Tuesday, May 2, 2006
7 News Features: Grillz Gone Bad
Today if you want a dazzling smile, the trend is to cover your teeth with diamonds and gold... Better known as grillz. And while this fad is just that - a fad - make the wrong choice and you could end up with life long consequences. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has more in this special assignment report - Grillz Gone Wild.
WSVN--Rappers were the first to dazzle with zillion dollar grillz over their teeth.
Music Video: "You see my grand momma hate it but my little momma love it."
And Nelly took them to the top of the charts.
Music Video: "I got the whole top diamond and the bottom row's gold. What it do baby is the ice man's pow wow. I got my mouth looking something like a disco ball. I got the diamonds and the ice all here. I might cause a cold front if I take a deep breath."
Now in jewelry outlets across the country - "grillz have gone wild" - with gold and diamonds and more.
Nineteen-year-old Lirio Perez will be paying close to seven thousand dollars for a grill just like this one.
Lirio Perez: "They're status symbols and everyone recognizes them immediately. It's like implied wealth. It's like hey - he must have money - look at his grill."
Rudy Althouriste - whose nickname is "Freeze" - is making Lirio's grill in a small downtown Miami office.
The former architecture student started making custom jewelry but when his well to do clients started wanting grillz - he started making them too.
His prices can hit thirty thousand dollars, but in this industry, the sky's the limit.
Rudy "Freeze" Athouriste: "And now they want the same quality that fine jewelry is made with in their mouth."
But there is an ugly side to the grillz business.
Rudy "Freeze" Athouriste: "Yeah - we do work with a dentist."
Althouriste says he works under the direction of a dentist.
But many others do not.
And from small storefronts to flea market kiosks - people with no dental training are making devices that could compromise the physical and dental health of their customers.
Grillz Dentist: "I'm very concerned."
This dentist - who makes grillz - agreed to talk with us if we protect his identity.
Grillz Dentist: "They're not supposed to be able to put things in people's mouths or take impressions unless you have a certified dental assistant, but nobody seems to be following the rules here."
Dr. Alan Friedel: "And it's considered to be the practice of dentistry without a license."
Dr. Alan Friedel is the president of the Florida Dental Association.
He says although the state has been aggressive with people accused or practicing standard dentistry without licenses - it has not gone after the grillz industry.
Carmel Cafiero: "Do you think they should?"
Dr. Alan Friedel: "Absolutely we think they should."
Carmel Cafiero: "Some of the people making grillz are trying to get around the law by having customers make their own impressions. The Department of Health says beware - it is still considered to be the unlicensed practice of dentistry - a third degree felony."
Part of the concern - just what is in the metals used to make grillz.
Your dentist will use mixtures of metals approved for use in the human body.
Non professionals are reportedly sometimes using melted down jewelry which could contain potentially dangerous metals.
There are even reports old silverware is being used.
Dr. Friedel: "If you've ever worn jewelry that turned your finger green, it means you're allergic to that particular metal. And those metals when put in your mouth can have an even greater reaction."
And then - there's the damage done if grillz are worn too long.
Grillz Dentist: "They have rampant decay. I mean their teeth are gone."
Music Video: "The whole top's diamonds and the bottom row's gold."
Even children are wearing grillz and that presents another set of problems because their teeth are not developed.
Grillz Dentist: "Well I've seen young children...I think one of them couldn't have been more than three or four years old and he had a mouth full of gold teeth."
If you're tempted to go to someone who is not licensed - keep in mind - on top of all the other risks - you may not get what you're paying for in terms of the quality of the gold.
Grillz Dentist: "I've tested lot of them and they're not what they say they are. They could be 8 carat even and the person thinks he's' getting 14 or they could be eight carat and they think they're getting 18."
So have fun with your grillz - but make sure you're dealing with a licensed professional.
Otherwise instead of rapping a hip hop classic...
Music Video: "She said smile for me daddy. What you looking at. I wanna see your grillz. You wanna see my what?"
...You could end up singing the blues.