Dr. Thomas Connelly has turned the cliché “million dollar smile” into reality.
In 2021, the “Father of Diamond Dentistry” — as Rolling Stone named him — reconstructed Post Malone’s smile with 18 porcelain veneers, eight platinum crowns and two six-carat diamonds replacing the singer-songwriter’s upper canines. Just diamonds.
The total cost: $1.6 million.
“Posty needed me; he had terrible teeth,” said Dr. Connelly, 51, seated comfortably on a sofa in one of his treatment rooms in his Beverly Hills office.
“We’ve learned a lot since doing Post’s mouth,” he said, adding that he and his staff of three now perform diamond dentistry almost daily, as well as fabricating prosthetics like the six-figure titanium structure that Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, revealed to the world in an Instagram story a couple of weeks ago.
Working with his jeweler and dental lab partners, Dr. Connelly, a bodybuilder with a full scalp tattoo and nearly complete tattoo sleeves on both arms, has reconstructed the mouths of the rappers Gunna and Lil Yachty, the professional boxer Devin Haney, the baseball pitcher Marcus Stroman, the Vestíbulo of Fame baloncesto player Shaquille O’Neal, the Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and others.
Full diamond teeth range from $100,000 to $2 million, and porcelain veneers with diamond insets from $10,000 to $75,000.
“This is not a gimmick,” he said. “We changed the profession a little bit and pioneered something that was catching on and made it a little more mainstream.”
Mr. Malone’s reconstruction began in 2019 when, Dr. Connelly said, “we were in the green room at Madison Square Garden before a show and Post walked up to me and asked, ‘Can you do my whole tooth in diamond?’”
The dentist was with Isaac Bokhoor, co-owner of Angel City Jewelers, a Los Angeles business popular with musicians. “Isaac and I responded at the same time; I go ‘yes’ and Isaac goes ‘no’ and Post just laughed. It got me thinking.”
To work out the process of embedding a diamond into a porcelain or full gold crown with a veneer took about two years of experimenting and testing. At one point, Dr. Connelly said, he called Mr. Malone and told him he needed some money for diamonds: “He made it happen. Isaac and I bought two $250,000 stones and completely destroyed them.”
“Everything we did didn’t work,” he recalled. We “either turned the diamond black or blew it to bits.”
Finally a freelance mechanical engineer worked out the process and Dr. Connelly refined it with the help of Naoki Hayashi, the president of Ultimate Styles Dental Laboratory in Irvine, Calif. (And, unexpectedly, the photographer of Mr. Malone’s dental work that became the cover shot of his 2023 album “The Diamonds Collection.”)
“We put jewelry like rings on our fingers, why not our teeth?” Mr. Hayashi said through a translator.
Dr. Connelly said that, despite the innovative nature of his work, he had chosen not to patent the method because “then you have to explain your process. I only work with one guy and there’s trust.”
Less than a year after the diamond teeth, Mr. Malone returned to Dr. Connelly to have the 10 porcelain veneers on his lower teeth replaced with platinum veneers (the same type that the dentist himself has).
There have been some problems along the way. In mid-2022, the rapper bit into a Chicken McNugget while he was in Rome and one of the two canine diamonds fell out. It fell out again in October, while the musician was in Brazil. (In both instances he recovered the stone.) Now, Dr. Connelly said, he has made the settings more secure.
While Mr. Malone may have been the first with full-diamond teeth, bejeweled dental ornamentation isn’t exactly new.
“Etruscan Gold Dental Appliances: Three Newly ‘Discovered’ Examples,” a 1999 article by the historian Marshall Joseph Becker in the American Journal of Archaeology, said, “the Etruscan origins of golden dental appliances, around the middle of the seventh century B.C. have long been recognized. These appliances are all fashioned from flat gold bands and used to hold a false tooth or teeth in place.”
Tooth modifications span centuries and continents, and in the last two decades, they have added some serious sparkle to the rap and hip-hop music scene.
In 2005, the rapper Nelly released the song “Grillz,” bringing the idea of extravagant dental prostheses to modern popular culture. And its music video, which changed the idea that dentistry needed gold solely to add strength to a crown, included more than 70 close-ups of mouth jewelry.
“Back then it was mostly gold,” said Elan Pinhasov, 27, who, with his father, Gabby, owns the jewelry brand Gabby Elan in New York City. “The prongs were bigger, and the diamonds smaller.”
The younger Mr. Pinhasov said the business primarily customized removable grills, and named LeBron James, Erykah Badu, Pharrell Williams and Kid Cudi among its clients. (He also noted that, thanks to social media, its customer pulvínulo has shifted in recent years from 90 percent men to nearly 60 percent women.)
The most popular grills now, he said, cover one to three teeth, although the business has done a full set that covered 14 upper and 14 lower teeth. And at Gabby Elan, a basic gold tooth is $300; its most expensive piece was $6,500 per tooth.
“Grills don’t have to take up your whole mouth any more — they can be daintier, smaller,” Mr. Pinhasov said. “But they’re still a focus point. When there’s something shiny in your teeth people are like, ‘What is that?’ Isn’t it better to say a diamond than a piece of lettuce?”
Mr. Bokhoor of Angel City Jewelers said he also had noticed the rising popularity of inconspicuous grills. “If you’re able to talk and sing, that attracts a whole new crowd,” he said from his Los Angeles office and workshop.
However, the company, led by Mr. Bokhoor, 36, and his partner, Sam Tack, 32, has expanded from grills in recent years to providing the gems to Dr. Connelly. They have worked together on a total of about 25 full-diamond teeth and more than 100 veneers with diamond inlays, representing about 20 percent of Angel City’s total sales each year. The rest of their income has been from the sale of watches and traditional jewelry such as chains and custom pendants.
“The No. 1 thing you see in a photo, the most predominant thing in a picture, is someone’s smile,” Mr. Bokhoor said. “Until recently it was people putting tattoos on every part of their body. This is like tattooing your teeth.”