Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Sparkle and shine

ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – Since Fai Zainuddin started sporting tooth gems in January, he has gone about his days with a wider smile.

The operations manager, 34, said his tooth ornaments boost his confidence.

“It makes me feel good and different to wear something unique. It also goes well with my wardrobe,” he said.

More Singaporeans like Fai have started to attach tiny gems – each no more than three milimetres in size – zero to their teeth.

His go-to technician Renny Zuraimi said her appointments have doubled from three to six a week since she started her business, ToothGems SG, in June 2022.

“It can peak to 10 customers a week during festive periods such as Christmas and the New Year,” added Renny, who has a full-time job in the marine logistics industry.

Some request a single stud on their canine, while others prefer flashier designs consisting of multiple gems.

These gems are stuck onto the surface of the teeth with an adhesive and typically stay on for six months to a year.

ABOVE & BELOW: Custom-made grills are made with a mould of clients’ teeth; and one of Vanessa Lim’s clients and her grills. PHOTO: THE STAR
The price of grills starts at SGD280. PHOTO: THE STAR

The interest in tooth accessories has increased a lot, said tooth gem technician Vanessa Lim, who has seen about 2,000 clients to date. Tooth gems cost her clients between SGD75 and SGD400, depending on the complexity of the design.

When Lim started her business, Third Eye Toothgems SG, in 2020, customer traffic was inconsistent.

A group of friends would flock to her Haji Lane tattoo parlour at once, but these visits would be followed by a lull period.“ These days, bookings are more consistent as they come from all over instead of just one social group,” said Lim.

“Many Singaporeans have a lot of interest in new and special things which can help them express themselves and stand out from the crowd. There are also quite a lot of older clients – because this was very popular a long time ago.”

Teeth adornments, popularised by American hip-hop artists, engulfed popular culture in the 1990s.

But co-founder of jewellery business Chezgrillz Russell See said stores which offered such aesthetic services were few and far between in Singapore back then.

See, too, received a fair share of older customers, mainly in their 50s.

Instead of gems, however, he makes custom-made teeth grills. Based on moulds of his client’s teeth, See produces grills made of sterling silver or 18-carat gold.

Grills, which he likened to orthodontic retainers, are decorative covers worn over one or more teeth.

Some clients opt for the classic two caps of silver, while others encase a whole row of teeth in gold.

The price of grills starts at SGD280, but an intricate design with emeralds and engravings can fetch a much heftier price tag of about SGD2,000.

See said: “Younger customers want to get grills after seeing them in the media, while older ones say they have always wanted them for years but couldn’t find a place to make them.”

These tooth embellishments have been made popular by celebrities.

Canadian singer Justin Bieber and American model Kendall Jenner have accessorised with bejewelled teeth, while fellow artists Post Malone and Jaden Smith have rocked glitzy grills in public appearances.

Tooth accessories are now making waves on local shores, but experts at The Straits Times spoke to warned of the potential damage they can do. Associate consultant Dr Phang Zi Ying at the Restorative Dentistry Department at the National Dental Centre Singapore, said gems that are not applied properly might dislodge accidentally, putting users at risk of swallowing or inhaling them.

“(They) may pose difficulties with oral hygiene and lead to an increased risk of dental decay and gum disease,” she said. “Large or inappropriately placed dental jewellery may also lead to lip irritation or abrasion.”

Dental surgeon at Q&M Dental Group Dr Pearlyn Ng said there has been an increasing number of patients who inquire about such accessories and the proper aftercare routine when one has them.

But not everyone is suited for such bling. Those who suffer from gum problems or have flaying teeth should refrain from wearing them, said Dr Ng. – Kolette Lim