Don't Try This at Home - Crazy Things People Do to Alter Their Mouth

Written by Heather Siler

Body modification is the process of purposely altering the body to achieve a certain look or physical feeling. Some body transformations are viewed by society as normal and beneficial such as orthodontics, conventional plastic surgery, Lasik eye surgery, and ear piercing. Alternatively, there are modifications of the body that are considered odd and disfiguring. Following are some of the more unusual things people do to alter their mouth.

  • Gap Band- A gap band is an elastic rubber band usually purchased through a website that is placed around the two front teeth to “close the gap.” The space may close, but there can be many complications. Moving teeth correctly is difficult and precise and takes place over a specific amount of time. Proper orthodontic treatment is orchestrated by an orthodontist who has many years of formal education and experience. If teeth move too quickly or at the incorrect angle, permanent damage can occur to the blood supply, connective tissue, and nerves surrounding the tooth leading to possible tooth loss.
  • Dental Grills & Gold “Caps”- Grills are ornamental covers that fit over the top or bottom front teeth. They are made of gold, silver, non-precious base metals, or jewel inlaid precious metal. Gold caps are cosmetic gold teeth that fit over a single tooth. Kits are available to purchase online that allow consumers to gather the requested information, and an online lab will create the grill or cap. Some are removable (recommended), and others are glued onto the teeth/tooth (not recommended). Because a dentist is normally not involved in these processes, grills and caps are placed over existing teeth without any preparation to allow for the extra space needed for the appliance. The result is that they are ill-fitting and bacteria can grow rapidly between the device and the tooth causing decay and/or periodontal disease. Grills and caps fabricated with non-precious metals can cause serious metal-allergic reactions.
  • Mouth Piercing- Mouth piercing is fairly common in various places in the mouth (tongue, gingiva, frenum’s, and uvula). Even if the piercing is done in an establishment that offers the service, having it done can lead to infection, excess bleeding, tooth damage, nerve damage, aspiration of the barbell or ring, keloids, Hepatitis B or C, and even HIV.
  • Tooth Tattoos- A tooth tattoo is an image printed onto a crown before it’s cemented permanently into the mouth. The crown is fabricated in a dental lab and is cemented on a tooth that a DMD or DDS has properly prepared.
  • Tooth Modification- Tooth modification is very extreme. It’s hard to predict who might perform this service because removing healthy tooth structure in this manner is something most dentists wouldn’t consider. In this process, the front teeth are reduced dramatically thus providing sharp points on the biting surfaces. This action is irreversible and would require major rehabilitation to restore the teeth back to ‘normal.’ Another popular alteration is creating fangs to the canine (eye-teeth) with composite material added to the biting Fangs are more conservative and easily reversed.
  • Tongue Forking- Tongue forking is an extremely invasive procedure where the tongue is split vertically down the middle giving the appearance of a snake’s tongue. As with piercing, even if the consumer is going to a legitimate studio, care must be taken to avoid diseases, permanent damage, and life-threatening consequences.

The bottom line- any process that involves the patient or anyone else who is not a doctor performing an extreme procedure in an unsterile environment and with unsterile instruments should think twice before proceeding.