Gold teeth are a form of dental prosthesis. They are sometimes used for cosmetic purposes.
Dentists have used gold for filling cavities (before mercury amalgam became available), for crowns, and for other purposes since ancient times. Gold is malleable, nearly immune to corrosion, and hard enough to form a biting surface that can be used for years. Gold was used before silver became available and has continued to be used for specialized purposes. Dental restorations are often made from a combination of precious metals. After 1980, gold inlays and gold foil work became rare in the United States.
In certain regions of the world, especially in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet countries, Central Asia and the Caucasus, gold teeth are worn as a status symbol, a symbol of wealth. Originally the most expensive historical dental prosthetic, these are sometimes now installed in place of healthy teeth or as crowns over filed-down healthy teeth.
Grills, false tooth covers made of metal, have become a popular hip hop fashion in the United States. While some rap musicians have had their gold teeth permanently attached to existing teeth, most people who purchase them for aesthetic purposes opt for removable gold teeth caps. In 2005, Nelly released the rap single Grillz which promotes the dental apparatus. It was not until the 1980s that gold teeth became popular in the hip-hop world.
In World War II
In Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account, concentration camp survivor Dr. Miklós Nyiszli (who served on Dr. Josef Mengele's medical kommando) describes the "tooth-pulling kommando". These teams of eight, all "fine stomatologists and dental surgeons" equipped "in one hand with a lever, and in the other a pair of pliers for extracting teeth", worked in the crematoria. Stationed in front of the ovens, their job was to pry open the mouths of prisoners who had been gassed and extract, or break off, "all gold teeth, as well as any gold bridgework and fillings". The teeth were collected and stored at the camp before being sent on to the Reichsbank for melting down and coinversion to gold bullion, which could then be sold on with no trace of their origin.
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- The gold standard of style: No longer just for tough guys, glittering grills go mainstream", San Francisco Chronicle (SF Gate). May 1, 2005. Retrieved January 16, 2006.