Currently reading : Decorative Dental

Decorative Dental

23 July 2013

Author : julia-silverman

While traveling through Guatemala last month, I happened upon a Mayan woman who smiled to reveal two shining gold stars hovering in the enamel of her front teeth. As I continued to travel, I realized that cosmetic dentistry is quite common in Guatemala (perhaps because of a recent influx of processed and sugary foods). Even towns that are hours from the nearest hospital will have a handful of dentists, and everywhere I turned, I saw ads for braces or tooth whitening, but, most commonly, golden adornment. Men and women often combine starred inserts, caps that wrap around the tooth’s perimeter, and solid gold teeth to compose a gleaming mouth. As it turns out, tooth adornment and modification in Mesoamerica dates back over a thousand years, from 9th century Mayan skulls with tooth inlays of jade, pyrite and turquoise to teeth filed into points or incised with hatched patterns. I’ve never been too adventurous with my own teeth, but recently, I can’t get those stars off my mind…

(1st & 3rd images via Google, 2nd image my own, final image via Ancient Mesoamerica, vol.6)

Diagram of Mesoamerican Tooth Modifications (Romero, 1970)

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