Find out how accomplished dental technicians — and cosmetic dentists — help actors and directors achieve their unique vision.
To play certain roles, actors must become nearly unrecognizable from their normal selves. Luckily for them, they’re able to do that with the expertise of makeup artists. Like special effects wizards who help actors alter their appearance, dental technicians are responsible for crafting some of the most memorable prosthetics in movie history.
Just think of ‘60s-era secret agent Austin Powers, played by Mike Myers, with his crooked, gap-toothed grin, or the fangs sported by Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with a Vampire. Remember the dentures that fell out of Robin Williams’s mouth in Mrs. Doubtfire?
In each of these movies, the actors were sporting prosthetic teeth created by some of Hollywood’s best dental technicians. Many of these techniques are similar to the ones used by cosmetic dentists — with a few important distinctions.
How Prosthetic Teeth Are Made
To begin work on a set of prosthetics, a special effects dental technician makes a customized mold of the actor’s mouth and jaw. They use the customized mold to design a set of veneers, bridges, or orthodontic devices that fit over the actor’s own teeth.
Unlike regular cosmetic dentistry, however, the appliances are not permanent. Permanent veneers are typically made of porcelain or a composite material cemented to the tooth’s surface. Veneers used on the movie set, however, are often made of acrylic and can be removed when the day’s filming is done.
When creating a prosthetic dental appliance, the technician takes into account what the actor and director hope to accomplish with the actor’s altered appearance. Are they trying to mimic what a historical person looked like? Or is the purpose to signal that a character is up to no good? This way, fake teeth can disclose to the audience a character’s unique history or identity.
For instance, when Jonah Hill played an addict in The Wolf of Wall Street, he wanted a set of blindingly white veneers to convey the character’s greedy nature.
Crucially, the dental device created for the actor must be comfortable enough so the actor can speak his or her lines without any impediment. In some cases, actors become so comfortable they forget to take them out. That’s what happened to Anthony Hopkins when he portrayed Richard Nixon with the help of top and bottom veneers. He didn’t remove them when chomping into an apple and ended up breaking the veneers.
Another staple of special effects dentistry are “breakaway” teeth. To recreate a realistic fight scene, the dental technician makes a set of acrylic veneers with one tooth loosely held in place with wax. When the fake punch is thrown, the actor pops that tooth out and releases a small packet of blood placed under his lip to create the illusion of a broken, bloody tooth.
Are You Ready for Your Close Up?
Unlike Hollywood’s dental technicians, the specialists at Espire are here to help you find permanent solutions for your smile. Veneers can improve your smile by permanently fixing crooked, stained teeth. A missing tooth can be replaced with a dental implant, crown, or bridge, and whitening your teeth can shed years of discoloration. Contact us today for a consultation to learn more about how you can get a close-up ready smile.