Learning to Take Better Care of Your Family's Teeth

Considering Your Next Tattoo Location? How About on One of Your Teeth? (Seriously.)

With 40% of people in the U.S. between the ages of 26 and 40 sporting at least one tattoo, body art is something that people in the U.S. have come to embrace. In fact, there are those that suggest that millennials even use tattoos as a way of helping create their own sense of identity in an increasingly fragmented world. Is it any surprise, then, that someone would figure out how to tattoo teeth? If you're interested in learning more about this growing new trend, this is what you should know.

No, they don't tattoo real teeth.

The odds are good that someone probably has had an actual tooth of their own tattooed before, but it isn't something that your dentist is likely to condone or offer because that would require drilling into a live tooth. You'd risk destroying a perfectly healthy tooth, and you'd certainly create fissures that could lead to decay and weak points that could lead to a break.

Instead, they apply the tattoos to dental crowns.

The tattoos are applied to dental crowns that are fitted to cover one or more of your teeth. Dental crowns are sometimes referred to as "caps" for your teeth. They can be necessary to cover an existing tooth that is too damaged to take a filling but is otherwise viable. They can also be largely cosmetic in nature—they can help straighten a tooth out, reduce a jagged-looking appearance, or cover up a chip in a front tooth that's highly visible in nature.

While a few people opt for gold or silver caps for their decorative qualities, most people have their crowns made out of porcelain, or porcelain fused to metal for the sake of durability and cost. The porcelain can be colored to match your existing teeth. The average range of cost for a porcelain-covered metal crown is $500–$1,500. If the dental cap is necessary to improve your bite or cover a damaged tooth, your insurance company may help cover the cost.

A dental tattoo will add an additional $85 to your out-of-pocket cost for a very basic design—with prices increasing from there if you want something more complex (just like any good tattoo). The design is usually put on by a dental lab once your dentist has taken the impression that will be used to mold your crown.

Yes, there are some disadvantages.

Getting your crown will take a little longer because of the tattoo. If you're in a hurry, you may not want to wait the extra time it takes to get the tattoo done on the tooth. It's also possible that there could be faint ridges from the tattoo that collect plaque, increasing the risk of tooth decay. Since the tattoo is on the surface of your porcelain crown, the tattoo can erode over time due to excessive brushing or just ordinary wear and tear. More complex designs may erode faster as fine lines get blurred.

If you're interested in this unique form of self-expression and want to get one on your dental crown, talk to your dentist about this as soon as possible.