While grillz entered the pop culture lexicon through Hip-hop, the practice of wearing ornate dental adornments can be traced back to ancient Mayans in Mexico, circa 300 AD to 900 AD.
According to a short segment on the popular documentary television show, National Geographic Explorer, gold teeth were commonly seen on African Immigrants who had recently arrived in the United States. Despite being a show of wealth, gold fillings are actually low cost way to repair and strengthen teeth. The process was also commonly used by dentists who served predominantly African American clientele.
Over time, gold teeth become more about form rather than function and diamonds, precious stones, and intricate designs were added.