As I’m sipping cocktails with LA-based dentist, Dr. Matt Nejad, in the posh lobby bar at the St. Regis in NYC, he asks me to smile. He whips out his iPad® and snaps a photo. I snack on peanuts, while he hovers over his portable tech, getting jazzed up about how he’d perfect my teeth. The 34-year-old is drawing sketches, Photoshopping, and reimagining my pearly whites with determined passion for his craft.
“See?” Dr. Nejad enthuses. “When you smile your bottom lip slightly moves up to meet the top teeth. If I were to elongate them a bit…” Minutes later, he shows me a photograph of what my new-and-improved teeth would look like. The top row would, yes, be a tad lengthier and follow a subtle upside-down C shape (versus the straighter row I have now).
I do an experiment, biting down so my top and bottom teeth meet when I smile. It feels awkward, and I’m left with a space between my top teeth row and bottom lip. Dr. Nejad explains the lower lip is meant to follow the curve of the teeth. It’s the correct proportions. Currently, I cheat by dropping my jaw slightly (and not biting down when I smile), so that my lower lip can hug my top teeth. (Huh.) If the dentist’s theory is correct, having longer teeth in front would solve the smile dilemma. Fascinating.
I’m not the only one who’s intrigued by Nejad’s work. At press time, he has an impressive 19.4K followers on Instagram®. His feed is peppered with “before” and “after” photos that showcase his work — primarily a special biometric veneers technique (more on that later!).
For patients with serious dental complications, veneers can make a visibly dramatic difference. But for others, like me (in my veneers mock-up), the results are subtle. A really good dentist can use veneers to enhance the face and smile — without drawing attention to the teeth themselves. (If you were to see one of Nejad’s patients before and after treatment, you might have trouble putting your finger on what, exactly, changed.) As with other areas of medical aesthetics, cosmetic dentistry is booming. Blame the age of the selfie (Dr. Nejad does).
Well, how did Dr. Nejad get to where he is? A simple Google® search shows he attended the University of Southern California School of Dentistry and was youngest dentist to ever become a clinical instructor at USC at age 26 — but you know there’s always more to the success story. Here, Dr. Nejad gets honest about the importance of mentorship, the biggest misconceptions about veneers, and the treatment he relies on for a smooth forehead. If you’ve ever had a question about cosmetic dentistry — trust us — you want to keep reading!
Spotlyte: What inspired you to become a dentist? Was it a lifelong dream? Did you fall into it?
Dr. Matt Nejad: I was always sure I would do something in the medical field, but dentistry eventually became the perfect choice for me. Both my parents are engineers, and incredibly smart, driven, hard-working people. Engineers really look at life from a different perspective than most of us, and from a young age, I picked this up. I was always intrigued with understanding how things work and how to fix things.
My mom was also a very skilled artist. I loved her art, and I always begged her to teach me how to paint and draw. Her parents didn’t let her pursue art because they believed art is only a hobby (not true). Dentistry is a very unique combination of art and science — [in that we] basically [are] able to fix or repair things and come up with creative solutions for problems. Also, everything in dentistry is art, from the simplest filling to designing a smile. There is so much art in every step and not a lot of people realize this. A great dentist is equal parts scientist, engineer, and artist — all while being social. This combination is what drew me to dentistry, and looking back, I couldn’t be happier with the way things worked out. Spotlyte: At age 26, you were the youngest dentist to ever become a clinical instructor at USC. How did people respond to that? What was that like?
MN: I had amazing mentors in dental school who helped me develop my skills. By my final year, I was working on major cases that are very advanced; in doing so, I set some major records for the amount of work I was completing as a dental student. I was so committed to doing my education and training.
My mentors picked up on my passion, and I told them I was going to open my own office out of school. They were really supportive of my goals and eventually I was invited as an instructor upon graduation. It was such an honor and it was motivational for me as well as the students who were able to see what I was doing. I remember thinking it would be tough for my students to respect me since I had just graduated, but they had heard about my clinical experience, and they knew I had opened my own office right out of school. These things were inspiring to them. It was just an amazing experience teaching and relating to students in this way.
Spotlyte: Who is your mentor and how did this person help you get to where you are today?
