The Secret Behind Celebrity Smiles
In the costly and complex world of dental veneers, the best work is undetectable.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the benefits of a $70,000 smile makeover are invisible. In fact, the improvement is usually life-changing. The thin porcelain covers instantly correct everything from unsightly discoloration, chips and gaps to malformed, misaligned and worn-down choppers. And the finest veneers look born-this-way natural.
Dr. Michael Apa, a high-profile cosmetic dentist and founder of the Apa Rosenthal Group in New York, the Apa Aesthetic Clinic in Dubai and a forthcoming office in Los Angeles, says the key is finding the aesthetic balance between lifelike and flawless. And, of course, veneers need to function.
“On a macro level, [it’s a matter of] three-dimensional positioning: how they support the lip, the sides of your face, how your mouth moves around them,” says Apa — whose patients include actress Chloë Sevigny, beauty mogul Huda Kattan and makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic. “If they’re too big, they cause lip incompetence, where the lips don’t close and it’s hard to pronounce words.”
And then there’s the appearance. “On a micro level, the texture, colour, translucency and how light reflects off of them are important,” he says.
In other words, good veneers resemble pearly whites. Bad ones look thick, flat, opaque, overly bright and totally fake. Either way, the procedure is irreversible: A small amount of enamel is typically removed to make room for ceramic veneers, which are bonded to the surface of teeth and last 15 to 20 years.
While ultra-thin veneers are often considered superior by laymen, Apa says the optimal thickness depends on the client’s needs. “Sometimes you want to build out a tooth to give lip support. Or you don’t want show-through [of the original tooth colour. Thin isn’t always good.”
In fact, veneer volume can confer visual anti-aging benefits. “Women lose cheek fat in their 40s and 50s and start to hollow,” says Apa. “We can add to the teeth to make the cheeks look fuller. It will make you look younger and take years off of your smile.”
Unlike the majority of practices, Apa has his own in-house lab, employing six technicians. His ceramists sit in on planning sessions with patients — allowing them to see firsthand the “before” and learn about the desired “after” — and also attend the insert, making quick adjustments if needed.
Apa and his team have also developed a proprietary ceramic blend, which he says transmits light almost exactly the same way that natural teeth do. Techs craft each veneer with up to 10 layers of formula applied by hand with a paintbrush, then fire the shell in an oven.
Apa even has a novel way of making a trial veneer: He crafts it directly in the patient’s mouth. Using a syringe of liquid composite, he shapes and contours the temporaries out of the fluid, which is then cured with a light. The patient wears the mockup for anywhere from two to 10 days, before returning for the permanent set.
At Apa’s Midtown practice, veneers cost $3,500 per tooth (not reimbursable by insurance) and three to five visits are required. Some patients want a few in the front (Kattan got four); others need as many as 20, or a combination of veneers and crowns.
The cost is high, but few dental procedures are as instantly visually rewarding.
By Alev Aktar
This article first appeared in NY Post.