His gaze fixes on my mouth as soft candlelight flickers against chic nude walls, illuminating the keys to a new Ferrari 458 which lie discarded on the table. “I’ve been wanting to do this since I met you,” purrs the handsome 39-year-old in a finely-tailored Brioni suit, a smile dancing off perfect teeth as he advances slowly. Before checking whether you have accidentally strayed into the pages of a Mills & Boon novel, I should explain that the Ferrari is actually parked outside a dentist’s office that owes more to the world of spa design than a medical practice, and the man in the Italian suit has a string of letters after his name denoting him to be a medical professional and not the hero of a romance novel.
Unless instruments of pain are your thing, it’s unlikely that a trip to the dentist will turn into an amorous adventure. At least that’s what I thought before walking into the elegant salon-style reception of the Apa Aesthetic Dental & Cosmetic Centre in Dubai. From the luxury amenities in each bathroom to the sound track of throbbing dance beats coming over the Bose sound system, the dental group’s Dubai base has more in common with a sceney after-hours lounge than the destination for drilling and filling that I grew up dreading.
Before encountering the Brioni-wearing Dr Michael Apa, I’d resigned myself to okay-ish teeth, the sort were never going to stop Julia Roberts from eating, praying or loving, but weren’t so bad as to warrant the kind of invasive action I (wrongly as it turns out) assumed would be required to bring them up to supermodel standards. It was only after Dr Apa had managed to get me horizontal and deftly started painting over my existing teeth using white filling paste to show me what they could look like, that I realised an A-list smile was not only possible, it could be relatively painless too (not to mention all kinds of pretty).
Unlike most cosmetic dentistry, Dr Apa doesn’t set out to create identikit symmetrical smiles; his focus is on creating teeth that “disappear within your face”. Implanting a dental textbook set of gnashers onto features that are anything less than Natasha Poly-perfect will only draw attention to unnaturally even teeth and exaggerate your face’s imperfections. Yikes. So, where regular cosmetic dentists rely on a ceramicist to design and create veneers, Dr Apa photographs his patients’ faces from every conceivable angle (using an impressive array of cameras and flashes) and then, in true da Vinci style, he takes a pen and divides the face up into idealised proportions, even taking into account variables that occur across ethnic groups. Once the grid is in place he is easily able to identify a droopy left eyelid or a raised right nostril and thus create a set of teeth that rebalances his patient’s entire facial structure. “Teeth are like light bulbs on the face,” he explains, “I tie symmetry into features using teeth and taking into account colour, position, shape and light. This way I can raise a cheekbone or enhance the proportion of a lip.” For instance, adding a 1mm veneer to back molars will plump out the front of your cheeks by 3mm for an instant youth-over. In my case, correcting a single wonky front tooth in my bottom jaw (something that never bothered me as it’s not visible in photographs when I’m smiling), would eliminate a dark shadow that draws the eye off-centre when I speak and enhances asymmetry, according to Dr Apa. When he tells me this, the realisation dawns that his isn’t the ‘tell me what you don’t like about yourself ’ school of cosmetic nips and tucks; it is an exceptionally informed, subtle and artistic approach to completely redesigning your face. Unlike its acronym, FAD, Facial Aesthetic Dentistry doesn’t kow-tow to fleeting fashion trends. In fact it doesn’t submit to any form of standardisation as each patient gets a custom designed set of teeth, making FAD the dentistry equivalent of a bespoke suit. Like many haute couture creations, a stunning smile can be priceless, and Dr Apa’s face-complementing dentistry adheres to his principle that one size does not fit all and sometimes flaws equal flawless.
The debonair Dr Michael Apa, whose Dubai dental aesthetics practice is one year old
Fast forward to an appoinment during which Dr Apa has promised a set of veneers which (I’m hoping) will compensate for the nose job I always vowed to have (but never got around to). (Oh, and if he could somehow manage to make my enormous forehead and pudgy cheeks appear less so, I’d be ever so grateful.) The Apa Aesthetic Dental & Cosmetic Centre office, decorated with framed glossy magazines signed by grateful patients including actress Chloë Sevigny and cover girls with mile-wide smiles such as Vicky Andren and May Anderson (Dr Apa is on speed dial for bookers at Elite Model Management), is a slick addition to the palatial villas lining Al Thanya Street.
It’s a sleepy Saturday morning in steamy June but Mahsa, the practice’s über-elegant manager, is on hand to allay nerves and answer questions. With a DVD of The Notebook under way (I figure emotional immersion is the best way to ignore the weird sensation of local anaesthesia that’s seizing my gums), Dr Apa – who is slickly suited despite the off-duty hour – and his assistant Kathy get to work cleaning and filing my teeth. Trying to ignore the delicate plumes of smoke that waft upwards as he uses a needlepoint-fine laser to shape the tops of my gums into perfect scallops, I am immensely grateful for the physical numbing of said anaesthetic and the mental distraction of Rachel McAdams’ romantic plight. But before the movie can reach its teary dénouement, a temporary set of veneers, created from moulds taken at our initial meeting, is in place et voilà! With strict instructions from Mahsa to avoid darkly pigmented, sticky, chewy or crunchy foods and armed with products from Dr Apa’s new Apa Beauty line, which are presented in slick packaging created by the likes of fashion illustrator Donald ‘Drawbertson’ and design legend Jonathan Adler, I’m released into the world with a near-perfect smile in place.
Products from Dr Michael Apa's eponymous line Apa Beauty
Two days later and it’s back for a half-hour appointment where Dr Apa fine-tunes the temporaries, whittling away areas and building up others, using the parameters of my features and constantly referring to the ‘before’ polaroids, to finalise his design within the framework of my face. In truth, wearing the temporary veneer, which is actually one solid piece of plastic designed to look like separate teeth, is the least pleasant part of the experience. But it’s oh-so-worth-it when, just four days on, during another DVD session (West Side Story in case you’re interested), the final porcelain veneers are fitted, including one on the bottom to mask that errant wonky tooth. Created in the in-house lab housed in Dr Apa's Dubai practice by 'The Master Ceramist' and world-leading expert in dental ceramics Jason J Kim, patients avoid having to visit multiple offices while still benefiting from being served by the best-of-the-best.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how he does it, but from pouring over the before and after shots of his patients and witnessing my own transformation, it’s clear that Dr Apa has developed the skill not only to make women look younger, thinner and prettier, but also more elegant and refined. Princessy, even. Beyond the sports car and the bespoke suits, Dr Apa is a man women fall in love with because he makes them more beautiful. Not even my husband can argue with a romance like that. – Louise Nichol
Dr Michael Apa is at Apa Aesthetic Dental & Cosmetic Centre, 63 Al Thanya Street, Dubai T. +971 4 709 1000