Stylish Smiles: Tooth Art with Middony Roman and Alyssa Vigil
Middony Roman: Los Amantes Tattoo Studios
Many popular body modification trends belong to an enduring and ancient tradition of altering one’s appearance as a means of self-expression. Tooth gem art, the increasingly popular practice of adhering small charms and stones to the front teeth with dental bond, originates with the Mayan practice of drilling holes into teeth and filling them with jade, gold and other precious materials as a display of social status. In present-day Salt Lake City, Middony Roman and Alyssa Vigil are working tooth gem artists. Both of these artists are keenly aware of the history of dental adornments, and each is motivated by helping their customers express style and personality through newly shimmering smiles.
In addition to their tooth gem work, Middony Roman is also a tattooer and artist. In 2015, they had two gems installed on their own teeth, and can recall feeling “like a badass,” they say, with the new accessories in place. They loved how the gems felt and “wanted others to feel that way, too.” Within a few years, Roman began offering the service on their own.
“Tooth gems are exciting to me because of the way people look at themselves once they have them,” Roman says. This satisfaction comes all at once, when the customer finally looks in the mirror. “A certain suave and laid-back aura comes over them,” Roman says, “It takes a real cool cat to rock a gold gem or crystal.”
All of the gems that Roman offers are hand-selected from a Los Angeles–based artist. When curating their collection, Roman selects for “funky” stuff, like playboy bunnies, cherries and spiderwebs. “I like making a statement with my style, and I want my clients to be able to do the same,” Roman says.
Roman has been tattooing professionally since 2018, at which point they completed their apprenticeship and began working toward opening a shop of their own. “In the last month of 2020, I am going for it,” Roman says. The new shop is called Los Amantes, or The Lovers in Spanish. “I want to carve out my own lane,” they say. Los Amantes will begin taking appointments soon. For now, find Roman and their tooth gem work on Instagram @donytattoos.
Alyssa Vigil: AV Gems & Jewelry
801.831.8306 | avgemsandjewelry.wixsite.com
When Alyssa Vigil began offering tooth gem art, there weren’t many others in the Salt Lake Valley offering the same service, and she considers it a side hustle. “It popped off more than I thought it would,” she says. Now, through social media exposure and word of mouth, Vigil fixes tooth gems to returning and first-time customers alike on a regular basis. “Tooth gem art is still evolving, and I am excited to see what it becomes,” Vigil says.
Regarding this recent increase in popularity, Vigil feels that the semi-permanent nature of the gems is a major factor. “Tooth gems can last from six months up to two years,” she says. Gems can be quickly removed by a dentist, and their maintenance is straightforward and minimal. Vigil wants prospective tooth gem owners with oral retainers to know that she can often work around such devices.
Like Roman, Vigil sources her tooth gems from California-based jewelers. “If a client is interested in a specific gem, I do my best to work with jewelry artists to ensure the custom
piece is created,” she says. Also, Vigil is adamant about keeping her gems and installation service affordable and accessible. After bringing tooth gems into the lives of many Utahns and watching the trend grow, Vigil remains convinced that this form of body modification is “a great way for people to add a small change and give a subtle sparkle to their smile,” she says. To learn more about Alyssa Vigil and her work, find her on Instagram @avgems_.