History of oral health: Teeth embellishments

Those looking for a little extra bling may turn to their teeth. Despite cosmetic dentistry having a long history from around the world, we recommend steering clear of such embellishments to avoid painful and costly complications.

1800 B.C. to A.D. 250

Possibly the most skilled early teeth embellishment came from Mayan dentists, who drilled holes in teeth and added gems such as jade, turquoise, gold and hematite. These jewels were attached with adhesives such as plant sap.

250 to 1870

Japanese dyed their teeth black in a practice called “ohaguro” that signified health, beauty and aristocratic status. The custom became popular from the 8th to 12th century but was banned by the Meiji government in 1870.


The earliest written record of cosmetic dentistry stems from China, where records describe “a fierce tribe with gold-pegged teeth.” Such stained or decorated teeth were considered a mark of beauty.

1401 to 1500

Researchers discovered skulls from the Ming Dynasty that had teeth modified with gold in a fish scale pattern.

Today: Options to embellish teeth include tooth tattoos, tooth jewelry and grills.