Where Art Meets Medicine - Dr. Sivan Finkel

The Dental Parlour in NYC, started by Dr. Myron Finkel in 1971, is more than just a dental practice — it's a family business. Dr. Sivan Finkel followed in his father's footsteps and joined the practice, but with a degree in art, he put his skills to use as a cosmetic dental expert and smile designer. As a dentist and NYU College of Dentistry lecturer, he's wearing his white coat with pride. Find him on Instagram at @drsivanfinkel

What's the best part about working at The Dental Parlour with your dad?

Being able to have a mentor and business partner I can trust 100%! My dad is an amazing guy who accomplished so much, and even though the type of dentistry we do is different, I follow his lead when it comes to his patient care philosophy. He taught me to never push too hard to "sell" any treatment, and that the bottom line is our serious responsibility to do right by our patients. Unfortunately, this ethical issue is especially relevant in the world of aesthetic dentistry, as there is a lot of over-treatment and a lot of unnecessary work being done on healthy teeth that are already beautiful!

Can you tell us a little about what "smile design" is?

Smile design involves analyzing a patient's face from every direction (I use a combination of photos and videos), identifying their dominant features and asymmetries, and then deciding exactly which tooth shapes, sizes, and positions will work best with the unique geometry of that face. There is a fair amount of artistic freedom here too, as different tooth shapes can convey feelings like aggressiveness, calmness, femininity, or masculinity. The result is a smile that is ideally integrated not just with the patient's facial structure, but with the patient's personality as well. 

You double majored in art in college. How does that benefit your practice now?

My background in art is a tremendous asset in my day to day work, because beauty is far from an exact science. No two people have the same definition of what a beautiful smile is, and it escapes mathematics or formulas. Instead, there are subtle universal guidelines as to what the human eye finds pleasing, and these are what painters and sculptors have studied for centuries. Compositional balance, visual tension versus harmony, the way light reflects off different shapes. Not to get too deep here, but when you study physical attractiveness, you realize that beauty and health are intimately related. We recognize a smile as "beautiful" because perfectly shaped, unworn teeth signify health and a properly functioning system. That connection has always fascinated me. Our brains know immediately when things are healthy and natural looking, and when things are "off" due to either disease, neglect, or — unfortunately — botched cosmetic work. That's what I love about veneers. Getting them right means obsessively mimicking every little detail of natural teeth. Nailing this is my mission, and I'm making it my life's work! 

Why did you become involved with lecturing and teaching at NYU?

In the course of my training, I realized all the top aesthetic dentists in the world were associated with universities. This makes sense, as new materials and procedures always originate in academic settings. I decided I didn't want to be a dentist stuck in my private practice bubble while this fast-paced world evolved around me, so I pursued a part-time faculty position teaching aesthetics at NYU. Specifically, I teach smile design, porcelain veneers, and dental photography, which is a critical communication skill we get almost no training in during dental school. Teaching has turned out to be a very rewarding part of my life, not only because it's so fulfilling to give back, but also because it has connected me with a whole network of like-minded dentists around the world. I'm proud to have an international group of friends with the same mission as me — to deliver the most responsible, cutting edge treatments to our patients — and we are constantly exchanging knowledge and comparing notes.

 

Why are you proud to specialize in veneers?

Because I get to satisfy my innate need to be creative and work with my hands, while making a tremendous impact on a person's life. The effect this kind of treatment can have on someone's self-esteem is huge and can improve everything from job opportunities to relationship success. The best part is, due to advances in materials and procedures, veneers are not nearly as destructive to the underlying tooth as they used to be. I want to make one important point though: Veneers are just one tool in a well-rounded aesthetic dentist's toolbox, and often even less invasive options like whitening or Invisalign are the proper treatment. 

What do you love about your FIGS white coat?

I'm a sucker for custom clothing (it's a double-edged sword because once you start having clothes made, nothing off the rack feels right anymore) and I was never completely satisfied with any of the white coats I had tried over the years. The common culprits were baggy sleeves, arm holes that were too wide, and a fit that wasn't tapered enough from the waist to the shoulders. And looking disheveled in my line of business is like being an out-of-shape personal trainer — it just doesn't work! So just as I was about to ask my tailor to start making white coats for me, I came across FIGS and was blown away. I love everything about the Newton premium lab coat. The fit is right on, and the material is wrinkle free and stain resistant.

Follow Dr. Sivan Finkel on Instagram at @drsivanfinkel.