Students wear grills despite health risks

There is one thing rapper Paul Wall, music mogul Diddy and basketball star Steven Jackson all have in common – dental grills.

For years, dental grills have been a prominent fashion statement in the hip hop community, but recently they have crossed over into the mainstream. Although grills brighten up almost any smile, their health risks may not be as glamorous.Sometimes called fronts, grills by definition are removable dental caps that fit over the teeth and snap in place. Often made with platinum, gold or silver, grills can be adorned with diamonds and other precious stones for an added affect.Dr. Edward R. Scott II warns of the danger of grills. Scott, a Tallahassee-area family and cosmetic dentist, said grills can cause periodontal disease, which is the main cause of adult tooth loss.

“Bacteria sets behind the grill and causes infections, redness and swelling if not put in by a licensed dentist,” Scott said. “Without a proper impression (fitting) and sterilization, diseases like hepatitis can easily spread.”

Scott said to check the Florida Board of Dentistry to find a specialist to perform grill installation.

One out of every seven people are allergic to metal, and “people need to understand the risks involved before investing a lot of money in a grill or causing damage,” according to

Some FAMU students find satisfaction in grills regardless of the dental health risks.

“I had a removable gold plate (grill) in high school, and as soon as I graduated I got permanent ones,” said Greg Bradford, 21. Bradford, a senior health sciences student from Orlando, said his teeth were sanded down and the grills were permanently cemented over them.

“Besides the pain from when I got them put in, I haven’t had any other problems,” Bradford said.

Another FAMU student with an appreciation for dental adornment is Erica Dobbs, 21, a senior political science student from Kansas City, Mo.

“I wear mine for fashion purposes,” said Dobbs. Dobbs said she knows the health risks with dental grills and takes necessary precautions.

“I take mine out everyday and clean them,” Dobbs continued. “When I bought them, they came with a cleaning cloth, so I use that too.”

For others, the health risks are too great.

“Putting grills over the teeth can cause food and bacteria to form and lead to tooth loss, gum disease, infection or cavities,” said Dr. Matthew Messina. Messina, a dentist and consumer adviser for the American Dental Association, said the installation of permanent grills can cause teeth to decay and eventually become useless.

“If someone wanted to remove their permanent grills, especially after the teeth have decayed, extreme dental work would be needed,” Messina said.

Brandon Flowers, 19, a junior cardiopulmonary science student from Vero Beach, said the health problems associated with getting grills are too great.

“I think getting grills is unsanitary, and the mouth is a gateway for bacteria and infections,” Flowers said. “I will never get them because brushing my teeth without them is more than enough.”