Dental Grills Like Ryan Lochte’s Could Damage Teeth

Following Ryan Lochte’s successful performance at the 2012 London Olympic Games, much attention has been given to his appearances wearing custom-made dental grills adorned with an American flag. These grills, which were popularized in the 1990s by the American rap culture, are basically retainers made of precious metals and jewels that adorn the teeth. When properly made, used and maintained, they are relatively harmless to the teeth, but inferior grills can cause permanent dental damage. Lochte’s popularization of these grills in the mainstream culture has increased the usage of inferior grills, prompting news stories from several sources, including the Washington Post, Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Reading Eagle.

What Makes a Low-Quality Dental Grill

According to Pennsylvania dentist John Reitz, only grills that have been custom-fitted by a dentist are safe for long-term use. As dentists are highly experienced in fitting a variety of custom-fit oral devices, their help will ensure that the grills perfectly fit your teeth. Most celebrities choose to have their grills custom-fitted to ensure safety and comfort, but cheap, universal grills have flooded the low-end market. These one-size-fits all grills are not customized significantly, and may contribute to future problems, offsetting their low up-front cost with dental intervention later on.

In addition to these concerns, low-quality dental grills are often made of inferior materials rather than the safe precious metals used by celebrities. This greatly lowers the cost, but does so at the expense of safety and durability over time. According to Matthew Messina, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, “If Ryan Lochte wants to wear grills on the podium as a personal statement, that’s great. The challenge is how long you wear it and what’s it made of.”

Dangers of Inferior Dental Grills

One of the biggest dangers of low-quality grills is that the grill is not custom fit to the teeth. While merely uncomfortable at first, this can cause severe damage to the teeth over time, wearing away the enamel and causing painful toothaches and headaches. In addition, the grills can act as a sort of poorly-fitting retainer over long periods of use, permanently moving the teeth into a new, unhealthy position. This damage may require orthodontia or even reconstructive dentistry to restore the teeth to their original position and appearance.

The materials used in inferior grills are also a significant concern, as their low quality may mean they contain substances that are unhealthy or may cause allergic reactions in some patients. These metals may break down in the mouth, and can be damaging to the body if consumed accidentally. Poorly-cleaned grills may also develop bacteria over time, and could contribute to extensive tooth decay and the onset of gum disease. This may lead to a need to root canals, dental implants, porcelain veneers or other reconstructive dentistry and cosmetic dentistry options.

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