Photo credit: @trickscully on Instagram
“People like to do weird stuff,” says our own dentist Gabriela N. Lee of LLM Dental Associates in New York City. (Yes. Yes they do.) “We’ve seen inset stones or gold… I imagine [teeth tattoos] are an easy thing to do.”
She’s right. “We had a request in 1995; that was our first,” says Steven Canter, president of Suburban Dental Laboratory. “Somebody was looking for something specific and asked ‘Can you do that?’ I said, ‘I don’t see why we can’t.’ We started experimenting and figured it out—it took a a while, but we got it—and we’ve been rocking ever since.” Based in Bloomfield, Connecticut, Suburban produces these “tatteeth,” as some are calling them, by hand-painting a patient’s chosen artwork onto a crown and then baking them into the material in a kiln. That’s the caveat: It has to be a porcelain crown, not a born-with-it bone tooth.
“You can’t use regular artistic stains,” says Canter. “Don’t forget, it’s going intra-oral, so you have to be careful. All our ceramic stains are specially made,” and they’re made to last. “The only way it comes off is if you take an abrasive tool with a wheel and grind away the tooth.”
It stays on “forever,” according to Cathy Hornish, a dental assistant at Ellington Dental Associates in nearby Ellington, Connecticut. “It’s permanently in the crown. It shouldn’t fade or anything.”
Dr. Steven Landman, who runs Ellington, has three tatteeth himself, says Hornish. “He has several that are quite a few years old. One of his three children—they’re triplets—made a stick figure picture of the three of them when they were three years old. They’re going to be eleven soon, and it’s still there. He also has their names on another, and a really wonderful image of his bulldog on another.”
So Landman puts his molars where his mouth is… Or something like that.