We’ve all seen those rap stars with a mouth full of glitter and bling which are often times referred to as their “Grill”. But apparently this mouth full of money isn’t a new thing as they may assume.
If we go back in time some 2,500 years, evidence has been found to show that these ancient grills, bling found in teeth, were a normal part of “dentistry” of ancient times. Evidently there were skilled “dentists” available to do this flashy work for Native Americans of the ancient.
The Grills of Southern North America
In Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History there is a huge collection of teeth that have been examined which contain stylish alterations thought to be a fashion trend of way back. Within this collection of teeth you may see grooves, notches and semiprecious gems and stones embedded in them. The work was done directly on the teeth themselves and appeared to have holes drilled into the facing of them for the gems and stones to be inserted into.
Now if you ask me, that sounds like a very painful experience, especially considering the fact that anesthesia was probably not one of their best skills during that time. Could you just imagine the crude system of notching and digging away at the enamel that was done in order to make room for the stones?
Where most of these teeth originated is not well known by the scientists. But they are believed to belong to people from before the Spanish conquests of the 1500s. These would be people living in the Mesoamerican region and consisted mainly of men. According to Jose Concepcion Jimenez of the institute, these “grills” weren’t meant as an identifier of social status, rather simple (or complex) decorations.
A further study shows that the royal parties such as the Red Queen (a mummy from the temple in Palenque) showed no signs at all of ever having any kind of bling inserted into her teeth.
If these fashionable dentistry techniques were done as a sign of social status, then they would surely be popular amongst royalty. Not only have signs of decorative teeth been discovered, but also evidence of ceremonial dentures were found.
How Were the Teeth Drilled
Evidently the early “dentists” were using stones known as obsidian to drill into the teeth of their patients (victims). These obsidians were inserted onto a drill-like device and were capable of puncturing through bone. Nothing about that sounds like much fun to me, I bet there was a lot of squirming and fighting going on during those procedures.
Once they had the holes punctured into the teeth, they would then take an adhesive made from natural resins and adhere the stones and gems into the holes they’d made. Scientists say that these resins, similar to tree sap, were mixed with other things like crushed bone and some other chemicals to create their “glue” for the process.
But we must keep in mind that in order to do this procedure properly, the ancient “dentists” would surely have some extensive knowledge of tooth anatomy and would of studied them quite a bit to prevent any disasters from happening. One things for certain, I would of hated to be a test patient during the learning process! But once their process was perfected, they were capable of drilling into the teeth without harming the pulp or nerves inside the teeth.
Plus seeing how most of these tooth artifacts were found with the gem stones still in place suggests that they were pretty good about not breaking the teeth or causing infection which would lead to decay.
Most of the “grills” found in the mouth of people bold enough to wear them in this day and age are fully removable. There are some that can be adhered to the teeth for a more permanent application, but I think drilling for the pure purpose of decoration is definitely a thing of the past.
Is it possible there may be more to all this then what we know? Could these gem studded teeth be nothing more than just decoration, or do you think they could of been for ceremonial or religious purposes?