I've always been self-conscious of my teeth, and my canines in particular. (Those being the slightly fang-like teeth two down from the front.) I always felt mine were especially canine- (or worse, vampire-) like. But as tribute to the two years I spent in braces, I want to be very clear here: I didn't have "bad" teeth.
VIDEO: The Crazy Cost of a Lifetime of Beauty
So I was surprised when Dr. Michael Apa told me I was a candidate for veneers. Veneers, I thought, were exclusively reserved for people who needed a full-on smile overhaul. (Admittedly, my only knowledge came from watching re-runs of Extreme Makeover...) Dr. Apa takes a different approach to veneers—he calls it Facial Aesthetic Design—in which he considers the shape of the face and the size of your mouth before hand-sculpting ceramic veneers that actually fit your features, so no one leaves with a cookie-cutter smile.
That said, the work I needed to shape my canines was minor, but done meticulously—to the tune of $20K. (Transparently, that's not what I paid as a member of the media.) And here's the thing—nobody noticed I'd had anything done. Not even my mom, who once commented on a haircut so minor, the stylist hadn't even charged me.
But I'm not mad about it. Neither are Dr. Apa's patients, many of whom are high-profile celebs who just want to look like a better version of themselves. "From my perspective, [you have to strike the] balance between looking natural and looking significantly better," says Dr. Apa. "You want to make natural-looking teeth that enhance." (Check out his Instagram, and you'll get it.)
But back to that staggering number. A "smile makeover" averages around $30K in any big city, says Dr. Apa, who notes that you'll pay a few thousand less in more remote areas, and significantly less at educational institutions like NYU College of Dentistry.
As for my take, I'd say that if you have the means and motivation to do so, it's well worth the investment. Silly as it may sound, after years of strategically smiling with my mouth closed, it feels incredibly freeing to just grin—even if I'm the only one who knows why.