Miami flea-market vendor Itzhak "Alex'' Daniarov sells the flashy teeth jewelry known as grillz. But of late, he's had little to smile about.
The state has decided only licensed dentists can make the popular mouth accessories. So Daniarov hasn't sold a single grill since October, when his father Oleg was arrested after offering to take the impression of an undercover detective's teeth for a $300 job.
Now Daniarov is biting back. He's sued the state, say- ing it doesn't take a dental license to fit a grill.
"We don't do nothing wrong," says Daniarov, 21. ‘‘We don't drill teeth. We do everything correct by law."
Grillz, a hot fashion item
among hip-hoppers and wannabes, come in various types, from the Dracula style to the Princess Cut. They range in price from about $30 for the one-size-fits-all, adjustable-to-any-mouth kind to more than $1,000 for bling kings with jewel inlays.
Rappers sing their praises. ‘‘Rob a jewelry store and tell 'em make me a grill," raps Nelly in the bestseller tune Grillz. And Miami is ranked in the top 10 cities for grillz on SeeMyGrill.com.
Grillz are built on a plaster model made by filling a gyp- sum product into an impres- sion of the would-be wearer's teeth. And that's where the trouble starts -- Florida law says taking impressions is part of dentistry.
Max Price, Daniarov's Miami attorney, argues the law applies only if the aim is to prevent or treat a dental problem. Dentistry, he says, is a "healing art'' -- unlike grill-making.
"Our impressions are not for dentistry purposes; they are for jewelry purposes," Price says. The lawsuit also notes that no customers have complained of injury.
However, the risks of get- ting a grill from a nondentist include damage to teeth or dental work and the chance of breathing in or swallowing materials, says Dr. Alan Frie- del, a Hallandale Beach den- tist and past president of the Florida Dental Association.
The Florida Department of Health, which was named in the suit, says it does not com- ment on litigation.
Arrests for making grillz without a license are rare in South Florida. The Broward Sheriff's Office has no record of any, and the Miami-Dade Police Department reports two since last year, including that of Oleg Daniarov. A judge dismissed the felony charge last month after hear- ing all he did was discuss prices and put on a rubber glove.
An affidavit filed with the lawsuit says the store, King of Gold Crowns II, was ‘‘engaged by a Florida licensed dentist to provide management and auxiliary services for the fabrication and sale of grillz." The den- tist, who gets a cut of sales, didn't return two calls from The Miami Herald.
Daniarov and his three employees are trained dental assistants who took a state course, his attorney says. State law allows assistants to take impressions, but not to
make orthodontic appliances or "intraoral restorations'' -- which include grillz, says dentist Friedel.
"It's worn in the mouth, and it fits intimately with the teeth," he notes.
Meanwhile, back at King of Gold Crowns II in Flea Market USA, 3015 NW 79th St., the law has hurt business.
The store has sold grillz for about three years, making seven or eight a day for an average price of $200. Although King of Gold Crowns II also sells more tra-
ditional jewelry, grillz accounted for about 80 per- cent of business. If the law- suit fails, Daniarov predicts glumly, that will mean the end of the store.
"It will be shut down," he says.