As one of the world’s premier cosmetic dentists, Dr. Michael Apa is on speed-dial for everyone from Chloe Sevigny, Uma Thurman and the Olsen twins, to some of Dubai’s biggest VIP’s (Dr. Apa’s clinics reside in LA, New York and Dubai). His revolutionary approach to dentistry is renowned because it combines facial aesthetic design, state of the art ceramics and a truly bespoke service to create the most natural and beautiful-looking smile. He is also the founder of Apa Beauty; a collection of luxury oral care products designed to fit seamlessly into your daily beauty routine.
As a friend (and loyal patient) of Dr. Apa, Dr. Barbara Sturm took the opportunity to sit down with him to ask how he came to be one of the world’s go-to dentists, his biggest inspirations and more.
You’re one of the world’s most sought-after dentists. I’d love to know how you came into the profession? What inspired you?
"I was just a kid when I decided dentistry was my destiny. From five on, I never really considered pursuing anything else. Around 16, my local dentist told me about Larry Rosenthal – the guy doing cosmetic dentistry in NYC – and that’s when my plan started to come together. I knew I had to go to NYU College of Dentistry, so that I could meet him, learn from him, and convince him to hire me. The rest, as they say, is history. "
I’ve had many defining moments in my career – one being when Net A Porter agreed to take on my skincare. What’s been a defining moment for you so far?
"Isn’t timing everything? It’s interesting to think about how I might have answered this question had last week not happened… but today, the answer is obvious. On Tuesday night (September 28th), my New York office had a lab fire that absolutely devastated the space. At the time, I was boarding a plane from Dubai to New York, so excited to get back to the city I consider home. The news was shocking, and the pictures and videos were a depressing and anxiety-producing preview of what was waiting for me upon arrival - I tell the full story on my Instagram. Now, for the positive. Defining moments fundamentally change you and this changed me. It brought a renewed feeling of strength and fortitude and the deepest appreciation for my team, the dental community, and our patients. I already knew my team was incredible, but after this, it’s hard to find the words. By Thursday morning, we were already up and running at a temporary location. I’m still wrapping my head around it."
I often get asked about how I manage my family life with my work. Do you think you’ve achieved a balance there?
"I don’t believe in balance. My life is my work. My work is my life. That’s not to say that friends and family aren’t part of the equation. It’s more that my friends and family understand my passion and are fully supportive of the lifestyle that it demands."
How do you usually start your day; when do you wake up and what’s the first thing you do?
"My alarm goes off at 4:45am and the first thing I do is check emails from Dubai. After that, it’s coffee (freshly brewed coffee with two espresso shots, oat milk and three Splenda in a special Venti mug), time with the dogs and a morning workout, all before I head to the office. At this point, my mornings are habitual and out of necessity; that is what gives me the mental space to think critically throughout the day."
What’s your go-to skincare routine?
"Here’s my Dr. Barbara Sturm skincare routine in order: CLEANSER, HYLAURONIC SERUM, SUPER ANTI-AGING SERUM, CALMING SERUM, FACE CREAM MEN. During our last Instagram Live, I confirmed the order of operations with you, because not that long ago I was just a drug store skincare kind of guy. Meeting you and making your products part of my routine has been a game changer."
My oral care routine is super consistent (since meeting you!) and I love your APA BEAUTY WHITE KIT. What does your own routine look like?
"I’m a dentist, so I don’t have to brush my teeth. Kidding – bad joke. I use the Apa Beauty toothbrush and toothpaste. Then, I floss and follow with Apa White Rinse and Apa Pink Gum Gel."
What’s the one thing everyone should be doing to take care of their teeth in the most efficient way?
"Flossing – morning and night."
I’m completely against using harsh ingredients, retinols or anything aggressive on the skin – and I know you have a similar philosophy with your own APA BEAUTY collection. What do you wish people were more aware of when it comes to cosmetic dentistry?
"When words like “cosmetic dentistry” get thrown around, it’s easy to forget that it’s also restorative dentistry. I want people to know that veneers are just dental restorations – like a filling or a crown – that enhance tooth shape, color and position. Yes, there are aesthetic benefits, but there are functional benefits too that get overlooked. For example, when you grind, you shorten your teeth, leading to an over-closed or collapsed bite, overworked muscles, and pain. (This can also happen from natural wear over time). With porcelain, we can rebuild the missing tooth structure, restore your bite to better support the muscles, and eliminate the pain."
My skincare philosophy is focused on reducing inflammation and I’m passionate about living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle; I always try to get enough sleep, follow a balanced diet and try and keep my stress levels low. What does an anti-inflammatory moment look like for you? Do you find it easy to switch off?
"When it comes to diet and exercise, I’ve become incredibly disciplined and notice a huge difference in how I feel – mentally, physically, emotionally. About two years ago, I started following a vegan diet. I have chefs in New York, LA and Dubai prepare my meals and that consistency is key. For exercise, I work with a personal trainer at least six days a week and, when I can, play tennis. For me, it’s not necessarily switching on and off, but giving 100% to whatever I am doing in a given moment."
I try and move every day, whether that’s a Pilates class, a hike through the hills or getting on my bike - I think consistency is key. What do you do to stay fit and healthy?
"My personal trainer focuses on functional movement. We do HIIT, weight training and cardio, while trying to counteract the effects of my positioning in the dental chair. Sitting hunched over for hours on end doesn’t do the body any favors."
Sleep is a non-negotiable part of my beauty regime as it’s a critical period for cellular rejuvenation and related processes. I go to bed early and try not to look at my phone close to bedtime. What does your night-time routine look like? Are you a good sleeper?
"I agree and wish I were a better sleeper. On nights when my mind is particularly busy, I’ll have a CBD gummy. They’re pretty mellow, but I find that they help with calming and relaxation."
I always have a book by the Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti at my bedside. What books do you like to dip in and out of for inspiration?
"I spend a lot of time traveling, whether it’s in a car or on a plane, so audiobooks are a big part of my routine. I go through a lot and quickly – typically non-fiction centred around successful individuals and businesses. The Hard Thing About Hard Things and The Trillion Dollar Coach are recent “reads.” As for a favorite that I find myself going back to - Atomic Habits by James Clear."
We have a few new launches coming soon, including our Molecular Hair & Scalp Collection, which is so exciting. What’s next for you?
"I have my sights set on Miami for my next office location. Hopefully, we will have an official open date soon. On top of that, we are expanding in New York; we bought the floor above us, and both are being renovated, while we work in a temporary off-site location on Fifth Avenue. Last month, we launched new Apa Beauty products, including an Apa Sonic toothbrush in matte black - and there is still more to come."