Like so many other cosmetic treatments— from facelifts to nose jobs and beyond— veneers have only gotten better with time. A procedure that was once associated with a blindingly white and unnaturally large grin is now better known for its subtle adjustment. (It’s also a popular treatment amongst celebrities, who want a few minor tweaks that don’t alter their entire appearance). If you’re looking for a guide to veneers, start by scrolling through the #veneers hashtag on Instagram and you’ll find over a million posts of smiling before-afters. You’ll also notice that while they can lead to an improvement in tooth symmetry, texture, and color, the modern results don’t scream “I have veneers.” These days, natural is the name of the game.
No one knows that better than Dr. Michael Apa, the industry’s most-followed aesthetic dentist and a leading veneers expert who’s renowned for his impeccable (and virtually undetectable) work. His passion for teeth began at a young age: “I was about five when I decided I had to be a dentist; for whatever reason, I was set on it,” he recalls. “At 16, my local dentist told me about Larry Rosenthal, the original dental rockstar and, with that, I knew exactly what I had to do. I went to NYU’s College of Dentistry so that I could meet him, learn from him and, of course, convince him to hire me…which he did!”
Twenty years later and Dr. Apa now has offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Dubai where he treats hundreds of patients (including a slew of notable celebrities, such as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Uma Thurman, Simon Cowell, and Kyle Richards — and those are just the ones he’s allowed to name). His patients go to him for his unique approach to cosmetic dentistry — one that ensues a fully personalized and utterly natural-looking result. Ahead, TZR asks Dr. Apa to provide the lowdown on veneers — from how much they cost to what the process is actual like.
What Are Veneers?
At their most basic level, veneers can be defined as shells that attach to the surface of the teeth in order to improve their appearance and/or functionality. This definition, while admittedly simplistic, isn’t an altogether accurate depiction of Dr. Apa’s work, which is personalized, complex, and nuanced.
“When done correctly, there are so many benefits to veneers — the ability to fight aging, improve function and, of course, enhance overall appearance,” he says. “For me, it’s about seeing what’s there, or what’s supposed to be there, and recreating it in a natural way.”
Veneers can be purely cosmetic or they can be placed to remedy an existing dental issue. Take, for instance, teeth grinding. “Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body and when you grind, you shorten your teeth, leading to an over-closed or collapsed bite, overworked muscles, and pain — this can also happen from natural wear over time,” he says. “With porcelain, we can rebuild the missing tooth structure, restore your bite to better support the muscles, and eliminate the pain.”
What Is The Veneers Process Like?
Dr. Apa’s process starts with a consultation followed by four separate appointments. If that seems like a lot of time and commitment, know that it’s because he wants to ensure every patient gets the most natural-looking final effect and is happy with the results.
The initial consultation takes about an hour. “Teeth and smiles have personality; I need time to understand how your teeth interact with your face and determine my plan for bringing about overall facial harmony,” Dr. Apa explains. “So, we chat about life, teeth, whatever, while I take a good look. This is also when you tell me what you hope to achieve in terms of color, shape, etc. We take X-rays, digital photos, and digital scans of your teeth. We go over the treatment fees and timeline and the next appointment, we work.”
By “work,” he means prep the teeth, which often involves removing some enamel to bond the veneers to the natural teeth. It’s the stage most people are hesitant about, and it’s also the stage he gets asked about the most. You might imagine shaved down, tiny teeth at this point, but he says that notion is outdated. “We actually remove much less than you think, and sometimes none at all,” he says. “It really depends on the original tooth position and what we’re trying to achieve. If it’s an additive case, for example —meaning we are building the smile out — we do little to no prep. For me, it’s a very precise process and the goal is always to preserve as much of the natural tooth structure as possible.” (Fun fact: Dr. Apa built a ceramics lab in all of his offices where his ceramists make all of his patients’ veneers in-house, allowing for quick and timely adjustments.)
