Tooth jewelry brings joy to Greater Boston

“I really like what I do. It’s exciting to see how people react to a new look and to boost their confidence,” said Benitez. “This [industry] isn’t super mainstream, so it’s really cool to step into the space. … It’s almost like having cloths in your mouth.”

Benitez became a certified dental gem technician in 2020 and originally started out in her mother’s basement before acquiring her studio space along the Green Line.

Dental jewelry is an adornment that sits on the front of a tooth and is visible when smiling; usually gemstones are placed in the center of the tooth. Dental jewels last three to six months, depending on the wearer’s eating and drinking habits, and can only be applied to tooth enamel (not veneers or dentures) using a dental composite.

Angel Gonzalez from Boston with his new Gemmed by Gia dental gems.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

“It’s part of the outfit, as an aesthetic,” says Angel Gonzalez, a recent client at Gemmed by Gia. “For tooth gems, it’s like grills, but without the durability. I’ve seen it in other cities but not here, so it’s exciting and something that opens my eyes. It makes me happy [that] new things are happening in the city.”

The 23-year-old Boston resident said he found the studio through word of mouth. Gonzalez received a blue Swarovski crystal tartar on his dog during his appointment in January and said he plans to get more as he develops his personal style.

Benitez’s company joins a growing number of dental gemstone services and studios in New England, including Stoughton’s the Smile Lounge and Gemmed Smiles in Allston. Gemmed Smiles owner Taylor Silva opened her studio in May 2021, offering her clients Swarovski crystals and 18-carat yellow or white gold gemstones.

“Right now, a lot of people, especially in Black and Brown communities, are looking for a way to express their art,” she explains. Silva agreed that tooth gems provide an outlet for self-expression that fashion sometimes can’t.

Prior to the application, Silva said she provides a consultation process where she looks at the client’s overall mouth shape and bite. She explained that the consultation allows the technician to look at the anatomy of the mouth and plays a role in the longevity of the gemstones, as some designs may be incompatible depending on where certain teeth fall.

Gia Benitez, reflected in a mirror, while applying a tartar with client Angel Gonzalez.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Dr. Tien Jiang, an instructor at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology who specializes in prosthodontics dental education, advised dental jewelry customers to also consult their dentist before applying.

“You want to make sure that if you receive this service, you have regular dental visits and you don’t have any gum disease or cavities because it can potentially mask these diseases,” Jiang said.

She also noted that when worn, dental gemstones can affect the color of teeth. Add: “Your teeth are naturally porous; if you drink a lot of coffee or wine, they may start to change color a bit. It is the same with these used composites or resins [in tooth gem applications]”Even if it’s just a little bit, it can make a difference on what’s on your tooth or potentially create different shades on your tooth as the gems fall off,” she explained.

When applying a tartar, technicians prepare the tooth by etching; a phosphoric acid opens the tiny pores in the outer surface of the enamel. Etching cleans the first layer of the tooth before using a bond to attach the decorations.

Tartars can be removed at any time by a dentist or fall off naturally over time. Tartar technicians advise wearers not to eat anything hard, sticky or chewy after the service.

While dental jewelry studios in Boston are relatively new, self-expression through dental adornment has been around for centuries. Tooth decorations date back to the Maya Empire; researchers have speculated that teeth were drilled and decorated with jade, gold and turquoise as a rite of passage and a possible solution to tooth decay. In more recent decades, tooth jewelry—ranging from grills to gems—has been a long-celebrated form of self-expression within Black and Brown communities, reemerging today with the support of TikTok and celebrity fans, such as FKA Twigs, Rosalía, and Drake. The hashtag #toothgems had 265.9 million views on TikTok at the time of reporting.

“It’s definitely artistic,” says Silva, who sometimes changes her own gemstone design every other month. “If you’re bored, you can change it depending on your mood — as long as you don’t damage your tooth enamel.”

Chloe Shaar is a freelance fashion and environmental sustainability journalist and graduate of Emerson in New York and Boston. Follow her on Instagram @chloeshaar.

Tooth jewelry brings joy to Greater Boston

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