What Are Grillz? – The Hip-Hop Fashion Trend That’s on the Rise

Grillz, grills, fronts, or that funky thing rappers wear on their teeth are among the more unique types of jewelry. They’ve been popular in the hip-hop community for decades, but it was only in the last several years that they’ve really come into the mainstream.

With celebrities like Madonna, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus and Rihanna flaunting them, it’s interesting to ask

What exactly are grillz and can I wear them too? Are they safe, are they a good idea if you’re not a hip-hop fan, how should you care for them, and are grillz for girls a thing? Let’s take a look.

What Are Grillz?

miley cyrus grillz
Miley Cyrus wearing her grillz

Grillz, for the uninitiated, are gold or diamond fake teeth covers that are worn over teeth. They can be made from a lot of other jewelry materials and not just gold or diamonds, but these seem to be the most popular ones. The original inception of grillz decades ago had two main purposes:

  1. To hide the any broken front teeth of some gang members
  2. To display wealth, status and style

Why have normal fake teeth implants in your mouth when you can have diamonds, right? No one can argue with that logic. After all, metal or gold fake teeth replacements to broken teeth have been used before the creation of grillz jewelry.

Sterling Silver Handmade Grillz
Getting your own grillz now isn’t all that hard. See this here.

Grillz can be both permanent teeth replacements and temporary additional covers on top of your teeth. These two types are quite different in the way they’re supposed to be used but have a similar visual effect from the outside.

In this article, we’ll be mainly talking about temporary grillz as a fashion choice – if you’re thinking about replacing broken teeth with grillz, then you should consult a dentist.

Nowadays, grillz are mostly a fashion statement and are worn by more and more people, still mostly among the hip-hop crowd. An interesting and unique type of jewelry, grillz are eye-catching, fun to wear, and can have a lot of different designs like the famous Ryan Lochte’s American flag grillz from 2012.

What makes grillz so special is that they’re unique to the wearer. They represent your style, and only you can wear them. They’re truly personal pieces of jewelry.

Where Do Grillz Come From?

man with grillz

Grillz may be increasingly popular now, but they aren’t something new. Grillz has been a part of the hip-hop culture for decades since the 1980s when rappers like Raheem The Dream or Kilo Ali started using them. At first, this was mostly a Southern phenomenon, but then the jeweler Eddie’s Gold Teeth brought the style to New York, and rappers like Afrika Bambaataa and Slick Rick joined in on the trend.

Grillz’s popularity didn’t have a constant upward trajectory, however. It wasn’t long before the trend started to die out and remained popular, mostly in Memphis and Houston. But then, the explosion of Dirty South rap from the likes of Ludacris and Lil’ Jon brought Grillz back. In 2005, Paul Wall created the mega-hit “Grillz”, an ode to grillz, featuring other rappers such as Ali, Nelly, and Big Gipp and further increased the popularity of that fashion device.

After that, through the years, grillz kept gaining more and more popularity. Around 2010, grillz for girls also started to go mainstream when female rappers, actresses, and models like Rita Ora, Rhianna, and Cara Delevigne started using them. Not much later, Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte used grillz designed like the American flag in 2012 on national TV and further brought attention to the trend.

Are Grillz Good For Your Teeth?

The main concern a lot of people have with grillz is whether they are safe or harmful to your teeth. The answer to that, as with most other questions, is it depends on how you use them. If the grillz you’ve got don’t match your teeth too well and knock them constantly, then this can wear out the enamel of your teeth.

Additionally, if you eat with your grillz on and don’t brush and clean your teeth or the grillz themselves regularly, food leftovers and other dirt will start accumulating around your teeth. This, in turn, can lead to the formation of harmful bacteria and to a lot of other dental problems. This is one reason that some report that wearing grillz causes bad breath. If this happens, it’s likely due to the accumulation of bacteria in your mouth.

Last but not least, the presence of so much foreign material in your mouth can cause inflammation of your gums.

