Gold Grills: A Troubling Trend

Grills-sometimes spelled grillz or called fronts-may seem like a harmless hip-hop trend, but wearing the glistening accessory now could lead to an unhealthy smile in the future.

Because the popularity of grills surged within just the last decade, their long-term effects cannot be confirmed. However, dentists believe the snap-in adornments-made of gold, silver or platinum and sometimes jewel-encrusted-are a magnet for mouth problems.

"They bring with them potential problems such as irritation of gum tissue that can cause infection from food and other debris trapped under the grill," explained American Dental Association consumer advisor Matt Messina DDS. "We're also looking at a haven for bacteria to collect and produce tooth-decay causing acid, possible chipped teeth and even shifting of the teeth."

It's also worth noting that many of the jewelers who make grills, and many of the people who buy them, are unaware that their state may have a law prohibiting anyone other than dental professionals from taking the impression required to fit grills.

Those who opt for this kind of embellishment should be meticulous about brushing and flossing, wear it as little as possible, and frequently clean it, though not with jewelry cleaners that could be toxic if ingested. But ultimately, it may be wise to avoid grills altogether.

"Grills might be trendy for the moment," Messina said, "but 'pearly whites' will never go out of style."