For about ten minutes in the 1990s, there was a brief tooth gem trend that had young Gen Xers like myself embellishing their teeth. Three decades later, the recently released Pinterest Predicts 2022 report has revealed that the trend is making a comeback among Gen Zers.
As cosmetic dentist Sharon Huang explained to PopSugar, the tooth gem trend involves using “rhinestones, crystals, and in some cases, diamonds” to decorate your teeth. Pinterest claimed that searches for “tooth gems” have skyrocketed in recent months, with an 85 percent increase year over year.
The Tooth Gem Origin Story
Young people all over social media are documenting their journey to getting tooth gems and touting it as a fun and unique way to spice up their look. But what they might now know is that tooth gems have quite the history behind them.
The act of teeth embellishment actually goes back to the ancient Mayan civilization. The tooth gems were used as wealth and status indicators, and archeological excavations in the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal have found examples of this elaborate dental work.
Archeologist Marshall Becker—professor emeritus of anthropology at West Chester University—told PopSugar that tooth embellishments “most likely indicated wealth” in a community. They could also be a status symbol, indicating a high position in society. However, the ancient Mayans didn’t use diamonds and rhinestones.
“Disks of jadeite or pyrite were most common,” Dr. Becker explained. He noted that those disks varied in both size and number, but “one large disk per tooth was most common.”
Dr. Becker pointed out that today’s tooth gems are different from another tooth embellishment trend—grillz. He says that gems are “inlaid stones,” while grillz “appear to be embellishments done in overlays.” The difference is simply the application method.
Why The Popularity Growth?
Some celebrities—like Kanye West, Hailey Bieber, and Katy Perry—have worn tooth gems recently. But the trend’s rising popularity lately seems to be due to Pinterest.
“I saved [a picture of] them to a board of things I wanted to try to change my appearance. I’ve always been interested in trying things that were out of the box and tooth gems were right up my alley,” YouTuber Glorya Grah told PopSugar.