Dentistry gets a glow-up, with celebrity doctors and their undetectable veneer makeovers giving clients something to smile about.
It’s the quintessential red-carpet accessory, shorthand for good health, and now the newest grooming niche to undergo a rebranding renaissance. Aesthetics dentistry has made a customized smile 2023’s beauty must-have. “I always say our smile is our business card,” says Dr Carla Cyrino, a dentist based at Dubai’s Cornerstone Clinic. “A smile is the most impactful thing someone notices, and when you are happy with your smile, you smile more, which only brings positivity.” These positive vibes are extending across social media, with drops of luxury toothbrushes, feeds flooded with ubiquitous DIY teeth-whitening devices, and influencers fielding questions on their favorite toothpastes now that the pandemic face masks are fully off. Even the Kardashian-Jenners have extended their reach to oral health, with Kendall Jenner collaborating with the brand Moon to launch its rose-mint flavored whitening pen and activated charcoal toothpaste. “I used to not know how to smile. That’s a fun fact,” the model shares in a to-camera spot, flashing a presumably new grin. Influencers aside, dental professionals are coming into their own kind of celebrity appeal, finding followers across social platforms. Known as The Bentist, Dr Benjamin Winters shares his flossing tips and animated reactions to cavityblighted molars to 13.3 million followers, while the perfectly coiffed Joyce the Dentist talks watchers through the veneer process and rates electric toothbrushes.
One of the original influential dentists, Dr Michael Apa has led the way in elevating the industry into something less clinical, specializing in seamless veneers, the fingernail-thin pieces of porcelain color-matched and placed over each tooth. While you won’t see him dancing on TikTok to explain enamel erosion, Dr Apa’s influence is seen across his social media accounts with a rollcall of smiling celebrities who visit his Dubai, Los Angeles, and New York clinics. With patients including Jennifer Lopez, Uma Thurman, Kendall Jenner, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Huda and Mona Kattan, Rania Fawaz, and Jessica Kahawaty, the A-list endorsements have helped boost both his profile and his mission to make dentistry as relevant in beauty as hairdressing and dermatology.
“People see going to the dentist as a needs-based thing, but really, when you consider it as an aesthetics appointment, it should be something you want to do,” he ruminates. “Look at the amount of money that people spend on their hair electively versus dentistry. You go to your hairdresser, it’s a celebration that you return for because it’s positive reinforcement about taking care of yourself,” he says. “This is how we should feel about going to the dentist.” As an intersection of medical care and vanity-driven aesthetics, good dentistry should cater to patients who want to both look and feel good, he summarizes.
What are clients asking for, when it comes to finding a balance between teeth that look natural while keeping dental health in check? “Natural is a tricky word in terms of what we do because when you’re aging, and you’re asking for anything in the ballpark of white, it’s not natural, right?” questions Dr Apa. “Teeth in general control the lower third of your facial structure, especially over time. They support your skin and your lips so any changes can shift how your face itself looks.” Like hairstyling, dentistry also undergoes trends, but with much more at stake. “Teeth aren’t going to grow back,” says Dr Apa, explaining why he ignores trending styles in favor of his elevated but understated philosophy. “I always say to patients, if someone compliments you on your veneers, I’ve failed,” he says. “I like to compare it to Brunello Cucinelli. I have clothes from 15 to 20 years ago that I can still wear because their clothing was never trendy. It was just subtle and elegant, and I think that’s what anything that you do to your face should be.” His argument is convincing, with Dr Apa even talking rap mogul P. Diddy out of his diamond-studded tooth look.
For Dr Cyrino, reversing an ill-advised trend often needs to be done before she can proceed with her own treatments, which focus on finding the best version of the patient’s own smile. “What I’ve been seeing recently are patients who come to me to change veneers they’ve had fitted a few years ago. I’ve never seen so many opaque white smiles and teeth with the same shape, like a piano keyboard,” she laments. “Patients come to me in search of getting their dream smile, because they don’t like the color of their teeth, or because their teeth are crowded, or there are gaps, or even because they show their gums too much when they smile,” explains Dr Cyrino. “It is up to me to guide them towards the best treatment, as it’s important that the professional knows how to analyze the face of the patient to choose the ideal size, shape, and color.”
Much like dermatology, dentistry has benefited from new tech launches. The wider use of precise laser has made even subtle changes simple – and less painful – for Dr Cyrino’s patients. “Without a doubt, the introduction of lasers is the most significant recent development in my field,” she says. “The Waterlase iPlus laser is fantastic as I can use it for about 80 different treatments without anesthesia, drill, blade, sutures, and blood. Using laser energy and a water spray, it acts on soft and hard tissue – all without pain.” While new tech saves dentists hours of work, like the digital scanning wand that accurately maps out the inside of a patient’s mouth in seconds, some traditional processes like hand sculpting molds and hand painting porcelain veneers, are best continued as is. “That is really a differentiating factor because we can control the aesthetics,” explains Dr Apa. “We can see how the lip rests, and the little quirks that they have.” Another factor is the hand-layer of each veneer with a paintbrush and powder. Like in art, Dr Apa explains, “Technology does not replicate the beauty of what handmade ceramics can produce – a beautiful smile that’s individually you.”
Originally published in the May 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia