Part of a growing wave of nineties and Y2K beauty trends that are back in full force, tooth gems are currently in high demand. It might seem like a fad, but the industry's fast growth suggests that it's not going anywhere any time soon. If anything, there's still plenty of room for the already-exploding industry to grow.
Take a look at last year: Pinterest recorded an 85% increase in users searching for examples of tooth gems. Meanwhile, TikTok is populated with more than 250 million videos on the topic.
The non-invasive treatment involves simply adhering a gem, decoration or design onto the tooth enamel in the same way that the brackets of braces are applied. Even though we're now seeing it more often, accessorizing your teeth isn't new. The ancient Maya civilization adorned their teeth as a display of wealth; caps and grillz have been seen on everyone from Wu-Tang Clan to Miley Cyrus; and even braces have been considered a socio‑economic status symbol.
It's not a DIY trend but, at the same time, you don't have to be a qualified dentist to get on board. ‘When I started out [in 2015], no one was doing it safely, so I wanted to do it with proper training,’ says Lana Sophia, one of London's top tooth-gem technicians and founder of beauty studio Crystal Canine.
‘I ended up investing time, effort and energy into getting approved by the General Dental Council, so I could get a letter of recommendation saying that what I do is legit and safe,’ she continues. ‘My family really wanted me to follow in their footsteps and become a dentist, but I said: absolutely not, I'm creative. Having their knowledge and background in dentistry means that I always keep tooth health in mind and now I train people to do it, too.’
Like Lana, Tooth Kandy in Los Angeles doesn't just apply tooth gems – the studio also trains and teaches future technicians. In Singapore, Third Eye Toothgems leans into the Y2K aesthetic of the trend, offering everything from Playboy bunnies to full-coverage crystal caps and simple single stones. Third Eye's founder Vanessa Victoria calls herself a dental artist, is a trained dental assistant and opened Singapore's first and only tooth gem studio in 2019.
‘At the moment, butterflies are all the rage. I have clients of all genders asking for them,’ says Vanessa. ‘Butterflies consist of four crystal gems arranged to resemble wings. Other than that, a classic round crystal on the fang is timeless and suits anyone.’
The semi-permanent nature of tooth gems means that there's a consistent business and return clients who want to keep changing up their look, which is a huge appeal for technicians opening their own studios. ‘I'd prefer for people to be doing it properly rather than the super glue and rhinestone ones I saw people do when I first started out,’ says Lana. ‘Even though it's a niche job in the beauty industry, there's enough room for everyone.’
A version of this article was first published in Courier issue 50. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.