Kimberly Jordan says that when she was a child people asked: “Why are your teeth that color?” That color was gray, and the reason was the antibiotic tetracycline. Several years ago, she got bonding to hide the staining. “I wasn’t too happy. I felt like my lips were sticking out,” says Jordan, 46, an information-technology specialist at the FBI. When the bonding wore off, she went to Dr. Peter Rinaldi in DC, who put on ten porcelain veneers. The veneers, Jordan says, “feel natural.”
“I Smile in Pictures Now”
Obholz says patients shouldn’t fear more-extensive cosmetic work such as veneers. “Most procedures aren’t painful, complicated, or require you to be numb,” she says.
Filling in a gap between two teeth with bonding material, for example, can take one appointment. But if you’re extremely fussy, cosmetic work can take a whole lot longer.
“There can be a psychological side of this, where a woman’s going through her third divorce, she’s not as young as she used to be, she’s gained weight—and her teeth are beautiful,” says Dr. Bradley Olson of Waldorf. “But she wants an entire makeover. You’ll never get her there. You’ll end up doing her veneers over and over. That’s why during the initial consultation, a patient has to tell me point by point what she doesn’t like in her smile. Sometimes the best treatment is no treatment.”
Obholz says most of her patients are easy because they’re happy to be fixing their smiles—even in complicated, expensive cases like Russell Gaudreau’s.
“I’m not one who likes to go to the dentist,” says the employee-benefit lawyer, 65, who splits his time between Boston and Washington, “which is why my teeth were in such bad shape.”
By the time Gaudreau went to see Obholz two years ago, years of clenching and grinding had worn his teeth to chipped nubs and collapsed his bite. Decades of wine and coffee had heavily stained what remained. Two other specialists had told Gaudreau that it would be impossible to keep his teeth and that he’d need implants. But Obholz disagreed.
“Russell wanted a quick fix when he first came in,” she says. “He works in Boston a lot, so he couldn’t come in 20 times for 20 teeth. We restored his teeth to their natural bite using veneers and crowns to build their verticality back up. We prepped all his bottom teeth in one appointment—he was here for hours—and the top teeth in another.”
Gaudreau first got temporary crowns and veneers and wore a retainerlike orthotic appliance on his bottom teeth to help reposition and relax his jaw. Once the months-long prep work was done, he got permanent crowns and veneers.
“The expense was a lot—in the low five figures—and fortunately I could afford it,” Gaudreau says. “I smile in all my pictures now, and I didn’t use to do that.”
Gaudreau was recently vacationing in Florida with his wife when he noticed a woman staring at him. She followed him. He stopped, turned, and asked if he could help her.
“She said, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to freak you out,’ ” Gaudreau says, “ ‘but I had to ask how you got such great-looking teeth.’ ”