New Delhi: Body art is expanding into fresh territories with tattoo lovers flaunting iconic images, designs of their choice and even colourful jewellery on their teeth!

Pearly white teeth seems passé as the almost a decade -old fashion statement seems to be the latest fad to capture the fancy of hip, ready-to-experiment youngsters across the country.

"Dental tattoos are not a new thing with rappers and hip-hop singers of the west sporting them in music videos around 8 to 10 years ago and youngsters started to ape them," says Mumbai-based dental surgeon Ranganatha Rao K Jingade.

"In India, however, the trend has been in vogue for the last couple of years," he says.

Images of film stars, animal shapes, cupid with a heart and arrow as well as glittering stars, geometric and tribal designs are usually picked by youngsters who are willing to shell out a few thousand bucks to ensure their toothy grins stand out.

Cosmetologist Hetal Turakhia, who runs dental care centres in Mumbai, Goa and Pune, says more people are now displaying interest in getting coloured stones and real diamonds on their teeth while others opt to ink their teeth.

Usually, in case of dental tattoos, the enamel covered teeth are not actually pierced or even touched with a needle.

Custom designs are added to the dental crowns before setting and sealing the crown in the mouth.

In case of crowns, dental tattoos are most commonly seen on the rear teeth, but they can potentially be applied to any tooth. The preferred areas for dental tattoos are the upper lateral incisors, upper canine, premolars and molars, say dentists.

"I saw a tooth tattoo for the first time when my friend grinned to show it off. Usually people tattoo their body, but this is something different. That’s why, I plan to paint my teeth immediately," says Monisha, a 19 year old Delhi University student.

This emerging trend is popular in people aged between 14-35 years. Not only women but men too are equally eager to get their tooth inked.

Shikha Pahwa, a cosmetic dentist says, “There are no side effects, but it depends on a person's dental hygiene. If a person lacks hygiene, then there could be cavities - but this can happen even without a tattoo.”

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

Those who don't want to spend a lot of money can settle for less elaborate patterns.

The minimum market rate for a basic design is Rs 800 with the cost getting steeper as the design becomes more intricate and the cost reaching up to as much as Rs 15, 000," says Verma.

Though considered to be safe, dentists say there still exist complications related to dental tattooing.

"The enamel of the tooth is a highly polished surface and if tattooing or stone-studding is not done professionally, it can cause dental caries around the margin of the teeth. But with good oral hygiene, this can be avoided. Repeated stone- studding on the same tooth, though, can damage the enamel," says dental surgeon Dr K Nagesh.

(Agencies)