Grill (jewelry)

In hip hop culture, a grill (also front or golds) is a type of jewelry worn over the teeth. Grills are made of metal and are generally removable. They began to be worn by hip hop artists in the early 1980s, but they became widely popular during the mid-2000s due to the rise of Dirty South rap. Though grills are fitted to the tooth impression of the wearer, whether they are safe for long-term wear is unknown.

Characteristics and wearer demographics

Grills are made of metal (often silver, gold, or platinum) that is sometimes inlaid with precious stones; they are generally removable, though some may be permanently attached to the teeth.Schepp, David. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/1471097.stm "Gold Teeth Are a Gold Mine."] "BBC News" (August 3, 2001). Accessed September 14, 2007.] Grills can cost anywhere from fifty dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the materials used and the number of teeth covered.

Grills are most often worn by 18- to 35-year-old urban male hip-hop listeners,Laue, Christine. "Grins with Grills." "Omaha World-Herald" (February 7, 2006).] and at least one commentator has argued that grills will never become mainstream.Ref_label|A|a|none However, grills are worn by both men and women of all races, at least to some extent, as well as by celebrities far from hip-hop culture like Johnny Depp and Travis Barker of Blink-182.

History

Hip hop artists began wearing grills in the early 1980s;Sims, Brian. [http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/columns-editorials/id.600/title.history-of-the-grill "History of the Grill."] "Hip Hop DX" (July 17, 2006). Accessed September 14, 2007.] New Yorker Eddie Plein, owner of Eddie's Gold Teeth, is often credited with starting the trend. Plein made gold caps for Flava Flav, and then outfitted New York rappers including Big Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap. He later moved to Atlanta, where he designed ever-more-elaborate grills for rappers like OutKast, Goodie Mob, Ludacris, and Lil Jon. Other writers have cited Slick Rick as an important early contributor to the popularity of grills.Steven, Curtis. "Rap Sinks Teeth into Grills." "Tampa Tribune" (February 2, 2006).] Jones, Vanessa E. [http://www.boston.com/yourlife/fashion/articles/2006/01/31/put_your_money_where_your_mouth_is/ "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is."] "Boston Globe" (January 31, 2006).]

Grills remained popular in the Southern U.S. even as they rose and fell from popularity elsewhere, and the rise of Dirty South rappers in the 2000s spurred a nationwide grill trend. During this time, grills frequently appeared in hip hop music, most notably in the 2005 number one single "Grillz," by Nelly, Paul Wall, Big Gipp, and Ali, and in other Paul Wall songs. Wall is known for his grill business as well as his rapping; his clients include Kanye West and Cam'ron.Heldman, Breanne L. [http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/entertainment/2005/10/06/2005-10-06_more_bite_for_the_buck__brac.html "More Bite for the Buck."] "New York Daily News" (October 6, 2005).]

Murray Forman, a professor specializing in popular music and hip-hop at Northeastern University, has suggested that grills, like other bling jewelry, symbolize monetary success, which is especially important for the social underclass. He has also suggested that the attention grills draw to the mouth is reflective of the importance in vocal dexterity in the African-American community, citing the importance of West African oral storytelling traditions, African-American orators, and trash talk among basketball players.Ref_label|B|b|none

Manufacture

While early grills could not be removed easily and involved reshaping the tooth itself to fit the grill, grills are today made from custom dental molds. For more expensive grills, a dentist takes a mold of the wearer's front teeth with a quick set alginate.Phillips, Bianca. [http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/Content?oid=oid%3A24383 "Rappers May Lose Reason To Smile."] "Memphis Flyer" (February 7, 2007).] A tooth mold is obtained by filling the alginate negative with plaster, then the plaster is used to fit the grill to the unique set of teeth. However, for inexpensive novelty grills, a jeweler may make an impression by having the wearer bite into dental putty or wax softened in water, or the wearer may do this himself. [Bauer, Andrea. [http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/wayw/060908/ "What Are You Wearing?"] "Chicago Reader" (September 8, 2006).] Hill, Ian. [http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051219/ENT/512190301 "Grills Gone Wild."] "The Record (Stockton)" (December 19, 2005).] Such grills may be less comfortable or dependable than grills that are professionally fitted, [ [http://www.grillsbypaulwall.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=FAQG "Grills FAQ."] Grillsbypaulwall.com. Accessed September 14, 2007.] and in several instances jewelers manufacturing grills in this manner have been charged with practicing dentistry without a license. [Rosenbaum, S.I. [http://www.sptimes.com/2005/12/17/Tampabay/Jeweler_s_gold_grill_.shtml "Jeweler's Gold Grill Business to Lose Its Luster."] "St. Petersburg Times" (December 17, 2005).]

Criticism and health hazards

According to the American Dental Association in June 2006, no studies have shown whether the long-term wearing of grills is safe.American Dental Association. [http://www.ada.org/public/media/releases/0606_release03.asp "Dentists Say Dental Grills (Grillz) Might Bring Glitz, But Could Tarnish Smile."] ADA.org (June 28, 2006). Accessed September 14, 2007.] If the grills fit properly and are worn only intermittently, wearers are at a low risk for dental problems, according the ADA. The ADA has warned, however, that grills made from base metals could cause irritation or allergic reactions, and that bacteria trapped under a grill worn on a long-term basis could result in gum disease, cavities, or even bone loss.Du Lac, J. Freedom. [http://www.azcentral.com/ent/pop/articles/0120grills0120.html "Brace Yourselves: Designer 'Grills' Have Rappers Smiling."] "Washington Post" (January 17, 2006). ] School districts in Alabama, Georgia, and Texas [ [http://www.spin.com/features/news/2006/07/060713_grills/ "Texas School District Bans Grills."] "Spin" (July 13, 2006).] have banned grills for reasons both disciplinary and health-related.

Just as other hip hop fashion has been criticized, grills have been denounced by some commentators as expensive and ostentatious displays that strain the finances of poor youth.

Notes

a. Note_label|A|a|noneAccording to Minya Oh, a radio personality and author of "Bling Bling: Hip Hop's Crown Jewels", "Pamela Anderson, Ashton Kutcher, and Elton John can wear all the bling they want, but there's one place they'll never go. They won't get fronts because it's one of the last things that hip hop is keeping for itself."

b. Note_label|B|b|noneSimilarly, Stockton rapper Dejon "Samraw" Bennett said of his grill, "I'm a rapper; I have to have a nice mouth if I'm going to say nice words."

References

ee also

* Bling bling
* Gold teeth
* "Grillz", a 2005 single by Nelly, featuring Paul Wall, Ali, and Big Gipp
* Hip hop fashion


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