Mullets, low-rise jeans and baby tees - just some of the classic Y2K trends experiencing a resurgence, not in small part due to the cultural influence behemoth that is TikTok. The most recent craze dug from the 2000s archives? Tooth gems.

You remember tooth gems, right? They’re right up there with cropped cardigans and Von Dutch hats in our collective, dubiously cheugy memories. The early 00s, after all were a time epitomised by the power of bling, from chunky diamanté belly bars, embellished jeans spelling out ‘babe’ across the buttocks and rhinestones in the shape of a heart set into rimless coloured sunglasses. Why then, would our humble teeth be any different?

Like many blink and you’ll miss it fashion trends of the 00s — bubble skirts, tiny waistcoats and ponchos, to name but a few — tooth gems had their moment in the mainstream consciousness, then seemed to vanish. In more recent years though, they have been crawling back into the fringes of pop culture: Katy Perry has been spotted with a Nike swoosh on the red carpet, in 2017 Hailey Bieber chose to have not one, but two gems applied to her teeth, “because why not” and model Adwoa Aboah chose a classic Chanel logo, which appeared on the cover of i-D magazine in 2016.

Five years on though, TikTok has well and truly resurrected the 00s aesthetic for the mainstream. Recent research from PolicyBee analysed nostalgic beauty trends on TikTok and found that alongside scrunchies (946.2m views), temporary tattoos (544m views) and blue eyeshadow (58.2m views), ooth gems came out as one of the frontrunners for a 2021 resurgence. Views for the hashtag #toothgems currently stand at over 54.7m, which is rapidly rising, with a growth of over 12% between May and June 2021 alone, and hundreds of users showing off their professional and DIY efforts.

It’s important to note that in the face of fast-moving, ephemeral fashion trends, that tooth adornments are nothing new, even when they’re ‘coming back’. Far from being just the late 90s or early 00s trend, they have in fact have long been a part of Latinx culture, dating back to the earliest documented examples of the Mayan Empire, by dentists who decorated teeth with jade, turquoise, gold and hematite. Japanese aristocrats practiced ‘ohaguro’, dyeing their teeth black to celebrate coming of age and symbol of health, beauty and status. It would be remiss, too, not to mention the cultural significance of modern Black history and tooth jewellery such as the gold teeth popularised among 1970s West Indian communities in New York City, to the removable grills and caps, which grew through the 1990s to reach its mainstream pop cultural apex in the mid-2000s (see, for instance, Nelly’s 2005 Grillz video).

Fast forward 16 years and Lana Sophia, owner & founder of Crystal Canine is applying tooth gems to more customers than ever, some of whom travel up to six hours to have them done. “What I’ve noticed is that clients are now more open to more elaborate designs rather than keeping it dainty and subdued,” Lana explains. “I do think TikTok trends have had an influence on that.”

She has also noticed a lot of much younger clients begging their parents to bring them“But when I tell you I have applied gems on everyone, I mean it. 16-year-old girls before they get braces for the summer holidays, to old dudes who used to be in motorbike gangs getting a Harley Davidson badge. Glamourous nans who won’t leave the house without their pink lipstick, to world-famous drag queens and rappers. I’ve done them.”

Lana, who has been applying tooth gems from her studio in Chigwell since 2015, believes that tooth gems are another way to accessorise, another body modification to push the boundaries, to show off and, in curating their own designs and placements, to be unique. But simultaneously, it’s also a way to celebrate imperfections, and to transform what can sometimes be an area of insecurity something to be celebrated, not hidden “I think my favourite reason people get tooth gems is to fall in love with their smiles,” Lana says. “I can’t tell you how many people walk in and tell me they hate their teeth but leave absolutely beaming and can’t stop looking in the mirror.”

Part of the appeal, too, is that the transformation is, in comparison to other facial and dental modifications, relatively easy to achieve. Done properly that is — you need a consultation, it’s not one-size-fits-all, everyone’s bites are different. The tooth should be cleaned and dried, followed by a protective layer to support enamel and a professional-grade adhesive (exactly like the one used to apply train track braces), before applying the gem stone. It is then cured using a UV lamp, similar to acrylic nail setting.