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Temporary Tooth Tattoos Tempt Trendy Types

Tooth tattoos can cause tooth decay.

A new cosmetic dental procedure may have some patients smiling, but dentists aren't exactly jumping for joy.

The new fashion statement is tattoos for teeth -- tiny, three-dimensional gold characters that are bonded to a patient's front teeth. Patients choose an image, such as a cross, moon, letter or symbol, which is sent to a dental laboratory to be created. The image is then applied to a tooth in a short dental visit.

Even though dentists created the concept of tooth tattooing and some dentists do offer this service in their offices, their colleagues are not keen on the practice.

"Dentists who perform this procedure may believe it to be safe," states Cheryl Watson-Lowry, D.D.S., a general dentist who practices on Chicago's South Side. "It is possible that plaque can build up around the tattoo, causing an increasing chance of tooth decay. They seem to be easily removed, so if patients do elect to have them placed on their teeth, I would encourage them not to leave them for a long period of time."

After paying for the procedure and spending the time to get it done, most patients would probably leave the tattoo on the tooth as long as it would stay on, says Dr. Watson-Lowry. "That makes the tooth more prone to decay," she says. "Dentists then should encourage patients to return for regular checkups to make sure no decay is forming around it."

But mostly, she says, they just don't seem appealing. "I like a nice, bright, white smile, and to me, these look like you have food caught in your teeth," she concludes.

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