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Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Dental Lab Products. He is also the author of 18 technology books, including the award-winning Green IT: Reduce Your Information System's Environmental Impact While Adding to the Bottom Line. As such, he’s particularly interested in the technological side of dentistry.
Katy Perry has a million dollar smile. Her smile isn’t so valuable just because she’s cute. Her cosmetic dentist, Dr. Bill Dorfman, DDS, of Los Angeles, earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records by crafting a $1,000,000 grille out of platinum and rare gems.
“The Million Dollar Grill by Dr. Bill” was made exclusively for Perry’s 2014 “Dark Horse” video (the grill appears at the 1:27 mark).
“We put a million dollars in gems in Katy Perry’s mouth, and we made The Million Dollar Grill,” remembers Dr. Dorfman, whose other celebrity patients include Jessica Simpson, Usher, Anthony Hopkins, Eva Longoria, Brooke Burke, Fergie, all the Osbournes, Hugh Jackman, Alanis Morissette, Jessica Simpson, Debra Messing, Jason Alexander and Bill Maher.
Even by celebrity standards, Perry’s appliance was over the top. It’s not something cosmetic dentists tend to work with every day, either on celebrity or non-celebrity patients.
“You get these very cool celebrities, these athletes,” adds Dr. Emanuel Layliev, DDS a Manhattan cosmetic dentist whose celebrity patients include Hugh Jackman, Tom Brady, Ben Stiller, Bridget Moynahan, Kim Cattrall, Padma Lakshmi and Usher. “And then we also see just ordinary people, as well, and treat them in an extraordinary fashion-businesspeople, everyday homemakers, as well as teachers.”
Unique clients, unique needs
Celebrities require a certain level of special attention, but ultimately, their care is no different than anyone else’s.
“I treat everyone else just like I do with my celebrity patients,” says Dr. Layliev. “I really don’t differentiate much. I try to make everyone feel very comfortable over here and very, very well taken care of. Celebrities, though, they do set a standard, and their expectations are pretty high, so we need to be skilled enough and comfortable enough to treat them as comfortably as possible, to make sure that they don’t feel as if they’re being differentiated for any reason. You want them to feel like they belong as well.”
We all want to look our best, but for celebrities it is a career necessity.
“These are people who make a living based largely on their appearance,” says Dr. Dorfman. “Not to say that you shouldn’t treat a housewife the same way, and give her the same attention to detail and everything else that you do for a celebrity, but when somebody makes a living based on how they look, the stakes are high -- very high. Because if they don’t look the way they want to look, and they feel it compromises their image and their job, it can have profound ramifications.”
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An important consideration when treating celebrities is being able to accommodate their busy schedules.
“You have no idea what the word ‘busy’ means until you’ve seen how some of these people live,” says Dr. Dorfman. “They literally book out every minute of their day. It’s just crazy.”
The time needed for recuperation and procedures like orthodontics may not be options for people who live their lives in the public eye.
“There are procedures that we do as dentists where you might not look good for a few days to up to a few months,” says Dr. Dorfman. “You don’t always have the luxury of being able to do things like orthodontics. You look at a guy like Tom Cruise, his midline is off six millimeters. He just can’t wear braces for the amount of time it would take to correct that. A lot of the young celebrities don’t ever get a chance to wear braces like many of us did as kids, because they’re working in front of the camera. You need to come up with some pretty unique and novel ways to treat them, and give them that billion dollar smile, without having the full armamentarium of what we typically are able to provide.”
“To do it as atraumatically as possible, is key as well,” says Dr. Layliev. “To do it gently, to do it expeditiously, and conveniently with their schedule as well. It’s fun work. It really is – especially cosmetic dentistry, as opposed to other forms of dentistry. People want to actually come to have work done, because it’s elective.”
When most people want cosmetic work done, they can look at the doctor’s mockup, maybe consult with a spouse, and start work. That’s not the case with celebrities. There are a lot of decision makers involved.
“Yesterday I was working on one of the stars of a show called ‘Pretty Little Liars,’ and basically what I did was a composite mockup of what I would like for him, and the first thing he said to me was, ‘Doc, that looks awesome. Let’s take a picture and send it to my manager,’” says Dr. Dorfman. “That doesn’t happen with a housewife. There are a lot more chefs in the kitchen when it comes to these guys, because it’s not just them, it’s usually their managers, their agents, and sometimes the studios will the weigh in. I’ll get a lot of actors that will come to me because they’re about to do a large feature film, and the director doesn’t like the way their teeth look. They will give me very specific instructions as to what to do, and there have been several cases where I have literally been paid by major film studios to do full-mouth reconstruction on patients, and give them the ‘American Smile.’”
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The most common celebrity treatments are not much different from those the general public seeks.
“Typically the very first one, and the easiest, is Zoom Whitening,” says Dr. Dorfman. “Everybody wants to have white teeth, so we always start with that. After that, it’s porcelain veneers. Sometimes if we have time and we need to do minor tooth movement, we can do things like Invisalign or lingual braces. It’s really all based on what they’re doing at the specific time in their life.”
If a patient doesn’t know what he or she wants, the doctor can help them figure out what will help them best achieve the smile that they’re after.
“People come here just to explore the different options in creating beautiful smiles, and we offer them all that is possible to attain,” says Dr. Layliev. “We don’t limit what’s recommended. We’ve got several options. They range from simply whitening their teeth to bonding to veneering to realigning with orthodontic means, in a very esthetic fashion of course, taking into account their lifestyle.”
In some cases, a celebrity’s schedule might not accommodate the ideal treatment, but they can always come back when their schedule permits.
“I had one of the lead actresses on a show called ‘Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce,’ and I gave her different options,” says Dr. Dorfman. “She said, ‘Let’s just do it with porcelain veneers, because I can deal with braces when I’m old.’ She’s young and she’s in the prime of her life. When she’s done with TV and all, if she still wants to do it, she will. But for right now, it’s not an option.”
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Care for any patient
Cosmetic dentistry is not just for celebrities – anyone can benefit from treatment.
“Everybody wants beautiful teeth,” says Dr. Dorfman. “You don’t have to be a movie star. We do that for businesspeople, housewives, the whole bit, so it it’s not just limited to celebrities. Everybody and anybody is a good candidate for cosmetic dentistry.”
Unlike general dentists, cosmetic dentists have the fortunate experience of patients wanting to be in their chairs. Rather than having their teeth poked, scraped and drilled to cure disease, patients are in the chair for services that they seek out.
“Cosmetic dentistry is a life-transforming event,” says Dr. Layliev. “It could be something small as well. Small, subtle things could also go a long way.”
Patients needn’t feel that cosmetic dentistry treatments are priced out of their budgets. Doctors can deliver an improved smile at different price points.
“In 2008, when the economy tanked, people started to hesitate with anything elective, especially in cosmetic dentistry,” says Dr. Layliev. “So it was important to modify one’s approach to not just push the most expensive modality in restoring smiles in porcelain veneers, for example, which are pretty expensive, but if a cosmetic dentist is well versed, and is capable to recreate smiles in other ways, which are a little more affordable for patients, then they could make it through, in the form of bonding, for example.”
While cosmetic dentistry is beneficial for patients – especially those whose livelihoods depend on their looks – practitioners are also rewarded for their work.
“Every day over here at the practice is a milestone accomplished,” says Dr. Layliev. “At the end of every day, I feel like we all deserve trophies for what we’ve accomplished. It’s really beautiful, what we achieve to recreate smiles and boost people’s self-confidence and self-esteem, get to a higher ground in life, and advance their careers. It’s very inspirational. It motivates me to keep striving to maintain the practice. Its just wonderful.”