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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 04:51 GMT 05:51 UK
Gold teeth are a gold mine
David Baldwin of Bridgeport International removes his diamond-encrusted teeth
Removable gold teeth are "the style" for followers of hip-hop culture
By BBC News Online's North America Business Reporter, David Schepp

With cable television's Music Television (MTV) celebrating its 20th anniversary, there is perhaps no better time to examine the latest fad influenced by music videos.

Diamond-encrusted removable teeth have also proven popular
Diamond-encrusted removable teeth have also proven popular
Gold teeth - specifically removable gold teeth - have emerged as the latest fashion trend among devotees to hip-hop and rap, styles of music common among 20-somethings across urban America.

Worn by legions of rap stars and their fans, gold teeth, or "fronts" as they are called can be as simple or as ornate as the wearer desires.

Long a statement within black culture, gold teeth have moved beyond their depression-era Southern roots into mainstream American society.

Ground zero

Along Fulton Mall in Brooklyn - what some consider to be ground zero for this latest craze - several shops, including Golden Sparkle and Lora's Fine Jewellery cater to an ever-growing number of people who want to be noticed for their dazzling smiles.

Shoppers along Brooklyn's Fulton Mall
Shoppers along Fulton Mall in Brooklyn can shop for gold teeth, too
One young man told the BBC he liked wearing his gold teeth because it is "cool" and because everyone else is doing it. "Right now, I'm in the best shape of my life," he said. "I got to wear my fronts to attract the girls. I got to have my mouth shining."

Others see it merely as a style choice. Another young man, sporting four lower gold-capped teeth said the fad said something about fashion in the new century.

"Everybody's dress code is strange. We wear big hats, big pants," he said, adding that he paid about $130 for his teeth.

Today's gold teeth are far more sophisticated then the ones worn to replace missing or damaged teeth in the past.

While some rap-music stars have gone so far as to have their gold teeth permanently attached to existing teeth, most folks opt for removable gold teeth.

Off-hours statement

For soccer moms and professionals who want to sport a hip-hop look for clubbing but a more reserved look for work or social functions, removable gold teeth provide a workable medium, providing them gold-lined smiles when they feel comfortable displaying them.

The ability to put on and take out gold teeth at-will is key to the success of ventures such as Bridgeport International, a Georgia manufacturer of removable gold teeth.

"What's nice," Bridgeport contends, "is that you can insert the caps and remove them as you wish."

Bridgeport makes caps that are custom made to fit an individual's teeth. The caps are guaranteed to fit and give the appearance of permanent teeth.

The average cost runs around $50 a tooth. But a set of diamond encrusted fronts can cost $10,000 to $15,000.

Bridgeport has seen its business explode in recent years as the gold-tooth phenomenon has taken hold.

Surge in popularity

David Baldwin, a designer for Bridgeport, says he has seen orders rise from about 15 to 45 sets a week to 300 to 500 sets a day - all attributable to current fads in popular music.

"Rap music has definitely played a major part in gold teeth," Mr Baldwin said, adding that gold teeth have been around for eons. "But the removable and diamond-encrusted teeth are the thing."

In addition he said he could trace a surge in request for gold vampire teeth to a video by the hip hop band Wu Tang Clan, in which one of the performers wore the gold-toned fangs.

Shortly after the debut of the video, requests for fang teeth went through the roof, he said.

Mr Baldwin, who calls his products "jewellery for teeth", said his clientele, too, have changed over the years to include suburbanites. White rap artist Eminem's appeal to suburban youth has further encouraged the general acceptance of the gold-tooth craze.

As Mr Baldwin said, "It's definitely mainstream now."

See also:

19 Nov 00 | Broadband
The tribal roots of Hip hop
11 Jun 01 | Health
Teeth whitening 'fails to shine'
12 Jun 01 | Music
Hip hop assesses its image
22 May 01 | Health
Tea 'good for teeth'
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