“Tooth gems go way, way, way back to the Mayans,” said Fuentes. “They used to adorn their teeth with gold. Back then, the practice was that you would drill a hole in the tooth, and the embellishment or the jewel, back then it was gold, back then it was opal, and we still do a lot of that in the practice, and it was about stature. If you adorned your teeth, that meant you were well-off, you were wealthy. As far as modern society, it’s been around forever as well, and it’s mainly popular in the hip-hop culture. Back in the ‘90s, it became really popular, it exploded back then. More so people associate the grills, I think people know the grills very well.” Fuentes stated that the practice still involved drilling of the teeth as recently as 15 years ago, and commended the technological advancements that have improved the practice. She also made sure to quell any fears about the process, stating, “ It is on the surface of the tooth with no damage to the enamel and it’s all dental-grade materials. The dental adhesive used to bond braces is the same dental adhesive used for tooth gems, so it is safe, and it’s semi-permanent. ” She also made sure to mention that “they are 100% removable, so when you’re ready to take them off, you’re more than welcome to do that by a dental professional.” When asked about famous or influential figures with tooth gems, Fuentes fired off a list of celebrities including Rihanna, Beyoncé, Rosalía, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin. I then asked her about her personal background and what led her to pursue this art.
something completely different before this. I was a professional development coach helping teachers, specifically headstart teachers, just be better professionals and have the best teaching practices with children. So, that’s my background, education and professional development. I was in an environment that really compromised my mental and emotional health, and so the higher I climbed on that latter, the more I was compromised. The day I got a promotion is the same day I decided to say, “No more.” I put myself first. It was a really hard decision to make, but a necessary one. I took some time off for myself. I had to take a look inward and say, “What does Anais like? What is she passionate about? What does she want to create?” I’ve always expressed myself in unique ways, and I wanted to create a platform where people could express themselves in a very unique way, such as hair, such as jewelry, such as tattoos. According to Fuentes, tooth gems say, “I am confident. I am empowered to express myself. Confidence, that’s what it is.” As the interview drew to a close, I asked her if there was anything else she wanted to say. “ Don’t limit yourself. Don’t limit your creativity. Express yourself. If this is the route you’re wanting to take, it’s a very fun, fun way to express yourself. We also do teeth whitening, besides just the tooth gems, so if you need that boost of confidence, that brighter smile, we can do both for you.” Inspiring words from an inspiring artist. Anais Fuentes can be found on all social media @aztoothpixie as well as at her clinic located in Tempe.