MN: I have several mentors, but the one who has impacted me most is Dr. Pascal Magne. He is a Swiss dentist and master of cosmetic and adhesive dentistry. He is recognized worldwide as a pioneer in dentistry, and he has truly innovated some major techniques and concepts in the field. He has done significant research in these fields, authoring countless scientific studies, and he has authored a famous textbook on cosmetic/esthetic dentistry.
I was one of only a handful of students who were selected to work with him in dental school, and he mentored me in all these amazing techniques. His training and mentorship gave me the skills and foundation I needed to provide the best cosmetic and restorative dentistry available. As a result, my services are in high demand from both patients and dentists, and I teach courses around the world on these concepts and the science which supports these techniques.
Spotlyte: You also pride yourself in dental education. Tell us about who you educate/mentor and what that means to you.
MN: Since 2011, I have been doing lectures and workshops on cosmetic and biomimetic dentistry. I train dentists from all around the world on techniques and science [regarding] the best-looking dentistry that also minimizes complications and failures. I am a mentor to hundreds of dentists, and I love teaching them and helping them improve their treatments for their patients.
Dental school only provides the basic foundation in all aspects of dentistry. There is so much science and education that it is impossible to graduate as an expert in all aspects of dentistry. Dentists who come for my education recognize that there is more to learn, and they are passionate about advancing their skills.
Spotlyte: How do you think the cosmetic dentistry industry is changing in 2019? Where do you see it going?
MN: Demand for cosmetic dentistry has been growing steadily. The importance of a confident smile is receiving more attention. Social media has helped to fuel this awareness and also to show how natural [the results from] cosmetic dentistry can look. As a result, more people are realizing that a beautiful smile has a bigger impact on their looks, confidence, and how others perceive them than a lot of other more common surgeries.
A beautiful smile dramatically changes the entire facial esthetic, affecting the lips, skin, and muscles of the face. Many other facial surgeries and procedures such as fillers or lip lift surgery tend to draw more attention to the teeth, as well, so it becomes increasingly important to have teeth that compliment the face.
[Editor’s note: Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, it has potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if it’s right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetics specialists now.]
Spotlyte: Any big cosmetic trends you’re seeing?
MN: There are a few major prevailing trends in cosmetic dentistry. First, there has been a surge in demand for cosmetic dentistry that looks beautiful yet [natural]. In the past, [people wanted] teeth that looked very square and opaque — not resembling any natural smile you’ve ever seen. Biomimetic dentistry literally means dentistry that “mimics” natural teeth in all aspects, including appearance, function, and strength.
The other trend is conservative treatment approaches. [Dentists are realizing that they] don’t need to take away most of the natural tooth for a beautiful result. The more tooth we conserve, the less there is a risk of complication.
Spotlyte: Explain this more...
MN: When teeth are aggressively shaved down for cosmetic treatment, they’re [at higher risk for] problems including pain, sensitivity, fractures and, ultimately, failure. [The latter can] result in the need for root canals or implants. These situations can be avoided, and [dentists are realizing this more].
Patients are increasingly concerned by cosmetic treatments that remove too much tooth structure. They are investing significant money on cosmetic services and want it to last as long as possible. Not all treatment is created equally, and having the best, long-lasting treatment requires more planning, effort, and time. Patients are going to continue to recognize that doing treatment correctly will always be cheaper and better in the long-run.
Spotlyte: Let's talk techniques! Tell us more about biomimetic dentistry.
MN: Biomimetic means “mimic” “biology” or, in other words, mimic nature. It is a treatment philosophy which basically says natural teeth are amazing and nothing can be better than natural teeth; so let’s respect that and focus on making our restorations as similar as possible to natural teeth.
Also, biomimetic dentistry [respects the fact that a] normal tooth is alive and it has a nerve, so let’s try to preserve as much as possible, and avoid creating situations that require root canals (which literally kill the root of the tooth). My veneers...are attached to your teeth so securely that they actually strengthen your teeth. I have never had a veneer come off in over 10 years now.
Spotlyte: How much of the tooth do you shave and why?
MN: It depends on the reason for the veneers. If teeth are extremely rotated or out of position, then they will either need to be moved (with braces or Invisalign®), or they will need to be shaved more. But, most of the time, there is very little tooth shaving needed. The goal of cosmetic treatment is to improve the smile and reverse the effects of time. As we age, teeth get thinner and shorter — so I usually use veneers to add length and volume.
