Damien Hirst artworks, private check-in areas and customised aromatherapy blends – Kristen Bateman infiltrates the dentist clinics that are offering the height of luxury to their VIP clients
Glass facades wrapped in references to Virgil Abloh stand ready as private check-in areas for the most wealthy and VIP of clients are at your whim. The walls are decked out in ostentatious million-dollar art from Damien Hirst, Julian Schnabel, David Salle and George Condo. As you take a seat, a designer lap blanket is draped on you while a menu with various smoothies and CBD confections is handed to you. A custom aromatherapy-blended scent surrounds you. Welcome to the world of luxury dentistry in New York.
If you thought your standard cleaning and X-rays were routine, allow us to introduce you to a space where cannabis-infused lozenges and being treated like a celebrity is the norm. At Apa Aesthetic NYC, the services are so bougie they verge on satire. Take, for instance, the fact that the office is decked out in the already mentioned A-list artworks, but the artisans working there are also propped up on display as a different kind of art, for patients to stare back at. “We have world-renowned master ceramists in-house, who use porcelain powder and a paintbrush to hand-layer each dental restoration,” says Dr Clement Kairouz, a cosmetic dentist at Apa Aesthetic NYC. “Their lab space is enclosed in clear glass, so that patients can see the artists at work.”
For those who are uninitiated in the world of New York dental work, it’s pretty standard to have a basic blanket, sunglasses and Netflix by your side when you’re getting work done or even getting something as basic as cleaning. But dentists like Apa Aesthetic NYC are each trying to up the ante with Dr Barbara Sturm skincare and an menu of THC confections – from gummies to tinctures. “We want our patients to be comfortable during treatment and have special amenities to make that happen,” he says. “There’s a smart TV on the ceiling, logged into every streamer imaginable, and Beats noise-canceling headphones to block out those dreaded sounds. We offer Brunello Cucinelli blankets and John Geiger slippers. And for patients who want more than the usual nitrous gas, we have a Cannabis Comforts menu. With all of the above, it’s easy for our patients to sit back and relax, while I get to work.”
A slew of these dentist offices that look more like elevated shopping boutiques or luxury spas have opened in the city over the past few years. There’s the Instagram-friendly Tend, which is set up with social media-ready mirrors; it looks like a millennial’s dream – a sort of souped-up Glossier-version of dentistry. Tend, like many others, has developed a custom fragrance called ‘Bergamist’, featuring notes of sandalwood, cedar and citrus, designed to calm your any pre-appointment anxiety. Les Belles also offers dental anxiety management with music and aromatherapy. These new types of dentists are bringing some of the more bougie elements of the most expensive clinics to a younger, less affluent audience – often friendly to those who don’t have dental insurance (offering transparent rates for those paying out of pocket).
On the other side of the luxury dental scene, dentists are taking to TikTok to showcase their skills and their increasingly designed office spaces, one-upping each other along the way. Take, for instance, Dr Daniel Rubinshtein, who has over one million followers on TikTok. “We have fully designed the three-level space to give the feeling that you are at a hotel,” he says. “We also have two waiting areas for those VIPS who come in with security and an entourage.”
Private check-ins are a big part of New York’s dental elite. “In our New York office, we opened a new floor, ‘Apa on Six’ which is dedicated to our most discreet Smile Makeover patients,” says Kairouz. “Unlike traditional offices, there’s no check-in desk. Instead patients are whisked away into one of three VIP operatories by a patient coordinator, standing ready.” Designed to look more like a luxury store than a clinical office, the special section was made to outdo everything you know about going to the dentist. “Kenneth Park, who does build-outs for Balenciaga, Tourneau, Dior and more, designed the space; it was an industry first. Patients are realising that dental appointments can be as luxurious and indulgent as a facial or massage, if you’re in the right hands.”
Maybe the fact that getting dental work is long considered the beauty industry’s most notoriously scary and uncomfortable experience is part of the new wave of dentists trying to outdo each other. At least, that’s what Rubinshtein thinks: “Because of social media the standards have gone up in terms of patient experience and care.” Upon check-in, he offers “a menu of custom smoothies to choose from” and enchants guests with “a custom scent that is spread throughout the practice to give our guests a very soothing and calm feeling. Throughout the procedure, our patients get lip cream applied, warm towels with a hint of lavender, and also laughing gas as needed.”
Kairouz sees the trend as a wider movement: “In the world of luxury dentistry, providers are like artists and each has their own unique aesthetic,” he says. “The move to in-house labs was a big one; Apa was the first, but others have followed. The work that results from that level of collaboration is unparalleled.” Adds Kairouz, “ Patients are realizing that dental appointments can be as luxurious and indulgent as a facial or massage, if you’re in the right hands.”
When you walk past another upscale dentist, Smile Design Manhattan, on the Upper West Side, it’s immediately clear that going to the dentist looks very different for some people. Inside, there is a painting by Andres Valencia on display – the art prodigy whose paintings go for $300,000 at auction. The glass window asks the passerby: “What would Virgil do with dentistry?”