Exploring the rise of dental aesthetics and women’s grillz for Gen Z

By J'Nae Phillips

Published Feb 29, 2024 at 09:28 AM

Reading time: 4 minutes

The art of dental aesthetics is reaching new heights as grillz for women take over the beauty landscape, giving Gen Zers a platform for 21st-century makeovers. Oral adornments and blinged-out smiles have cemented themselves in the pop culture sphere, embraced by fashion enthusiasts, TikTok girlies and beauty lovers alike. From the smiles of A-listers such as Billie Eilish, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna to the TikTok profiles of social media’s most popular influencers, it’s clear that the likes of personalised women’s grillz, gold caps, and tooth gems are officially entering the mainstream.

“Today, grillz are recognised not just as accessories, but as bespoke adornments that allow individuals to express their unique identity and style. Unlike mass-produced jewellery, grillz are customised to fit each person’s smile, making them inherently personal and irreplicable,” says Bay Wildin-Snedden, Director and Owner of GRILLZ QUEEN, and registered dental prosthetist and dental technician. With over 347,000 followers on TikTok and a series of viral videos that have reached over 10 million people, Wildin-Snedden knows what she’s talking about.

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According to equally in-the-know expert Ruqayyah Alzona Al-Baari, the creator of jewellery, ceramics, and textiles brand Zona Baari, the act of personalising smiles is unique and distinctive, and this has been noticed in the female grillz arena. “Grillz definitely have their own visual impact, whether it be online or IRL. The new participants of the tooth accessories are most likely seeing them online and encouraged and inspired by others who wear them,” Alzona Al-Baari explained. “The internet has allowed cultural niches to be accessible in a more passive way than before. Everything is more open now, we can admire and join in on things we are attracted to even if they haven’t been part of our immediate experience,” the designer continued.

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Social media is obsessed with pimped-out smiles, with videos relating to the #grillz hashtag reaching over 2.7 billion TikTok views. Exposed to a multitude of archival celebrity photos and throwback Instagram pictures, Gen Zers find themselves nostalgic for an era they never experienced firsthand. TikTok videos tagged with #toothgems have also garnered over 572 million views, showcasing the enduring popularity of Y2K nostalgia.

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And with 15 per cent of Gen Z preferring to think about the past rather than the future, this may be part of the reason why throwback trends are so appealing. “Gen Z seems to be really embracing late 1990s and early 2000s fashion culture. Grillz were a staple in hip hop around that time as well so it makes sense they are gravitating towards it currently,” says Alzona Al-Baari.

Grillz for women and tooth gems are emerging as powerful tools that transcend conventional beauty standards and explore the boundless realms of self-expression. “The great thing about grillz is that you’ll start off with something simple and then want more, there’s such a good feeling about wearing them and the way they make you stand out, it does become addictive,” explains grillz artist and jewellery designer Clova Rae-Smith.

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Gen Zers are redefining conventional beauty standards by choosing to sport cute grillz for females and mouth grillz tailored for girls. Wildin-Snedden believes that Gen Z are known for their tendency to challenge norms, which is leading them to embrace grillz as a trend and fashion statement. “Rather than conforming to stereotypes, we embrace grillz as a means of cultural appreciation and empowerment. Whether it’s dainty, bespoke, or a full mouth of gold, there’s a grillz style for everyone,” the GRILLZ QUEEN owner stated.

Through creative dental accessorising, Gen Z women are pushing style boundaries by embracing anything and everything grillz-related. “From speaking with friends who also work in the grillz industry and have been for decades, there has definitely been a rise in women buying grillz,” Rae-Smith adds. “I started off with mostly male clients and rapidly this shifted to predominantly female in 2021.” Wildin-Snedden echoes this shift: “In my line of work, I’ve witnessed firsthand the increasing demand for bespoke, custom-made grillz designs. This reflects not only a shift in fashion preferences but also a deeper societal embrace of diversity and self-expression.”

In ancient civilizations, embellished teeth symbolised wealth and social standing, an identity-led ethos that continues to resonate today. “As a trained dental prosthetist & technician, I’m deeply fascinated by the resurgence of gold teeth and the evolving cultural significance attached to them. Drawing parallels from history to the present, I see a similar trend emerging with Gen Z women embracing grillz as a bold fashion statement, a means of asserting their individuality and style in today’s society,” explains Wildin-Snedden.

In American pop culture, grillz gained traction during the 1980s, coinciding with the rise of hip-hop. The dental trend also reached mainstream in 2005, with rapper Nelly’s hit single ‘Grillz’. “As a Millennial myself I remember it in my own childhood, watching music videos from artists like Nelly, Paul Wall, Trick Daddy and others of that iconic time. Now the accessory seems to be embraced by a broader crowd, which I think is great,” Alzona Al-Baari notes.

Even though grillz have traditionally been linked with the hip-hop culture of the 80s and 90s and predominantly associated with men, a fresh wave of female grillz artists and designers such as Rae-Smith, Wildin-Snedden and Alzona Al-Baari whose customer base is all largely female, are doing things differently. They are reshaping oral artistry through a refined touch and elevated feel not seen before on the feminine grillz scene, pointing to a shift in grillz trends and new consumer expectations.

“Organic grillz have really started to take off, there are a lot more grillz makers doing this kind of work now, so I reckon we may start seeing more of this style,” says Rae-Smith. “I just made nine sets of organic style grillz for the dancers and musicians on the Renaissance Tour and to be requested for ‘alien’ grillz for such a huge fashion music production is pretty major.”

So what’s next for the contemporary grillz scene? “I think as the demand continues innovation will follow. I’ve personally gotten a lot of very cool material requests for grillz and I would love to try some of those out in the future,” Alzona Al-Baari says about the future of grillz. “I really enjoy seeing what other grillz artists make and how each of us can offer variations to a classic ornament.”

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The contemporary grillz trend led by Gen Z women embodies a blend of individuality, self-expressive style and elevated dental aesthetics, fueled by algorithms and a desire for uniqueness. Rae-Smith believes the grillz trend is about to go global and push dental art into uncharted territory. “I’m looking forward to grillz having their moment in Asia. The work I’ve seen from Japan, South Korea and Vietnam is really impressive. I think there are some really talented and skilled grillz jewellers in Asia emerging that could really push things forward in a fresh way we haven’t seen before.”

Looking ahead, several factors will likely influence further developments in the grillz for women arena. “Firstly, the convergence of visual appeal and the influence of celebrities and social media will remain pivotal. Additionally, the accessibility of grillz artists, like myself, plays a crucial role in driving these changes,” says Wildin-Snedden. “Overall, these factors collectively pave the way for grillz to become increasingly mainstream, solidifying their position as a prominent and enduring fashion statement.”

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