Spotlyte: What is your process when you’re working with a patient to design veneers?
MN: The first step is a consultation to review your treatment goals and discuss recommended treatment. Next, I obtain all the records for planning, which includes photographs, digital impressions, regular impressions, and a full evaluation of your teeth, bite, and any existing restorations (fillings, crowns, veneers, etc.). With these records, I can create a smile design [treatment plan] which compliments your face and addresses all the treatment goals. Then, this smile design is converted into an actual 3D mold which is used to do a mock-up.
Spotlyte: Cool! What is the mock-up exactly?
MN: The mock-up is a thin layer of material that covers your teeth and shows you what the new smile will look like (shape, length, etc.). I usually recommend patients wear this mock-up home and give [me] feedback over the next week. The lips and smile adapt to new teeth shapes, [which is why I ask patients to wait several days] before they evaluate. The goal of the mock-up is to give you a preview of your smile so there is no guesswork.
Spotlyte: Now let’s get into teeth proportion and how teeth change as we age.
MN: Teeth wear down and chip over many years, so restoring them involves reversing this loss of length. Shorter teeth can [also] force patients to smile bigger and harder to show their teeth, which puts a lot of strain on facial muscles. Also, patients tend to bring their lower lip close to the edges of their top teeth to avoid a big dark space between the lips and teeth when they smile. This all also looks uncomfortable and strained. These compensations [can] result in more wrinkling with time.
A beautiful smile looks comfortable, un-strained, and confident. It makes the patient look younger and happier. The teeth should show without major strain in any facial muscles and, when possible, the teeth should follow a gentle curve that follows the lower lip. This gives the best looking smile and eliminates any over-compensation with the lower lip.
Spotlyte: What is the actual process of getting veneers like?
MN: Besides the planning we discussed, there are usually two visits for getting veneers. On the first visit, the teeth are prepared with any modification or preparation (shaving) necessary. There is a precise way to do this without taking a lot of extra tooth away, but it does take a while.
It doesn’t hurt because you are numb. Your [mouth] may get tired or sore from staying open, but it’s not painful. During the next visit, the veneers are cemented. The best way to cement these teeth is to do them one at a time while keeping the tooth perfectly dry.
Again, this [technique] takes longer than cementing them all together, but the results last longer and have fewer problems [in the long run]. Think of any expert craftsman, and you will notice they put more energy and time into their work. It’s the same with your cosmetic treatment.
Spotlyte: So how long does it take?
MN: If you were doing a smile makeover with ten veneers, it would take about 15 hours over the course of two visits (so, seven to eight hours per visit). Each tooth takes about an hour and a half, spread between those two visits.
If the patient prefers, we can make the appointments shorter and treat the teeth over the course of three to four appointments instead. But we are really attentive and do give breaks, so most patients prefer to get it all done in fewer appointments.
I choose to eschew faster techniques because it is vital that we maintain the durability, strength, and seal of the restorations. I won’t make compromises. I like to say you can buy a dress off the rack and go home with it right away. But if you want the best haute couture dress, you have to wait for it — sometimes weeks or months. The best veneers are the same. They take time.
Spotlyte: What are common misconceptions about getting veneers? What are the truths?
MN: The biggest misconception is that your teeth will have to be shaved down into little stumps. This is very common actually, but it is not necessary. [See above for more on this.] The other misconception is that teeth with veneers are weak. This can be true if you shave a lot of tooth and you do not get the best adhesion (glue) to the tooth with the right technique. However, the reality is teeth that have veneers can be stronger than your teeth were without the veneers if you conserve tooth structure and get very strong adhesion.
Spotlyte: Best advice for someone who wants whiter teeth?
MN: Toothpastes and mouthwashes are only effective at removing surface stains. At-home whitening with custom trays are the safest and most effective way to whiter teeth. The trays have to fit extremely well, with a special seal that keeps the gel against your teeth without allowing saliva to get in. The active ingredient is some formulation of peroxide. Many over-the-counter products, such as strips, also work. [But] the strips don’t always do the best job whitening evenly, because they do not adapt into every contour of your teeth.
