How do I drill a hole through a human tooth without shattering it?
June 16, 2008 2:40 PM   Subscribe

How would I drill a hole through an extracted human tooth without shattering it?

Tracking my history of posts in the green it's easy to see my life has revolved around my teeth, or lack thereof lately. I now have no teeth in my head, a cup full of teeth, and a head full of ideas of what I want to do with them. My first idea was a chainmail bracelet with the teeth woven into rings, but I'm not sure that would work at all. So I guess I have two questions. First, how the hell do I drill a hole through these things without shattering them? And second, any ideas for tooth based jewelery? I'm not really a necklace person, as obvious as the idea sounds. I would prefer something like a bracelet, but can't think of a way to integrate human teeth into a bracelet.
posted by mediocre to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've been wanting to make a necklace or earrings from my wisdom teeth for years, but have always been terrified of breaking the teeth. I'll be watching this thread with great interest.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 2:50 PM on June 16, 2008

dentists have drills made for drilling teeth, you've paid your dentist a lot of money, ask him to do you a favor and drill a hole in your extracted teeth for you...
posted by HuronBob at 2:58 PM on June 16, 2008

I've never actually drilled a tooth, but a high speed drill (e.g. a Dremel tool) with lubrication should work. I've drilled holes in glass using turpentine as the lubricant. (Build a little coffer-dam around the drill site with putty, fill with turpentine, drill carefully with light pressure -- let the tool do the work, as they say.) Just make sure you use a good quality sharp drill bit.
posted by phliar at 2:59 PM on June 16, 2008

Woof, philar, using turpentine strikes me as super dangerous: that stuff is flammable and drilling glass can get hot!

I was taught to use plain old water.

I'd hold the tooth submerged in a small container of water with a pair of pliers, and drill into it making sure that the water didn't rise above the drill's bit (to avoid electrocution, always a wise goal).

I have a glassworker friend who reams out beads this way.
posted by GardenGal at 3:24 PM on June 16, 2008

I've seen a silver ring with a bezel-set tooth in it, set roots up. It looked fantastic! So I'd bezel-set each tooth in silver, and link the bezels together. Well, in truth, I'd ask my friend the jewelry artist to do it, but that's me. I've been assured that bezel-setting is doable by amateurs.

Alternately, you could wrap the teeth in silver wire. Include a couple of loops in your wrapping and link each wire-wrapped tooth into a bracelet.

You might also look into the possibilities of precious metal clay.

It seems to me to be a shame to alter or destroy the tooth any more than you have to. But tastes differ. Cool project, for sure.
posted by sculpin at 4:59 PM on June 16, 2008

Using a normal drill vastly increases the risk of breaking hard things like glass or ceramic - if it hits an imperfection or discontinuity it'll bite and crack the job. It can be done - and is actually easier to do if the drill bit isn't perfectly sharp, though you want a sharp point to stop the drill from wandering - but it's better to use the right bit for the job.

Bits for drilling ceramic & glass are burr bits; basically rotating files. Lubricate it (one of the few things WD40 is good for, or use a high temperature vegetable oil like canola or peanut), and don't lean on it - as phliar says, let the tool do the work. You should be able to get small glass & ceramic bits at your local hobby shop, or maybe at a tile shop (though they usually don't have the really small sizes you'd need). Even one of the little ball-shaped dremel rotary file bits will do the job, though they can be a bit tricky to start.
posted by Pinback at 5:05 PM on June 16, 2008

I made a wisdom tooth pendant for an ex by dipping the tooth in epoxy first and then drilling with a Dremel once it cured. Came out okay, and the epoxy kept it from shattering when she wore it.
posted by ga$money at 5:35 PM on June 16, 2008

All Wired Up has really easy to follow instructions for how to do wire wrapping if you decide to go that route.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:43 PM on June 16, 2008

You're going to have to coat them in something, I think. I asked my dentist for my wisdom teeth when I had them pulled, and they told me that I'd need to somehow preserve them if I wanted them to last.
posted by web-goddess at 6:59 PM on June 16, 2008

Second the epoxy or some kind of coating. Once removed, the teeth dry out and split in a fairly short time.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 6:53 AM on June 17, 2008

I still have my wisdom teeth. They're nice and (strangely) faintly pink, and I've always wanted to make freaky jewelry with them. They've not split - but having sat for so long I would be concerned that they'd now be harder to drill into (and not break) than when they were...fresh. I always get an "eeeeew!" from anyone that I've shared this jewelry idea with.

Your two options are to drill through and then use them as beads, or to figure a way to make pendant from the root end. The wire wrapping idea sounds like it would be the best way for the pendant look, or at least until you find a dremel bit you feel comfortable with. You can also find animal teeth to experiment on via various internet sellers if you want to try out the drill before using it on your teeth. There are also jewelry makers out there who're working with various kinds of bone - I'd see if I could find something similar on the net and then email them with questions.

And randomly I'm now feeling quite pleased that I'm not the only "these teeth would make nice jewelry" person out there.
posted by batgrlHG at 3:50 PM on June 30, 2008

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