Gold teeth

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A gold crown

Gold teeth are a form of dental prosthesis where the visible part of a tooth is replaced or capped with a prosthetic molded from gold.[1]


Gold wire was used in dentistry in ancient times,[2] and for filling cavities in the 19th century.[3] Gold is suitable for dentistry because it is malleable, nearly immune to corrosion, and closely mimics the hardness of natural teeth, thereby causing no harm to natural teeth during chewing.[4] Gold was used before silver became available and has continued to be used for specialized purposes.[4] Dental restorations are often made from a combination of precious metals.[4] The use of gold in dentistry today makes up less than 5% of the world's gold use.[5]

As the dental industry adopted CAD/CAM processes for most of the crown and bridge fabrication, gold manufacturing still relied on the ancient "lost wax" technique, which requires a significant amount of time, skill, and labor. Recent developments have seen the advent of CAD/CAM milling of 100 mm diameter pucks of dental alloy to facilitate the direct milling of crowns and bridges from the solid puck. This effectively eliminated the risk and difficulty of the lost wax process and simultaneously improved upon the quality of the devices.[6]

World War II[edit]

Burning of bodies at Auschwitz-Birkenau by Sonderkommando prisoners after removal of gold teeth[7]

In Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account, concentration camp survivor Dr. Miklós Nyiszli (who served on Dr. Josef Mengele's medical kommando) describes the "tooth-pulling kommando". These teams of eight, all "fine stomatologists and dental surgeons" equipped "in one hand with a lever, and in the other a pair of pliers for extracting teeth", worked in the crematoria. Stationed in front of the ovens, their job was to pry open the mouths of prisoners who had been gassed and extract, or break off, "all gold teeth, as well as any gold bridgework and fillings". The teeth were collected and stored at the camp before being sent on to the Reichsbank to be melted down and converted into gold bullion, which could then be sold with no trace of its origin.[7]

United States[edit]

African Americans of slave descent who came from the south to live in New York sported gold teeth. Down south, gold teeth were a traditional symbol of wealth and freedom among American slave descendants. [8] After the emancipation proclamation, many slaves were only able to get gold teeth to stop decay. This trend among newly freed slaves is what led to gold teeth becoming popular in the early twentieth century among the American entertainment industry. Athletes such as Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion, were seen sporting this African American traditional wear in front of the white media.[9]

After 1980, gold inlays and gold foil work became rare in the United States. In the late 1980s they were popularized in New York by Brooklyn native Mike Tyson, who got gold caps in mimicking his idol Jack Johnson.[10] Rappers such as Rakim and Slick Rick began to sport gold grills instead of permanent gold teeth. This trend lasted in New York for over ten years.[11]

South Africa[edit]

Gold teeth in South Africa have become part of the South African fashion culture. Gold teeth are very popular in the country with people getting permanent gold teeth from as young as 12 years old.

Gold teeth became a big trend in South Africa in the late 1960s among the Coloured and Black South African communities.

Permanent Gold teeth in South Africa is not considered a sign of wealth like in other countries, but a fashion trend.

Since the end of Apartheid in many white Afrikaans people and Indian people in the country have also started getting permanent gold teeth.

The trend of permanent gold teeth is so big in South Africa that many politicians, celebrities and even pastors have them.[citation needed]

Popular belief is that gold will scare away evil spirits (with it being a representation of light in South African culture), the Tikoloshe was said to be afraid of the light and gold teeth wearers were generally very superstitious.[citation needed]

Current use[edit]

A woman with gold teeth from Tajikistan, where they are considered a symbol of wealth

In many regions of the world, including some parts of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus Regions, gold teeth are also worn as a status symbol. They are considered a symbol of wealth and sometimes installed in the place of healthy teeth or as crowns over filed-down healthy teeth.[citation needed]


Grills, false tooth covers made of metal, have become a popular hip hop fashion in the United States since the 1980s in New York City. In the early 2000s, grills were again popularized in hip hop videos by Nelly, Three 6 Mafia, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, Paul Wall, and other rappers from the south. The gold grills are still being sported by rappers in various colors. Grills were also worn by Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, and Madonna.[12] While some rap musicians have had their gold teeth permanently attached to existing teeth, most people who purchase them for aesthetic purposes opt for removable gold teeth caps.[13] In 2005, Nelly released the rap single "Grillz" which promotes the dental procedure.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Ancient History of Grills - VICE".
  2. ^ "13,000-Year-Old Fillings Prove Ancient Dentistry Was Brutal - D-brief".
  3. ^ "The History of Dental Fillings".
  4. ^ a b c Knosp, Helmut; Holliday, Richard J.; Corti, Christopher W. (2003-09-01). "Gold in dentistry: Alloys, uses and performance". Gold Bulletin. 36 (3): 93–102. doi:10.1007/BF03215496. ISSN 2190-7579.
  5. ^ "Mineral Commodity Summaries". Retrieved 2019-09-27.
  6. ^ Johnson, Russell; Verrett, Ronald; Haney, Stephan; Mansueto, Michael; Challa, Suman (January 2017). "Marginal Gap of Milled versus Cast Gold Restorations". Journal of Prosthodontics. 26 (1): 56–63. doi:10.1111/jopr.12432. ISSN 1532-849X. PMID 26845495. S2CID 3004113.
  7. ^ a b Nyiszli, Miklós (2011). "Chapter III". Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account. Translated by Richard Seaver. New York: Arcade Publishing. pp. 53–55. ISBN 9781611450118. OCLC 761307497.
  8. ^ "The Secret History of Grillz | Explorer". National Geographic. March 5, 2017. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  9. ^ Flatter, Ron (July 4, 1910). " Johnson boxed, lived on own terms". ESPN. Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  10. ^ "A Force Unleashed". Sports Illustrated Longform.
  11. ^ "A History of Gold Dental Crowns - Midlothian Dental Arts".
  12. ^ "Pop Star Ladies Wearing Grills: Madonna, Miley, Beyonce & More Show Off Golden Chops". Billboard.
  13. ^ Schepp, David (August 3, 2001). "Gold teeth are a gold mine". BBC News. Retrieved January 16, 2006.

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