Spotlyte: Are there any foods people should eat or avoid for whiter teeth?
MN: [Avoid] coffee and tea! I love both of them, but they are also great at building up stain on the surface of the teeth. If you drink coffee and tea, you’ll want to use a straw as much as possible, then also rinse with water [afterwards].
Spotlyte: You've gained a lot of traction on social media, particularly Instagram. How did you build this community? What are you learning from being active with this community?
MN: One day, I decided that Instagram is an important platform, and I need to put energy into it. My goal has been to build a community of both dentists and patients. I’m very transparent, and I don’t try to hide anything about my work. I like to show all aspects of the cosmetic dentistry process. Patients these days [tend to be more] well-educated on all aspects of the treatment they are interested in. They do their research, especially if they have had it done once before and were not thrilled with the outcome. So I really emphasize Instagram as an educational platform, as well.
I’m also hearing daily from dentists that my work ethic and approach is inspirational to them. All of this positive feedback lets me know that there is a demand for this type of educational content. [Editor’s note: we agree — keep it up!]
Spotlyte: Where do you hope your practice to grow and expand?
MN: Nothing is more rewarding for me than giving someone their smile. I have a lot of patients that travel from all over, so I’ve been looking at opportunities to extend my reach without jeopardizing my quality. Dubai and New York are both in the works.
Spotlyte: Let's take a moment from all this dental fun and talk about men's grooming. How do you take care of your skin?
MN: I think it’s important to take care of your skin, but I try to balance [my skincare routine] with my busy schedule. Fortunately, my patient and friend Gina Mari is an expert on skincare, and I have been going to her for the last six years to take care of my skin. I do regular treatments combining microdermabrasion, vitamin-infused microchanneling, and LED light therapy.
I like to keep it simple with my home care. I cleanse morning and evening with Ayur-Medic® Mild Cleansing Gel followed up by their VachaTM toner. Every morning I apply the SuperGoop!® mineral SPF 40 lotion.
Spotlyte: What is your stance on men getting cosmetic injectables?
MN: I am all for it. I know a lot of people who get it done (myself included), and I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking care of your appearance. It has become more popular over the years, and it’s not uncommon in L.A.
Spotlyte: Have you tried injectable wrinkle reducers?
MN: I have been using an injectable wrinkle reducer for forehead lines. It has worked incredibly well for me, and my [forehead] does look smoother.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetics specialists now.]
Spotlyte: Would you ever try injectable filler?
MN: I don’t think so. I am not against it, but it is overused in my opinion. I think there is a good use for it, and [the results] can look [subtle], but [some] people overdo it.
Spotlyte: You have lush hair. Talk to us about your cuts and care.
MN: My good friend Marlon cuts my hair. He comes to my house once a month and cleans everything up. He’s incredible with the electric clippers and does an awesome fade for me. I like to use hair-wax (Layrite® Cement Clay or Natural Matte Cream) and Leonor Greyl® Shampooing au MielTM Gentle Volumizing Shampoo.
Spotlyte: Also, let's talk eyebrows. Yours are thick! How do you tame them?
MN: Haha! I used to pluck between the eyebrows years ago, but [now] they’ve stopped growing in, thankfully. I do absolutely nothing now besides running my fingers over them to tame them a little, and I occasionally cut any hairs that are longer or don’t fall in line. I really like them, though, and I do think some mild shaping and grooming goes a long way. Again, I’m all about [looking] natural, and I don’t want it to look overly done.
Spotlyte: What do you like to do during your free time?
MN: I’m a health and fitness addict. I like to work out twice a day. In the morning, I do cardio — usually my Peloton® bike. In the evenings, I go to the gym and lift weights. I also eat healthy 90 percent of the time, but I can’t help but splurge with all the goodies. I also love cars and racing, so I have been working on my driving skills.
Spotlyte: If you weren't a dentist, what would you do?
MN: I think I would enjoy computer programming and creating apps. I love technology, and I have done a little programming and development. It’s really rewarding.
Spotlyte: Leave us with one empowering piece of advice or mantra!
MN: Good enough is never good enough. I’m always pushing to improve, and it’s a lifelong-commitment to doing it better.
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