Because cosmetic dentistry focuses on the aesthetic side of dental work, personal and cultural preferences influence the choice of which procedures are desirable. Some choices that appear bizarre to mainstream Americans would be easier to understand in different parts of the world. Here are some examples of unusual procedures for modifying teeth.
Used by different groups throughout history to appear more intimidating, filing teeth to points would currently qualify as an extreme choice in body modification. The Mayans and pygmy tribes of the Democratic Republic of Congo are two of the many groups around the world that have been observed to practice different kinds of filing. Horace Riddler, known as The Zebra Man, toured with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus with his full body tattoos and cosmetic dentistry on display. Born in London, Ridler also went by the stage name of “The Great Omi,” and he lived until 1969. Today, those who are fans of vampires or the lycanthrope subcultures may prefer to have only their canines emphasized.
Called diastema, a gap between teeth is often a reason to seek out orthodontics, but some people see the gap as an appealing mark of individuality. Tyra Banks famously asked a contestant on her reality show to have her gap surgically widened. The procedure, intended to help the model look distinctive, was accomplished by grinding away permanent enamel between each tooth. Enamel is the natural layer of protection against decay, and there’s currently no proven way to restore enamel that has been lost.
While it’s a positive cultural shift that people make a point of embracing differences that could be considered faults in appearance, some types of modification can be unhealthy or subject a person to unnecessary risks. In the case of gap widening, the procedure exposes the surfaces between teeth to additional wear. If enamel is removed as a means to widen the apparent gap, then the risk of cavities and decay is significantly increased.
Stencils can be used to tattoo images on teeth. With materials that can leave an impression for up to three months, these “gnasher tats” are not permanent, but they will make an impression for the months they’re visible. One Brit got a pair of tiny portraits on his front incisors in celebration of the royal wedding.
Since ear and nose piercings have become commonplace, those who want to really stand out from the crowd look continually further for new body modifications. Gum piercings generally aren’t recommended, even by the more hardcore piercing shops, but the special piercing typically goes between the roots of the front incisors. As with other types of piercing, the choice of studs or other metal inserts can make the modification noticeable or subtle.
Given the options available for cosmetic dentistry, it’s always best to research the available options and associated risks. Talking with an experienced professional is the best way to get answers to specific questions and learn about consequences that online forums may not emphasize.