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What’s the Deal with Gold Teeth: A Brief History

March 21, 2018
Posted By: Dr. Russell D. Mann

Gold teeth have been around for thousands of years, though today, they are most popular with rappers and celebrities. But why? Let’s take a closer look at the history of this dubious fashion statement and how it continues to infiltrate popular culture even when there are more effective filling materials available.

How Long Have Gold Teeth Been Around?

While we know them best for being in the mouths of people like Mike Tyson and Slick Rick, gold teeth have a history that goes back a lot farther than the 1980s. In fact, researchers found a man buried with two gold teeth that lived around the year 2,500 BC.

This man wasn’t the only instance of people from the past having gold teeth. In fact, many Etruscan women used to have golden teeth as a marker of their societal status, a trend that continued unabated until about 100 AD. Additionally, many scientists believe that Filipino people wore gold teeth all the way back in 1500 AD.

Why Did People Start Using Gold?

So what made gold such a popular material for use in the mouth?

In the past, people had far lower standards of dental hygiene, leading to a lot more lost teeth than people have today. In order to give people a way to chew, prehistoric dentists choose to make fake teeth of gold because it’s a very malleable material, making it easy to hammer into the correct shape. What’s more, gold has good corrosion resistance and is hard enough that people can use it to bite and chew for quite some time without it wearing out.

That being said, there is something special about gold; even in the past, it was a symbol of wealth and power. While gold was an effective tooth replacement, it was also a marker of status and superiority, often reserved only for people in power.

Gold Teeth in Today’s Popular Culture

You can probably name several people alive today who have or have had gold teeth. Nelly, Ludacris, Beyonce, and even Miley Cyrus all sported grills, which are false teeth covers made of metal to give the appearance of having gold teeth. Many of these musicians simply choose gold teeth as a fashion statement or as a reflection on their culture.

For example, after African American slaves were freed in the United States, they began to get gold caps as a replacement for missing or rotten teeth. After a while, it became a marker of freedom. All of this created a tradition for southern African Americans, especially those from New Orleans, to get at least one golden tooth to celebrate their heritage and history.

How Does Gold Compare to Other Fillings?

Today, many materials have replaced gold as a dental filling, such as porcelain or resin. Generally, these are stronger and more durable. However, gold fillings are still an option when you’re in the dental chair as they can last 10 to 15 years and are great at handling chewing forces. While most people don’t opt for golden front teeth, you can still choose gold fillings for your molars.

Are you in need of a dental filling? Contact us today to learn more about the various materials available and which one might be right for you.

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