The $34,106 Cost Breakdown of Getting the “Perfect” Smile

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Welcome to Show the Receipts, a new series where we ask interesting people to share exactly how much it costs to get shit done. No matter the task, we’re tracking every last dollar from start to finish. Up next: the price of a “megawatt” smile.

Bianca Laird* didn’t set out to get veneers. Outwardly speaking, she didn’t even mind the way her teeth looked. She just saw a set of perfect pearly whites that looked inconspicuously natural, not by way of Jojo Siwa or the smattering of ex-Bachelor contestants on Instagram, but rather her friend, who admitted to having them and recommended a dentist at a time when Laird was on the market for one.

Out of curiosity, she decided to follow up on the referral and booked an appointment with Sivan Finkel, DMD, an aesthetic dentist and owner of The Dental Parlour in New York City. They did a virtual consultation, which was free, and Dr. Finkel agreed: her teeth seemed OK. Maybe she just needed some whitening. Then she visited the office and he discovered a surfeit of foundational issues: old fillings and crowns, root exposure from years of clenching, and a dental condition called tetracycline staining, which creates a two-toned appearance.

“The idea of veneers started to make more sense long-term,” Laird says. “They would fix the discomfort, the gaps, the other issues, and then also make my teeth wider.” She marinated on the thought for months, until Dr. Finkel suggested they design a custom wax rendition ($1,250) of what her results would look like with 10 porcelain veneers on her upper jaw. They would skip the bottom as well as her molars, which weren’t visible when she smiled. Laird was sold.

Priced per tooth, it wouldn’t be cheap, and there were the cleanings, whitening, and at-home maintenance. Dr. Finkel’s services were also expensive, even by New York standards. Yet the extra cost, she soon discovered, was worth every penny. “My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner,” Laird says.

Here’s the full cost breakdown.

Task: Getting veneers
Job: Creative marketing
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Timeline: 2 months

The Receipts

Consultation: $0 (virtual)
Design mock-up: $1,250
Veneers: $3,200 per veneer, or $32,000 total
Whitening treatment: $450
Cleanings: $150 two times a year, or $300 total
Insurance coverage: $0
Retainer: $600 (waived)
At-home maintenance: $106
Total cost: $34,106

Image Source: The Dental Parlour

How I Did It

Investing in your smile is just that: an investment. Here, Laird shares some of the biggest takeaways and tips to making it worth the splurge.

PS: What was the most surprising expense during the process?
Bianca Laird: Really, the surprising part was just how much the veneer, the actual tooth, costs. They are porcelain, and Dr. Sivan works with a talented artist who makes each one by hand and has been doing this for many, many years. That was important to me that they are done well. They model them off your natural tooth, down to the opaqueness at the tip, so they look the most natural. It’s not just a solid white veneer.

To me, that makes it worth it. I don’t see the point in going somewhere that might cost in total $5,000 less when you can get something that’s better quality. At the end of the day, you’re making such a big expense anyway, why not go that extra mile and have them done in the best way possible? With very good veneers, when you take care of them, they can last a very long time. You really only need to replace them once in a lifetime, if even that.

PS: Where did you make sacrifices in your budget in order to accommodate the cost?
BL: I have a decent amount of savings because I’d like to think I have been smart with my money over time. I don’t have any school loan debt, so I wasn’t adding debt on top of debt. So, the biggest hit was that I personally chose to put $20,000 down upfront and watching my savings go down.

Then again, when I think about the things I choose to buy, and if I reevaluate those priorities, I realize I’m not really spending more, I’m just spending in a different way. The two things that are really important to me are my skin and my smile. If you have those two things, to me, that’s beauty. I don’t personally believe in putting money into a designer bag when you can just reinvest in yourself. I came up with my own financial plan to make it work, and I re-budgeted where I put some of my extra money. That’s just my model all around. I don’t buy that much stuff, but when I do buy things, I like to buy quality things or, if I’m going to invest in myself, I’m going to do it the right way.

PS: Any budgeting tips you can share?
BL: The Dental Parlour offers a payment plan, and they have some good options to help you pay it off, but I personally chose to put down money upfront because I could. I decided to put everything onto my credit card because I figured, “Well, if I’m going to spend this much money, I might as well get miles on Delta.” In a way, it’s like I made money.

If you have a credit card, and if you have money in your savings account, put it on your card and then take out that amount from your savings to pay off whatever you can right away and then just continue to pay monthly. Even if you don’t have a credit card, get one – get an American Express or Chase, or even if it’s Crate and Barrel and you need furniture. Get one and use the cost to your advantage.

PS: What’s your at-home maintenance routine?
BL: Something that Dr. Sivan really impressed on me was, how long your veneers last depends on how much you take care of them. I brush with the Philips Sonicare Electric Toothbrush ($50) and use the Waterpik Plus ($56) for my usual daily flossing, but your followups are also extremely important. You want to go in for cleanings two times a year.

In terms of whitening, I don’t need to do any on my top teeth, but I’ll try and whiten my bottoms a little bit to keep them looking even. I purchased the whitening trays and that solution lasts for a year, so I’ll just use it to whiten other areas of my teeth or go in for the treatment because the solution only lasts for so long.

Final Thoughts

For Laird, getting veneers goes beyond surface level. In the end, it’s not about the “perfect” smile or any of “the superficial things we layer on top of ourselves,” she says. Rather, “It’s the foundation of how we look and feel.”

With that in mind, it’s important to invest in yourself. “Whatever you do for self-improvement, for whatever helps you feel beautiful about yourself, that’s when you’re your prettiest. Loving my teeth so much, I just smile and laugh in a different way. I actually think it helps your mental health, your confidence, your happiness, and it’s so important to have self-love. If we don’t have that, it affects everything in our life. So when you invest in yourself, you will not only see the rewards, you’ll feel them, too.”

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual referenced in this story.

Related: The Dangers of TikTok’s Teeth-Filing Trend

Kelsey Castañon is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and content strategist with more than 13 years of experience in publishing. She is currently the senior content director at POPSUGAR, where you can find her stockpiling (and reporting on) everything from skin care to wine. Previously, she’s worked with the brilliant minds at Refinery29, Seventeen, Shape, Allure, and Teen Vogue, and has appeared on TV segments on “The Dr. Oz Show” and “Good Morning America.”

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