If you've been on Instagram at all in the past year or so, you might have noticed that everyone — okay, maybe not everyone, but a ton of celebrities, influencers, and an ever-growing number of everyday people — have eerily perfect, filter-like smiles. Veneers, as The Washington Post reports, are the latest craze to stem from the Instagram Face phenomenon that permeates today's beauty standards.
But according to WaPo's reporting, the cost of undergoing the dental procedure may be darker than hopeful buyers realize. The process of getting veneers is arduous, expensive, and most importantly, permanent: dentists have to shave down the patients' protective enamel to make room for the custom-made dental shells, a process that makes the nerves inside teeth vulnerable to damage and infection. And because we can't simply grow our enamel back, veneers are thus required to protect those nerves forever.
"I was seeing so many people getting, in my opinion, unnecessary dental work or dental work that was damaging their own teeth," Sara Hahn, a Harvard School of Dental Medicine graduate who specializes in cosmetic dentistry, told WaPo, recounting the concerning rise in veneer-seeking patients coming through her practice's doors. "There was this idealization of veneers, or this perfect Hollywood smile."
To be clear, veneers do have a legitimate place in dentistry. Teeth are often damaged in accidents or other oral trauma, while folks with naturally large spaces between teeth might seek veneers to curb the threat of excessive decay. For the most part, though, the growing demand for veneers has been driven by aesthetics alone.
Growing increasingly unsettled by the number of people suddenly seeking the procedure — especially by those who already had "perfectly good teeth," as the dentist told WaPo — Hahn started a TikTok account, @veneercheck, where she posts speculatory videos regarding celebrity veneer work. By close-reading the probably-fake teeth of stars like Selena Gomez, Dua Lipa, and Aaron Paul, among many others, says Hahn, she hopes that she can help young people understand how few celebrities still have their god-given chompers.
"As a dentist, you know that having all the money in the world can't reproduce your good, natural, healthy tooth structure," Hahn told WaPo. "I wanted to share that it came with a cost."
Indeed, that cost is quite high. Beyond the fact that veneers are forever, nerve damage connected to these procedures can ultimately render a tooth dead, thus requiring the dreaded root canal, a painful procedure that comes with its own list of cons. These risks are always present, but are heightened when tooth-seekers travel to places like Turkey to get cosmetic procedures on the cheap. What's more, as Hahn told WaPo, every time veneers get redone — which they'll have to be, as a set only lasts for about 15 years or so — a dentist has to once again "refine what's underneath, so you're taking away a little more tooth each time."
"We're talking about a finite quantity of material," Hahn told the newspaper. "At some point, the tooth is just not going to be strong enough to hold whatever you want to put on top of it. It will snap."
That's a seriously grim ghost of dental future, especially, again, for an unnecessary procedure. Oh, and did we mention that a full mouth of veneers can cost $100,000?
"If I knew now what I know about veneers I don't think I would have gotten them," an influencer named Chelsea Smith said in a TikTok video published late last year, revealing that one of her veneers had popped off while eating a bowl of ramen. "All my friends and family know that I have had such an ordeal with these veneers."
"I'm ready, at this point, like take them all out and give me some dentures," the influencer added. "Let me live my life."
There's no denying that beauty trends are pervasive, and it's difficult to not fall into that trap of increasingly inhuman standards of perfection. Before you let a dentist shave down your teeth, however, you might want to ask yourself exactly how much attaining that ever-shifting ideal is really worth — and if the cost of veneers might ultimately be too high.
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