The dentist flashed a hot light over my face and proceeded to poke around my mouth with a silver sickle probe. “What interesting teeth,” he said, leaning closer with a pair of magnifying goggles over his eyes. “Did you know that you have peg laterals? Only 1.3% of the world’s population have teeth like that.” By peg laterals, my dentist was referring to my unusually small, pointy upper lateral incisors that I would come to despise over the years, namely, because the only way to fix the anomaly was with porcelain veneers, an extensive treatment which is considered cosmetic and therefore not typically covered by insurance.
“How much would that cost?” I asked.
“It depends,” the dentist replied. “It can cost anywhere between $800 to $2,000 per tooth, but you would have to get a consultation with a specialist.”
Even though I was only 12 at the time, I already knew that I would not be getting veneers for at least the next quarter of my life. I would just have to suck it up when I posed for school portraits and the photographer asked me to smile “BIGGER” so he could see my “pearly whites” only to discover that they were unusually small and better off unseen. I would just have to scroll through Instagram for years and years and wonder how it was that my friends had the fortune of having large, rectangular teeth while I was a part of the rare 1.3% that didn’t.
Fast forward to 2016. Through the recommendation of a Filipino blogger, I visit Dr. Sonny Torres Oliva, a popular dentist in Manhattan nicknamed the “Zentist” for the spa-like atmosphere at his office. After nearly falling asleep during my cleaning thanks to fantastic foot massage (Yes, you heard me correctly! You get MASSAGED while your teeth are cleaned! But more on that later…), Dr. Oliva examined my teeth and asked me if I would like to get veneers. It would be a very easy procedure and I could cover it with insurance. I probably would have thought it was all a dream if I didn’t confirm the price with the receptionist before I left.
A few weeks later, I was back in the serene, white office, nervous about the procedure to come. After saying goodbye to the peg laterals my close friends had come to love at the last minute for some weird reason, I took some final photographs to preserve the memory:
For an hour and a half, I sat in a reclining chair as the staff proceeded to inject my gums with some sort of local anesthesia and operate. I heard the dentists clamor on about how they needed to create veneers with a similar white “halo” as my other teeth. I heard cheering and high fives. Hopefully, that meant everything would be alright.
At the end of the procedure, the doctor handed me a mirror…
I had teeth. Nice, square, pearly white teeth!
It’s only been a few weeks with my new veneers, but the positive effect they’ve had on my life is already apparent. As silly as it sounds, the act of getting veneers has actually given me more of a reason to smile.