The History of Putting Grillz & Diamonds on Teeth

Grillz, also known as grills or fronts, are decorative covers made of silver, gold, or jewel-encrusted precious metals. These ornaments snap over a tooth or teeth and are removable. However, some grillz wearers opt for permanent gold crowns that resemble the fronts. 

Some grills are made from base metals which may cause reactions or irritation. Be extra careful about brushing and flossing to prevent any problems. Since food and other debris become trapped between grillz and teeth providing a conducive environment for bacteria to produce acids, which may cause teeth decay, among other dental problems. 

Today the grillz have evolved as celebrities embracing the trend. For example, Lebron James grillz is a household name in the fashion world that is a master of the craft. But where did the grillz come from?

History of the Grillz

Grillz are not a fad or having a moment as some people may want to believe. The trend has existed in the black community for years. The founder of a fragrance company Moodeaux, Brianna Arps, said she got her grillz due to many Black people in her circle. 

The black community has always expressed themselves through fashion. Many Black creatives pride themselves in uniqueness and individuality, which saw the emergence of grillz years back. Though grillz has a long history among the black community, its origins can be traced back to the 6th century BC. After the Roman empire conquered the ancient people of Etruria, Italy, they lost all literature about them. However, excavations indicate that the Etruscan people used wiring made of gold or bands to embellish their teeth. 

According to Dr. Jean Turfa, an archeologist and research associate at Penn Museum, Etruscan prostheses are only made of gold and natural teeth. The ancient burial rituals in Etruria indicate that gold was highly respected and desired. This is because sets of gold vases and jewelry were offered in ruling class tombs. Therefore, the use of gold for the teeth embellishment intentionally signified status. 

On the other hand, the Mayan community pioneered inside teeth embellishments. The modern grillz, however, are similar to the Etruscan style, for their decoration is placed on the teeth. 

Grillz are today attributed to the United States hip-hop culture, but the gold teeth were popular outside the US and even with African immigrants and the diaspora. Some Caribbean countries facing economic downtown saw citizens leave wealthier countries in the 1960s. In those days, gold was a cheaper way to fill cavities; hence many immigrants opted for gold overlays for dental health and not as a fashion statement. 

The 1980s

In the 1980s, when Black immigrants started moving to Brooklyn and the Bronx, gold teeth became common in everyday society. Eddie Plein, a Southern hip hop, believed to be one of the first grillz pioneers, made the trend part of the hip-hop culture, further catapulting it to popularity. 

Rap and hip-hop artists like Flava Flav of Big Daddy Kane and Public Enemy made grillz famous in the 1980s. Grills represented the look of hip-hop culture, and many people saw them as a unique and fresh form of expression. Unlike many other trends from the time, the embellishments became a statement and not just costume jewelry in some circles. 

Grillz Among Celebrities

Grillz became more integrated into mainstream culture as it was a trend among wealthy immigrants or rappers. Celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Ryan Lochte, and Katy Perry began wearing them to high-profile events like Met Gala or the Olympics. While they initially critiqued cultural appropriation, the celebrities managed to introduce grillz to its more extensive audience. The embellishment is today a common sight on the runway and features in high fashion magazine pages.  

Many celebrities have captured the media’s attention with their grillz details. Nelly, a hip-hop artist, hit the airwaves with his single, “Grillz,” reviving the dental trend. 

While on Ellen DeGeneres’ 2010 show, renowned rapper Kanye West showed diamond-encrusted bottom teeth. However, he insisted that he had replaced his bottom teeth, which were not as grillz. 

On Jimmy Kimmel’s show, Lil Wayne revealed that he spent over $ 150,000 for his ‘blinging’ smile. Singer Rihanna was fitted with a removable gold grillz in 2011 for the “You Da One” music video, while in 2012, swimmer Ryan Lochte displayed patriotic custom-made grillz at the London Olympics. 

Even with the popularity, some people still feel that grillz were considered ghetto until the white community embraced it, hence double standards in media coverage. 


If you are considering having grillz, note that there is no formal schooling for jewelers who make them; hence you need someone with the necessary experience. The education is offered privately through traditional teaching, often by master jewelers. Qualified providers must, however, learn all related services, from dental impressions, casting, waxing, melting buffing/polishing, and other design methods to offer quality grillz.