During the appointment, the mouth is numbed, the teeth are shaped, molds are taken, and a new, albeit temporary, smile is fabricated. “You leave the appointment in a composite version of what the final result will look like,” Dr. Apa says. “Since you’re numb, we have patients take the night and come back the very next day with comments.”
From there, it’s on to the second working appointment, which Dr. Apa refers to as “the first check.” This is when Dr. Apa examines the temporary smile, including its shape, color, size, speech, and bite. “We go over everything and make on-the-spot changes so that you can see a vision of what the final result will look like. Once we are in agreement on the design and have your sign-off, we take digital scans, pictures, and measurements for the lab, where your new smile will be duplicated in porcelain.”
Next, it comes time for the insert, which happens two weeks after the previous appointment. The temporary smile is removed, and the permanent porcelain veneers are inserted. “I want people to know that veneers are just dental restorations — like a filling or crown,” he says. “When terms like ‘cosmetic dentistry’ get thrown around, it’s easy to forget that it’s also restorative dentistry. In the case of veneers, we’re using porcelain to restore tooth shape, color, and position.”
Once the veneers have been inserted, it comes time for the “second check.” This is the fourth and final appointment, during which the bite is checked and final touch-ups are completed. After that, the veneers process is complete, and it’s time to consider proper aftercare.
What About Aftercare?
“Placing veneers should be thought of as both a cosmetic and functional procedure,” Dr. Apa says. “Teeth that have existing restorations, deep fillings, or gum issues may experience more sensitivity than those without. Otherwise, if the bite is comfortable, the restoration is sealed and [if] the patient takes good care of their teeth — brushing, flossing, getting professional cleanings every four to six months — they should be complication-free.”
Dr. Apa says living with veneers is no different than living with fillings or crowns. Brushing, flossing, and going in for professional cleanings two to three times a year will keep the veneers both cosmetically and functionally pristine for many years to come. “It is recommended that you replace porcelain veneers every 15 to 20 years,” he tells TZR. “Some people keep them longer. It just depends on the patient and how well they maintain their oral hygiene.”
When it’s time to “reset the clock,” the process is similar to that of getting veneers for the first time. “We recommend replacing all existing restorations at the same time, and sometimes we need to restore additional teeth because we’re accounting for facial change, like loss of collagen in the cheeks,” Dr. Apa says. “The refresh process involves removing the porcelain while continuing to preserve as much of the natural tooth structure underneath as possible. If a tooth has a cavity, or the gum line moved, we might have to prep the tooth a little bit. Then, patients are fitted with a temporary smile and, two weeks later, their new porcelain veneers.”
Can Anyone Get Veneers?
The importance of proper aftercare can’t be overstated, which is why Dr. Apa says the person who is the best fit for veneer is the person who will stay committed to taking care of their teeth. “My response to this question may be controversial but the short answer is anyone who is old enough to take good care of their teeth can be a candidate,” he says. “The thing to remember, though, is that the lifespan of veneers is typically 15 to 20 years, so depending on when you get them, it may not be a one-time thing.”
More specifically, Dr. Apa says those who have small teeth and want to make them bigger are great candidates for veneers, as well as anyone who’s worn their teeth over time or who has existing fillings or poor dental restorations that need to be cleaned out. “Anyone can be the ‘perfect candidate’ for veneers, depending on what he or she hopes to achieve.”
What Is The Cost of Veneers?
A complete “smile makeover,” as Dr. Apa refers to it, doesn’t come cheap. At Dr. Apa’s office, the price begins at $50,000 (although depending on what dentist you visit, the city you live in, and the number of veneers you need for your teeth, the price may fluctuate). Typically, the price is valued per tooth — that means if you only need one or two teeth done, the total cost won’t be as high. A complete smile makeover will obviously be more pricey.
That price might seem exorbitant, but keep in mind that the process involves complete customization — a truly bespoke and personalized process from start-to-finish. Also, keep in mind that it will last upwards of 15 to 20 years (or longer), so around $2,500 a year. For people who get veneers to remedy existing dental issues, the elimination of pain is worth it alone, and for others, a perfect smile is truly priceless.