Mumbai: Body tattoo is passé. Modern youths are now heading for dental tattoos. So don’t be surprised if your girlfriend breaks into a toothy smile to show off an angel or a skull.

“The trend is fairly popular among urban Indians. In the last two-three years, dental tattoos have gained popularity especially as youth today are more savvy and adventurous than before,” Heman Verma, orthodontist and dental styler in Gurgaon said.

He also added, “College-goers and young professionals these days like to leave a distinct impression among their peer group by making a unique style statement. Dental tattooing offers them an option to do so.”

Although the fashion is relatively new in India, in the West it is a common phenomenon and has been in use for many years.

“Dental tattoos are not new; it started in the West about 8-10 years ago when hip-hop singers and rappers started sporting them in their music videos and then youngsters started aping them. In India, it became popular in the last couple of years,” informed Mumbai-based Ranganatha Rao K. Jingade, a dental surgeon.

The age group that usually goes in for dental tattoo treatments is 14-35 years. Girls like to get stars, apples or angels while boys like to get more masculine designs like skulls or geometric patterns.

Dental tattoos are of two types - temporary and permanent.

“In case of temporary tattoos, designs are in the form of templates that are stuck on the teeth. Various kinds of designs are available. You can also get a custom-made design in a dental laboratory, which your dentist can then stick on your teeth. Permanent tattoos are drilled on the teeth. Once done you cannot get them removed,” explained Verma.

Shikha Pahwa, a cosmetic dentist said, “While sticking a temporary tattoo takes just 15-20 minutes, drilling permanent tattoos can take hours depending on the design.”

She added, “There are no side effects, but it depends on a person's dental hygiene. If a person is lacking hygiene, then there could be cavities - but this can happen even without a tattoo.”

The preferred areas for dental tattoos are the upper lateral incisors, upper canine, premolars and molars.

“The dental tattoo procedures that we undertake costs anywhere between Rs.10, 000 and Rs.15, 000, depending on the design and detailing,” added Pahwa.

“Everyone gets a tattoo on the body but this is different. That's why even I'm planning to get one very soon,' said Monisha Rawat, a 19-year-old student.

She added, “The best part is it's not even painful, unlike body tattoos.”