If hearing the words “say cheese” make you cringe, you’re not alone. It’s perfectly normal to feel insecure about your smile, regardless if it’s because of crooked teeth, discoloration, or a combination of imperfections.
However, thanks to advancements in the cosmetic dentistry, you aren’t destined to have a closed-mouth smile forever. New York cosmetic dentist Husam Almunajed, DMD, of Empire Dental Aesthetics, specializes in smile makeovers and helps patients finally get the pearly whites of their dreams.
NewBeauty chatted with him about his approach to cosmetic dentistry and why it’s a procedure that could drastically improve your overall appearance and self-confidence:
NewBeauty: Tell me about your approach to smile makeovers and how your practice’s approach differs from others?
Dr. Almunajed: When someone first meets a person, the first thing they notice is the eyes, then after a few seconds, their teeth, hence the smile. It’s because of this reason that people are either confident or feel like something may be holding them back to truly express how they feel in their every-day lives. This is the reason why I became a dentist: I realized early on the dramatic change a smile can have for a person.
For me, even before I pick up a dental instrument, I talk to my patients to get a feeling of their expectations and what they truly desire. More importantly, I look at how the teeth move in their face, their facial expressions, and observe how the smile looks in motion. We do this in a comfortable consult room, and not in the typical dental room so the patient can be open and is able to really express themselves. What sets us apart from other practices is the environment we create in delivering the best possible dentistry experience. Throughout each step, everyone receives access to exquisite attention from everything and everyone they will encounter in our care that embodies our aesthetic and our artistic vision.
NewBeauty: What’s the consultation process like? Who is a good candidate?
Dr. Almunajed: Now, as our office is growing in the New York City area, a large percentage of our patients are coming in for smile consults with questions on how to improve their smiles. Lately, we are doing more and more revision work on veneer cases where the patient tells us they never knew the final result would look that way. We commonly see this with bulky restorations. Beyond the esthetics of the case, the function and gums are unfortunately compromised, which is why we are constantly removing old veneers. In these and all cases, we strive for a seamless look. Once our work is done, I want my patients to still be themselves—but a better version of themselves. One of my recent patients stated: “People are always asking me what I have done and they can’t put their finger on it. I feel like I look younger, and I am so happy that my smile finally matches my mood.”
NewBeauty: How do you create teeth that match a person’s personality? Is there a secret to a perfect smile?
Dr. Almunajed: Typically, one of the main goals of dental treatment is to mimic teeth and design smiles in the most natural and aesthetic manner. However, this may result in an unhappy patient as usually something is missing. What we are trying to do is to create a smile that is a customized personal image that expresses a person’s sense of identity. Even from people from different cultures, backgrounds, and religions, there are some symbols that express the same meaning, such as vertical lines representing strength; inclined lines representing dynamism; horizontal lines representing calm and stability; or rounded lines representing suavity. This is the way the brain perceives these lines and line angels, or curves.
The study of these concepts resulted in the idea of applying this into artwork by the artist named Philip Hallowell. He started making portraits and tried to see if he would create a rectangular face, which will be perceived as strong; or a triangular looking face, which is perceived as dynamic; or a rounded face, which would be perceived as calm. If we want to define a smile like a strong design, the lines should be vertical, the tooth shape should be rectangular; if it’s a dynamic smile, the tooth shape should be triangular, the tooth axis should be slightly inclined and the canines, for example, should be slightly inclined towards the 1/3rd incisal tips. What we do everyday is converting this visual language into your facial expression that creates a smile that ultimately expresses that person’s sense of identity, behavior, and self-esteem.
NewBeauty: Technically speaking, what does a smile makeover entail?
Dr. Almunajed: It really depends, as we coordinate this often as we have many traveling patients from a distance in the U.S., as well as from other countries. If the gum health is good and there is no need for gum work or conditioning, usually it takes only two appointments, after the initial consultation. If the gums need to be contoured or lifted, that will add time. Typically, what you can expect is at the first appointment or consultation, you will have an exam, check-up, X-rays taken, photographs, smile design fabrication and a discussion on your goals and addressing all your questions.
At the second appointment, we discuss and answer all your questions regarding the design, and the teeth are shaped for veneers with minimal invasive dentistry protocols. You will finish with temporary teeth that you will go home with, as they are designed closely to look like the final teeth. It is at this point any modifications can be made to shape and contours of the teeth and the design is reviewed. At appointment three, the final porcelain veneers have been designed and made and are placed initially with temporary cement for the patient’s approval. Once approval is achieved, the veneers are bonded in place.
NewBeauty: What are the psychological benefits of getting a smile makeover?
Dr. Almunajed: There is strong scientific evidence that the appearance of a person’s face and teeth has a profound impact on the perception and judgement by others. This is absolutely true, as the beauty in what we do is not really the dentistry, but for the patient’s ability to express their emotions and live their lives without any inhibitions. Smiling and laughing without worrying about how they look and enjoying themselves as they’re living their lives everyday. There are no other words to describe it.
NewBeauty: Is there anything else our readers should know?
Dr. Almunajed: There are many misconceptions out there for veneers, and to get the result you prefer, it’s a good idea to have this discussion with your dentist and see their work and what potential care they can offer. For instance, you can give one patient five good looking smile designs, and we would see that none of them would be alike.
In some, you would see a triangular silhouette, in another it might be flat. In some we’ll have dominant centrals, in the other it’s average dominance. In some of them you would see triangular teeth, in the other square or rectangular teeth. There must be a reason why these patients were falling in love with only one of these smiles. Then we incorporated the personality traits of the patients, whether this person has a strong personality, a dynamic personality, or a calm personality, combine this and that translates into this visual language of our smile design and we started coming up with amazing results.
The concept is very simple: Let’s say you’re a very calm person and I’m offering you a great trip, which would consist of skiing, hiking, jumping, all dynamic activities. You may not like it. Or vice versa. You can be a very dynamic and active person, and I can tell you we’re going on a holiday and you can only go fishing and read books. Both are amazing alternatives, but one would fit better with the other personality. It goes back to reflecting the personality into the smile.