All these concerns, however, come down to how well you maintain oral hygiene and the grillz themselves. If you’ve chosen the right grillz for your mouth (i.e. they match your teeth perfectly), and if you are extra careful with how you care for both the grillz and your teeth, then in most cases, grillz cause no issues at all.

As a side note – grillz can work as a reverse boxer’s mouthguard. Where mouth guards protect your teeth from physical trauma when you get punched in the face, a metal grill can make such a hit even more harmful. Still, this problem is easily avoided by not getting punched in the face, which is always good advice anyway.

Different Types Of Grillz

types and styles of grillz

There is seemingly no end to the different and unique custom designs grillz can have. However, if you’re new to grillz and you’re looking to buy your first set, here are the many types and styles you can choose from:

  1. Single Tooth Grillz: These grillz cover just a single tooth. You can have one for an understated look or multiple single tooth grillz for a unique, customized design.
  2. Top Grillz: These grillz cover the upper teeth only. They are popular because they are more visible when talking or smiling.
  3. Bottom Grillz: As you might expect, these grillz cover only the lower teeth. They are typically used in combination with top grillz.
  4. Full Set Grillz: Full set grillz cover both the top and bottom teeth. They provide a dramatic look and are often associated with rap and hip-hop culture.
  5. Diamond Grillz: These grillz are adorned with diamonds, creating a sparkling effect. They are often associated with luxury and high fashion. This is a very popular style for newcomers as there are many different finishes you can choose from. Here’s an example.
  6. Gold Grillz: Gold grillz are perhaps the most common and popular type. They can be made from yellow, white, or rose gold.
  7. Silver Grillz: These grillz are made of silver and are a more affordable option than gold or diamond grillz.
  8. Fang Grillz: Fang grillz are designed to look like vampire fangs for a distinctive, edgy look.
  9. Open Face Grillz: These grillz have open spaces that allow the natural teeth to show through. They create a unique look and are often used to highlight specific teeth.
  10. Iced Out Grillz: These grillz are covered with cubic zirconia or diamonds for a dazzling, “iced-out” look. This example shows an entire crystal grillz.
  11. Custom Grillz: These grillz are designed to fit the wearer’s mouth precisely. They are typically more comfortable and secure than pre-made grillz.

What’s the Process of Getting Custom Grillz?

slugs teeth grillz
Handmade custom grillz. See these here.

If you’ve decided to join the trend and get some grillz, the process usually follows the following steps:

  1. Find a trusted and reliable grillz retailer who’ll create the grillz based on your needs.
  2. You then have to have a mold of your teeth taken. This can be done in-store or if you’re going with an online retailer, they’ll normally send you the molding kit with instructions on how to get it done. Once the molding is complete, you would have to send the impression back to the retailer.
  3. The molding stage is the most important as the comfort and fit of your grillz depends on how well the impression of your teeth has been taken.
  4. Usually, a clay mold is then made from the impression of your teeth, and the grillz are designed and crafted using this. This allows the designer to see exactly how the grillz will fit on your teeth.

Here’s how one retailer on Etsy outlines their process:

After your purchase I will first ship you out the mold kit. Once you received the mold kit you will follow the detailed instructions on creating your mold. I suggest to BITE down completely into the putty tray and use your fingers to gently push putty up against gumline for a good clear mold impression. You will then ship the mold kit back to me at the specified address. You will be responsible for shipping the mold kit back to me.

This doesn’t seem like too complicated a process. However, if you don’t get the bite right, you may have to request changes for the grillz. Again, it depends on the retailer whether they will do this.

Who Wears Grillz These Days?

a man with a sterling silver tooth cap grillz
Understated grillz for a stylish look. See these here.

While grillz originally started as a men’s trend, the last decade saw them rise to popularity among the ladies as well. Most grillz for girls are more delicate and less flashy, although some female rap stars and actresses don’t hesitate to put on a full set of attention-grabbing grillz. It all depends on your style, attitude and the confidence to pull of such an eye-catching form of jewelry.

