10 New Teeth, All in a Row: What It’s Actually Like to Get Veneers

Kate Barnett, President of Man Repeller, spent years dealing with dental issues. In 2017, she finally took matters into her own hands. Below, her documented experience of why she did it and how it felt.

Leandra first urged me to see her dentist about four years ago. I finally took her advice and reached out to Dr. Paula Small last year, by which time I’d lost a crown, I’d stopped chewing on one side of my mouth and my rural dental clinic in New Mexico had accidentally knocked out a filling in my front tooth, leaving a visible hole.

Dr. Paula Small photographed by Maggie Shannon.

You know when you move into a new apartment and your furniture, which is a random mix of Craigslist finds and uncomfortable hand-me-downs, looks all wrong together but then you get used to it and it all starts to feel normal? That’s what was happening in my mouth.

So I contacted Dr. Small, and by “contacted,” I mean I sent her an extremely thorough, possibly unhinged email with all my teeth woes, asking about veneers and appointment times. Dr. Small (known as Paula from here on out; we got real close, real quick) turned out to be everything I want in a health practitioner: brilliant, caring, a competitive bridge player and exceptional at what she does. She’s also a yoga instructor and lives on the same end of the perfectionist spectrum as I do.

The Decision

I’d been considering laminates — a.k.a. veneers — for a long time. I explored getting braces and tons of fillings instead, which is the less expensive approach, but I learned that a) it would take much longer, b) fillings discolor and aren’t as durable, c) I had my own discoloration that couldn’t adequately be covered by fillings, and d) the results would have been more opaque and less like natural teeth. Then I found out the savings wouldn’t be that substantial given the cost of adult orthodontics and the amount of work I needed. I knew I didn’t want Hollywood teeth; I wanted a healthy, natural-looking smile I didn’t think twice about sharing. Something that wouldn’t make people ask: Are those your own teeth?

But here’s the thing about laminates: There’s no going back. It’s a multi-step, expensive cosmetic procedure (about $1k – $3k+ per laminate, depending on where you live), and I felt weird about wanting them so badly. Paula started on my cavities while I hemmed and hawed. Did my teeth make me uncomfortable? Yes. Did it bother me that I was so concerned about aesthetics? Yes. Do I have a genetic disposition to cavities, discoloration, all manner of dental issues? Yes. Did I decide it was okay to want to change something that bothered me? Yes. Choice is power!

Finally, after many rounds of emails and calls with a very patient and thoughtful Paula about which tooth shapes would best fit my own face (“I think a little length could be added to my lateral incisors, and my canine teeth are longer, which doesn’t bother me, but if they are made shorter I still want them a touch longer than the incisors. Does that make sense?”), I committed. While many people opt for four to eight laminates, I went for 10 new chompers, all in a row. I figured if I’m doing this, I might as well go whole-hog, and — full disclosure — I received part of this treatment gratis.

The Prep

Step one was filing down my natural teeth to make room for the porcelain overlays. This is the part that’s undoable, and dentists call it “prepping the teeth.” This is also the best time to take a selfie and document your pointy-toothed Gollum grin because right after come the temps. Temporaries are custom plastic teeth-things created with the same shape as the final laminates. They are cemented in until the porcelain overlays are ready. The ones Paula made looked great, like a test run of the laminates. They felt a little odd at first, and my mouth was sore for the next 36 hours, but taking acetaminophen beforehand and ibuprofen after worked wonders. I know this because I got temps twice (more on that later). Also worth noting: Temps turn a very odd shade of green when they come in contact with turmeric smoothies. Fortunately, Paula was able to buff that out.

In the meantime, I bleached my lower teeth. I didn’t want my new top teeth to be noticeably whiter than my bottom ones, so we had to see how much they could brighten up. (Turns out Crest Whitestrips really are effective.) Soon after, my laminates came in. They were beautiful on their own — each created with single layers of custom-blended porcelain painted on to build up the tooth shape — but after 30 minutes of deliberation, Paula and I decided that once they were in my mouth, they were a little…blue. Not blue blue, but the undertone was slightly too cool. Even though I longed to go home with them, I knew these were not my forever teeth. Paula sent them back for a color wash and put on another round of temps.

The Results

Two weeks later, I got a call from Sincere, Dr. Small’s treatment coordinator and the most aptly named woman I’ve ever met, letting me know my laminates were ready. The rest is sort of a bliss-filled haze. After setting the laminates, Paula went back in to finesse the shape of each one, adding the slight imperfections that make a smile look natural. They look like my teeth, if I’d been born with great dental genes and the best possible tooth configuration for my face. They are exactly what I had hoped for but didn’t know was possible.

I’ve had my new teeth for five months now. People definitely noticed that something had changed, but I mostly received simple comments that I looked great or questions about what was different. Only two close friends asked specifically if I got laminates, partially out of surprise since they’re pretty understated. You can see in the pictures — they’re not blindingly white or thick or squared off. They match my natural tooth color and follow the general shape of my teeth prior, which is exactly what I wanted.

All in all, I’m thrilled with the results and the decision to get laminates. I know that my old teeth had a certain charm, too, and having the resources to change them is definitely a privilege, but I’ve found surprising relief in simply thinking less about my smile when I offer it. I’m much more comfortable being photographed, speaking on panels and even talking in meetings (although my teeth never stopped me from talking — I was just self-conscious). That’s not a priority for everyone, nor should it be, but for me, that was worth saving for.

If you’re thinking about laminates or are curious about any part of the process, comment below — I’m here for any and all questions. And if you’re in New York, I highly recommend seeing Dr. Small for any dental work. Say “hi!” to Sincere for me and let her know I’m about to schedule my cleaning, I promise.

More from Archive