An Interview with Dr. Apa: The Man Behind the Smiles of Huda Kattan and Jessica Kahawaty

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Huda Kattan of Huda Beauty Smile
Photo: Courtesy of @HudaBeauty

If you’re after the tips and tricks to getting a superstar smile, then look no further than Dr. Michael Apa. His number is on the speed dial of celebrities including Huda Kattan, Uma Thurman, Natalia Shustova, the Olsen twins, Jessica Kahawaty, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and he is the go-to guy for creating perfect, but natural-looking, teeth. He already has a leading clinic in New York, and has now opened the doors to his dental studio in Dubai, giving the UAE access to one of Hollywood’s most trusted dentists.

Meeting him in the brand new Apa Aesthetic Dental & Cosmetic Centre in Umm Suqeim, it’s not hard to see why Dr. Apa has such a five-star following. The clinic could be mistaken for a luxury, modern boutique hotel, and he’s so charming it would be impossible to get the dentist jitters when visiting him for an appointment.

Dr. Apa spoke exclusively to Savoir Flair about what really makes the perfect smile, how to stop staining, and which celebrities he thinks need (even more) work done.

Celebrity Dentist Dubai Dr Apa Huda Kattan Jessica Kahawaty @Apa Aesthetics
Photo: Courtesy of Apa Aesthetic Dental & Cosmetic Centre

What’s the biggest mistake you see people making with their teeth?
I’ve noticed that, in the Middle East, people’s idea of “perfect teeth” gets warped in terms of the color, shape, and size of what they should be. It’s interesting because almost everyone who comes to us says, “I don’t want those teeth,” meaning the straight, thick, bluish-white ones. But often when you give them what beautiful, natural teeth should look like, which have a more natural yellow-white tone, they do actually want those “Hollywood teeth”, because it’s so engrained in their head. I’ve cut many veneers off in this region because there’s a miscommunication on what natural teeth should look like versus what everyone else has. Here, people have darker skin, darker gums, darker hair, traditionally a lot of makeup, which will make your teeth look whiter already. When you choose these ultra-white colors, you lose the detail of what teeth can really do in terms of enhancing natural facial beauty, and instead they can overpower it.

There’s a lot of conflicting information when it comes to dental hygiene – floss before brushing, brush after, use a manual toothbrush, use an electric toothbrush… What is the most effective way to brush our teeth?
People don’t floss enough and they don’t use an electric toothbrush. For me, electric toothbrushes are mandatory – you have to invest in one. There’s no point using a manual one. They’re on a timer, so you have to brush for two minutes, and they do all the guesswork that we don’t really know how to do with a manual brush. Use a mouth rinse twice a day, and you also have to floss twice a day. And if you don’t, you’ll get cavities! We all have different diets and different genetics, which determine how hard our teeth are and so on, but generally that’s how cavities happen.

Aside from smoking and coffee, are there any other culprits that lead to teeth staining?
Tea… It’s pretty bad. Curry stains pretty heavily. Berries too, but you have to be eating a lot of that stuff for it to stain. The biggest thing with staining is that if you’re not getting professional cleaning, you get a microscopic plaque buildup and that’s what collects the stains. But if you get regular, professional cleaning, every four months or so, staining won’t happen as badly.

Are there any foods or natural remedies we can use that will get rid of staining to get whiter, brighter teeth?
No! I’m sure that the idea that there are foods or natural ways to brighten teeth came from dentists who kept being asked that exact question. They wanted to be in the press, so they’d come up with some idiotic thing like “Carrots remove stains.” I get asked that all the time. They don’t! A toothbrush does – an electric one.

What’s the biggest dental hygiene myth you’ve heard?
Listerine is really bad for your teeth because of the high alcohol content, so opt for the alcohol-free one. Most products contain fluoride, but soon everything will contain hydroxyapatite, which is what teeth are actually made of. This is being added to toothpastes and rinses, and that’s better than fluoride. Although fluoride isn’t bad, that’s a myth – you’d have to be drinking bottles of it for it to impact your health. Also I’ve heard lots of people talk about toothbrush abrasion, that scrubbers rub your gums off – not true. That’s from grinding your teeth.

Celebrity Dentist Dubai Dr Apa Huda Kattan Jessica Kahawaty @Apa Aesthetics
Photo: Courtesy of Apa Aesthetic Dental & Cosmetic Centre

Which celebrity’s teeth would you most like to transform and why?
I used to say Tom Cruise, because he’s had so much work done on his teeth and they still haven’t gotten it right. I just want to slap him and be like “Please just sit in the chair!” But it’s now changed to George Clooney – he can’t even speak properly anymore his teeth are so bad. He fumbles over his words. He had these worn, almost reverse-smile teeth, and someone’s clearly tried to give him this “Hollywood smile”. Now even his voice sounds different.

Which celebrity do you think has the perfect smile?
A lot of them! But for a natural smile, it has to be Jessica Alba; she has great, natural-looking teeth.

There was a trend of big veneers and megawatt white teeth, which started to look obviously unnatural and fake. Do you think this trend has passed, and what do most of your clients look for now?
Unfortunately, I think people want to say the trend has passed, but I don’t think it has. Our consultations usually start with people saying, “I came to you because you create natural-looking teeth,” but then they want to go “A little bigger, a little wider, a little whiter”. It’s tricky, because they ask me what I think but they want to go with something different, and ultimately you want them to feel comfortable with their decision. The flash on a camera, translated to a magazine, which then gets photoshopped and printed, never shows the actual color of someone’s teeth. It just looks like they have “white teeth”, even if they haven’t had work done. Nice, natural teeth that haven’t been altered will look totally different in print than in real life. People bring me these pictures and say, “I want her teeth”, and I try to explain that they aren’t real teeth! It’s unfortunate, especially when you give someone beautiful, natural-looking teeth and they make you cut them off and start all over again, which happens – it’s frustrating. The trend is very much still alive, and we still need to educate people.

Why do you think teeth have become so important in the world of Hollywood?
First of all, it’s a really good thing! Secondly, why weren’t they for so long!? Before, you’d open every magazine and they’d be talking about eyes or foreheads or cheekbones, but they didn’t talk about teeth. Just about bleaching them, which, by the way, doesn’t really do much. A smile is such a major part of facial beauty that it has to be talked about, and you can really do so much with just changing the position, color, or shape of teeth to create really a subtle detail in someone’s facial beauty. So it should be important! Teeth are a very easy way to make yourself look good, healthy, and younger without having to do anything else. You can always make them match the rest of your body too, whereas if you have a facelift and don’t do your hands it looks weird; it doesn’t match. Changing your teeth is an easy, natural way to gain a lot without looking weird!

Please complete this sentence: To me, the perfect smile is…
One that you’re happy with!

You have a leading dental clinic in New York. What made you pick Dubai as your next location?
I had been coming to Dubai for six years as a visiting doctor, seeing patients three or four times a year and then skedaddling. I noticed it was picking up and getting busier, but I also noticed that dental services in the region were one fifth of the price they are in Manhattan. I was charging the same fees as I do in New York, and I saw that my clientele here was a very concentrated group of people. It made me question practices here. Why would you not value your service? What are you giving to the patient? Why are you charging so much less? Are you not taking enough time with your patients? I felt there was a big gap in the dental-care system here, so the main reason for me opening Apa Aesthetic was to try and give people standardized dental care, a place where people could feel comfortable without having to go to London or New York to see their doctor.

For more information or to make an appointment, visit www.apaaesthetic.ae or call (+971) 4 709 1000.

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