These days, grillz are worn by people with an out-there fashion sense, who don’t want to hold back when expressing their style. However, as there are delicate and sophisticated grillz out there, there’s likely a type of grillz for you too if you’re looking for something understated.

How Much Do Grillz Cost?

a man with 8 teeth full diamond grillz
These grillz cost a pretty penny, but aren’t they gorgeous! See them here.

Grillz can vary in cost – from the low hundreds to dozens of thousands. There are even vendors who offer grillz for less than $100, but we’re not certain we’d recommend those. The key factors that go into grillz’ price are:

Brand. A lot of grillz are grossly overpriced not because of their materials or design but because of the brand of the jeweler that’s manufactured them.

Materials and design. Diamonds for grillz are usually less expensive than the centerpiece diamonds for high-end engagement rings because they don’t need to be of that high of a quality. If you choose a diamond dust grillz design, the diamond dust can be even less expensive than you’d expect. The most common materials for grillz are silver, gold, platinum, and diamonds – all precious items.

Whether the grillz are custom-made or mass-produced. We mentioned above that a key health-related factor is whether the grillz fit your teeth well. This is the reason why a lot of people get their grillz custom-made for their teeth. This ramps up the price quite a bit but it’s usually worth it.

How To Clean Grillz

You should clean your grillz the same way you’d clean any piece of gold or diamond jewelry, but much more often. Where a diamond ring should be cleaned every once in a while, to keep it from wear and tear, diamond grillz should be cleaned daily as they go inside your mouth. Think of them like dentures – you’d want them to be as clean as possible.

Other than that, use warm soapy water and a soft brush or cloth – avoid strong detergents as they can harm the metal or the gemstones and affect your health too. Your grillz designer will generally recommend the best way of cleaning your grillz and the products to use.

How to Wear Grillz

Wearing a pair of grillz is like putting on a dental retainer. Here are the main steps that you need to take to get your grillz ready to wear once you receive them from the designer.

grillz is like a dental retainer
Wearing grillz is like inserting a retainer
  1. First, make sure your mouth is clean and ready to accept the grillz. This means brushing and flossing to get rid of any germs, food particles, and bacteria that is in your mouth. There shouldn’t be any unwanted particles under your grillz once you wear them.
  2. Clean your grillz to make sure they’re ready to go into your mouth. If it’s the first time, we recommend boiling it in hot water to get rid of bacteria. Wash and brush the grillz with a clean brush and rinse it carefully in clean water.
how to put on grillz?
Your grillz should fit in comfortably
  1. Put the grillz into place, over your regular teeth. Make sure you’ve got the orientation right, with the ends pointing towards your gums. Your grillz should fit in easily and comfortably once it’s pushed into the right spot in your mouth.

Where To Buy Grillz?

There are many dedicated shops for jewelry such as grillz and they specialize in these. We’d recommend you go to a trusted vendor with experience in the area and look for custom-made grillz that will fit your teeth comfortably. You can also search on sites like Etsy where lesser known vendors offer their grillz services at a range of prices. Often these retailers provide excellent customer service and use high quality materials.

Click here to start browsing and check out the wide range of grillz designs on offer. 

Wrapping Up

From solid gold fronts to diamond-studded dazzlers, grillz has carved out its own niche in the world of accessories. But, whether it’s for a hip-hop event or simply to add some bling to your everyday life, remember they’re not just about style. Proper care of both your grillz and your teeth is essential for that sparkling, healthy smile that truly shines. So, bling on and smile wide!

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years in the jewelry niche. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education. She has always been interested in expression through fashion and accessories, and her extensive experience in the field has made her a respected voice in jewelry trends and education. As the chief editor of Jewelry Shopping Guide, she not only leads the content strategy but also shares her insights through engaging articles. Her passion for storytelling is reflected in every piece she curates, exploring the intricate relationship between jewelry and personal identity.

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