for plain old pearly whites when you can adorn your teeth with a bespoke grill?

By Chris Chapman

  • Story
a pair of hands presenting a jewel encrusted grill for the mouth
Grillz, Chris Chapman. Source: Wellcome Collection. © Wellcome Collection.

Grills (aka grillz, fronts or golds) are a type of mouth jewellery first worn by hip-hop artists in 1980s America. The removable tooth guards are made from precious metals like platinum and gold and sometimes encrusted with precious gems.

Today, grills are an established part of pop culture. The singer Nelly wrote a song about them in 2005, and they’ve adorned the teeth of celebrities such as Madonna, Beyoncé and Katy Perry.

Grills range in style from full mouthpieces, covering every tooth in shining metal, to simple metal shapes that subtly enhance the teeth.

Solange Garcia is a tooth jeweller. In this video, she reveals how bespoke grills are made.  It’s a skilled process that draws on dentistry techniques such as casting an impression of the client’s teeth. And that seems appropriate because you probably need strong teeth to wear a grill.

If you enjoyed this video, you'll find it and more in the Teeth exhibition at Wellcome Collection, 17 May-16 September 2018.

About the contributors

Photograph of Chris Chapman

Chris Chapman

@chimpy