Chrissy Teigen makeup
Credit: Kristin Callahan/ACE/INFphoto

Celebs have a lot of ammo when they hit the red carpet for an awards show. Chances are they’ve spent weeks (read: months, years) prepping by dieting, getting regular facials and skin treatments, and hiring the best hair, makeup and fashion stylists on the market. But there’s component to looking absolutely stunning on the red carpet that most people don’t think about: their smile.

Sure, you can throw on some Crest white strips and call it a day, but for Hollywood actors and actresses, a flawless smile is essential.

So we tapped cosmetic dentist Dr. Marc Lowenberg of Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor, for all the details on getting the perfect Hollywood smile via permanent veneers, a growing trend in and outside of Hollywood. Lowenberg is the master of cosmetic dentistry, with a Rolodex of famous clients that include Julia Roberts, Chris Rock, Heidi Klum, Kelly Ripa, and endless others (seriously, everyone who’s anyone visits this Central Park office). Many celebs openly admit to having veneers on their teeth (Chrissy Teigen, we’re talking to you) while others go at it under the radar. But we wanted to know, what exactly does getting veneers entail, and who is the perfect candidate? (And most of all, is it worth it?) Lowenberg gives us the scoop.

What’s the most important thing people need to realize before they get veneers?

First, people need to understand the cost, says Lowenberg. “Veneers are an expensive investment and can cost $2000-$4,000 per tooth depending on who the dentist is. The ceramist, the person who actually makes the veneers is as important as the dentist because it takes real artistry to make the veneers look like real teeth. Our ceramist, Jason Kim, is world renowned for his talent and is a member of a global community called oral design.” One glance inside his Upper West Side office and you realize he’s important—everyone from Heidi Klum to Gisele Bunchen has taken pictures with him that are displayed throughout his practice.

Also, remember that there is such a thing as too white. “When it comes to porcelain veneers, the patient and dentist can choose how white they want to go,” he says. “I always advise and help the patient decide how white to go with the veneers. Many factors determine how white the patient can go with the porcelain: the whites of the eyes, the skin tone, and the desired outcome the patient wants. I personally feel that a soft natural white is more appealing than a fake looking opaque white, so I try to be honest and upfront with my patients. People also don't realize there are multiple characteristics to color such as value (which is the brightness) and translucency (how much light can pass through the veneer). We are able to make the veneer white but have a low value and high translucency to achieve a very natural soft look.” If you get to the point where you are picking out the color of your veneers, tell the ceramist all the goals you wish to achieve with your veneers and exactly what you want so the right color is chosen for you. Once it’s chosen and cemented to your teeth, it’s too late! Its better to be up front about exactly what you want.

Who are the best candidates for veneers?

While some cases are more challenging than others, everyone is a candidate for some type of smile makeover,” he says. “Someone with dark stained teeth, yellow teeth, crooked teeth, short teeth, a narrow arch or an aging smile are just some of the things that can be changed.”

Who can’t get veneers?

Lowenberg says, “Veneers are porcelain facades that are glued or bonded to your own teeth. They are the least invasive of cosmetic restorations since you only have to remove very little tooth structure. If you habitually grind or clench your teeth, veneers may not be the best option because the veneers can break. There also must be an adequate surface area of your former teeth to attach the veneer. If the underlying surface is extremely decayed or very weak, other alternatives may be suggested.”

Also, note that if your lower jaw is more noticeable than the upper one as you bite down, that could eventually cause the veneers to become damaged. “However, if you desire, this problem can often be corrected by wearing braces before getting your veneers. Finally, if you have active or recurrent gum disease, it may prevent you from being a strong candidate for veneers.”

Once you have them, what’s the most important thing to know about having them?

Veneers can chip and crack like natural teeth, so biting down on hard foods, such as ice, as well as inedible items can result in a damaged surface.” Lowenberg reminds me that although they’re your teeth and they’re permanent, you’ve still got to be careful!

How have veneers changed since you first started doing them? Anything new and trendy you are doing with them?

“I’ve been doing veneers since they were first invented in the early 80’s. They have improved greatly over the years. Here’s how:

Bonding process: The agents that we use to bond the veneers to the tooth are much stronger than in years past (similar to glue).

Porcelain: The porcelain veneers are much thinner than in the past so less of the tooth needs to be removed to apply so you can be more exact and realistic. In some cases, you can almost do the veneer with next to no drilling depending on how it sits on the tooth.

Translucency: Veneers are much more translucent now and even if you want to go supermodel white, light is allowed through so they mimic natural material.

New Technology: Gummy Smiles – You can laser gums up and insert veneers to lessen a gummy smile

Crossbite: when you bite down your lower teeth stick out a bit more than your upper – in some cases, this can be corrected through veneers

Invisalign: You can do a combo of both Invisalign and veneers to make teeth more perfect.

Dental facelift: “An aging smile can mean wearing down your back teeth causing your bite to collapse and can cause an increase the wrinkles around your lips, he says. “We can restore the back teeth with porcelain to correct the collapsed bite and veneers in the front to achieve the perfect smile and take years off your appearance.”

Walk me through the process of getting veneers, what can the client expect and how long should they allow for the whole process from beginning to end?

“In just two visits (spaced a week or two apart), we can complete both upper and lower veneers. Typically people do 10 teeth on the top and 8 teeth on the bottom.”

The process works like this: During the first visit, the tooth enamel is slightly roughened and drilled to prepare it for the veneers. After preparation of the teeth, an impression is taken of your prepared teeth and sent to the ceramist. You leave the office with temporary veneers, which is already a visual improvement from the original teeth. If you want to make changes, the dentist can make slight changes (rounder, squarer, pointy, etc.). “You can reshape the temporaries until the patient loves what they see, he says. “Then the ceramist replicates the smile design and fabricates the porcelain facades. At the second visit, the temporaries are removed and the customized porcelain veneers are bonded or glued onto the teeth, completing the transformation of your smile. Both visit require local anesthetic.” The process isn’t exactly pleasant, so be prepared (it falls on the pain level of getting a root canal), but the pain is temporary and the results are permanent!