Dental veneers (sometimes called porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates) are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front surface of teeth to improve your smile and appearance. These shells are bonded to the front of the teeth changing their color, shape, size, or length.
Dental veneers can be made from porcelain or from resin composite materials. Porcelain veneers resist stains better than resin veneers and better mimic the light reflecting properties of natural teeth. Resin veneers are thinner and require removal of less of the tooth surface before placement. You will need to discuss the best choice of veneer material for you with your dentist.
What Types of Problems Do Dental Veneers Fix?
Teeth that are discolored — either because of root canal treatment; stains from tetracycline or other drugs, excessive fluoride or other causes; or the presence of large resin fillings that have discolored the tooth. Teeth that are worn down, chipped or broken. Teeth that are misaligned, uneven, or irregularly shaped (for example, have craters or bulges in them). Teeth with gaps between them (to close the space between these teeth).
What's the Procedure for Getting a Dental Veneer?
Getting a dental veneer usually requires three trips to the dentist – one for a consultation and two to make and apply the veneers. One tooth or many teeth can simultaneously undergo the veneering process described below.
Diagnosis and treatment planning. This first step involves active participation between you and Dr. Schick. At this time describe to him the results you wish to achieve. During this appointment, he will examine your teeth to make sure dental veneers are appropriate for you and discuss what the procedure will involve and some of its limitations. He may take X-rays and possibly make impressions of your mouth and teeth for study models.
Bonding a Veneer
Before the dental veneer is permanently bonded to your tooth, Dr. Schick will temporarily place it on your tooth to examine its fit and color. He will repeatedly remove and trim the veneer as needed to achieve the proper fit; the veneer color can be adjusted with the shade of cement to be used. Next, to prepare your tooth to receive the veneer, your tooth will be cleaned, polished, and etched — which roughens the tooth to allow for a strong bonding process. A special cement is applied to the veneer and the veneer is then placed on your tooth. Once properly positioned on the tooth, Dr. Schick will use a curing light, like the one he uses to harden composites (tooth-colored fillings) to the dental veneer, which activates chemicals in the cement causing it to harden or cure very quickly. The final steps involve removing any excess cement, evaluating your bite and making any final adjustments in the veneer as necessary. We may ask you to return for a follow-up visit in a couple of weeks to evaluate how your gums are responding to the presence of your veneer and to once again examine the veneer’s placement.
Preparing for a Veneer
To prepare a tooth for a veneer, Dr. Schick will remove about ½-1 millimeter of enamel from the tooth surface, which is an amount nearly equal to the thickness of the veneer to be added to the tooth surface. Before trimming the enamel, Dr. Schick will decide the need for a local anesthetic to numb the area. Next, he will make a model or impression of your tooth. This model is sent to a dental laboratory, which in turn constructs your veneer. It usually takes around 3 weeks to receive the veneers back from the laboratory. For teeth, that require more reduction, temporary dental veneers can be placed for no additional cost.
What Are the Advantages of Dental Veneers?
Veneers offer the following advantages:
• They provide a natural tooth appearance.
• Gum tissue tolerates porcelain well.
• Porcelain veneers are stain-resistant.
• The color of a porcelain veneer can be selected such that it makes dark teeth appear whiter.
• Veneers offer a conservative approach to changing a tooth’s color and shape -veneers generally don’t require the extensive shaping prior to the procedure that crowns do, yet offer a strong, aesthetic alternative.
What Are the Disadvantages of Dental Veneers?
The downsides to dental veneers:
- The process is not reversible.
- Veneers are more costly than composite resin bonding.
- Veneers are usually not repairable should they chip or crack.
- Because enamel has been removed, your tooth may become more sensitive to hot and cold foods and beverages.
- Veneers may not exactly match the color of your other teeth. Also, the veneer’s color cannot be altered once in place. If you plan on whitening your teeth, you need to do so before getting veneers.
- Though not likely, veneers can dislodge and fall off. To minimize the chance of this occurring, do not bite your nails; chew on pencils, ice, or other hard objects; or otherwise put excessive pressure on your teeth.
- Teeth with veneers can still experience decay, possibly necessitating full coverage of the tooth with a crown.
- Veneers are not a good choice for individuals with unhealthy teeth (for example, those with decay or active gum disease), weakened teeth (as a result of decay, fracture, large dental fillings), or for those who have an inadequate amount of existing enamel on the tooth surface.
- Individuals who clench and grind their teeth are poor candidates for porcelain veneers, as these activities can cause the veneers to crack or chip.
How Long Do Dental Veneers Last?
Veneers generally last between 5 and 10 years. After this time, the veneers would need to be replaced.
Do Dental Veneers Require Special Care?
Dental veneers do not require any special care. Continue to follow good oral hygiene practices including brushing and flossing as you normally would.
Even though porcelain veneers resist stains, your dentist may recommend that you avoid stain-causing foods and beverages (for example, coffee, tea, or red wine).
Are There Alternatives to Dental Veneers?
Yes, alternatives to veneers include dental bonding and crowns. Veneers offer a nice intermediate option. Veneers may be best suited for individuals who want to change the shape and shade of their teeth more than just a little bit — as is done with bonding — but not enough to require a crown.