What to know about dental veneers

What to know about dental veneers

Dental veneers are thin, custom-made shells that dentists can place on the front of the teeth to improve their appearance. Veneers can hide stained, chipped, and uneven teeth.

For some people, having damaged or discolored teeth can affect their confidence or self-esteem. Dental veneers can help improve the appearance of the teeth.

This article discusses what dental veneers are, the different types of dental veneer available, the costs, the benefits, and the dental veneer fitting procedure.

What are dental veneers? 

Dental veneers are custom fittings designed to help hide or correct dental damage, including:

  • stains and discoloration
  • chips and small missing pieces
  • decay
  • crookedness
  • gaps between the teeth

Dental veneers help improve the appearance of a person’s teeth. They may be beneficial for people who want a long-term solution to persistent cosmetic concerns — particularly those that do not respond to other dental treatments, such as teeth whiteningbraces, or retainers.

During the placement process, a dentist will typically remove a small amount of enamel, which is the thin protective outer covering of the teeth. Because of this, once the dentist places the veneers, a person cannot remove them or choose not to use them.

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Types of veneers

There are two types of veneers: porcelain and resin-based composite. The following sections will outline these options in more detail.

Porcelain veneers

Porcelain veneers are a strong, thin cap that a dentist can place on the tops and sides of the teeth.

To attach them, the dentist will remove some enamel from the tooth before placing them. Porcelain veneers have the same color as natural teeth, but it is possible to make them whiter to brighten the smile.

Resin-based composite veneers

Resin-based composite veneers are similar to porcelain veneers, but they tend to be less expensive and require less enamel removal. Sometimes, a dentist may not have to remove any enamel before placing the composite veneer.

Composite veneers are usually easier to replace if broken or damaged than porcelain veneers.

Which type is best?

Porcelain veneers and resin-based composite veneers look similar, but there are some key differences. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), these differences include:

Porcelain Resin-based composite
more expensive less expensive
usually requires enamel removal may not require enamel removal
2–3 appointments usually 1 appointment
last around 20 years last around 5 years
will not stain may stain over time
less likely to chip or fracture more likely to chip or break
more difficult to fix easier to fix

Porcelain veneers also tend to offer slightly more a natural, tooth-like appearance and can cover more discolored, malformed teeth.

The type of veneer a person chooses will depend on their budget, needs, and preferences. A dentist can help them decide which type of dental veneer will work best for them.

Before and after

dental veneers before and after
Image credit: Steve Alper, 2005.

What is the difference between veneers, crowns, and implants?

Dental veneers, crowns, and implants can all improve the cosmetic appearance of the teeth. However, there are differences between them.

One difference between veneers, crowns, and implants is the area of the tooth that each option covers.

Dental veneers mainly cover the front of a tooth. By contrast, crowns cover the entire tooth, including the front, back, and all the sides. As a result, dentists use crowns to repair broken teeth, including teeth that have little structure left. Crowns can also help strengthen the teeth they cover.

Implants, meanwhile, are bolt-like structures that attach to the jawbone to replace missing teeth.

When necessary, a dentist may use an implant to secure a crown in the mouth. This may be the case if a person is missing a tooth or a tooth is irreparable because it is too badly broken down and requires removal.

Essentially, dentists use crowns to build up teeth that are badly damaged, whereas implants replace missing teeth. Veneers improve the appearance of teeth that are mostly still intact.

Cost

Dental veneers range in price based on the number of teeth a person needs to cover and the expertise of the person performing the procedure.

According to the ADA, a person can expect to pay between $925 and $2,500 per tooth.

These costs are approximate and can vary based on:

  • the type of veneer
  • the amount of preparation necessary before the procedure
  • a person’s geographical location

Since most insurance companies consider veneers a cosmetic procedure, most insurance plans will not cover the cost.

What happens during the dental veneer procedure? 

According to the ADA, how the dental veneer procedure goes depends on the type of veneer a person chooses.

The following sections will outline the process for each type below.

Porcelain veneers

To fit porcelain veneers, a dentist will first remove some enamel and take an impression of the teeth to create a mold.

After this initial visit, they will send the mold to a laboratory that fabricates the custom-fit porcelain veneers. The dentist may place temporary veneers on the teeth while a person waits for the laboratory to make the permanent ones.

At the next appointment, the dentist will test whether or not the veneers fit and are a good color, and they will make any adjustments as needed. Then, the dentist will bond the veneers to the teeth.

Resin-based composite veneers

To fit resin-based composite veneers, the dentist will start by cleaning, reshaping, and preparing the teeth. After they prepare the teeth, they will bond and sculpt the composite material, adjusting the color so that the veneers look natural in the person’s mouth.

Then, the dentist will use a light to dry and harden the composite material. Once the veneers have hardened, the dentist will smooth and polish them so that they look and feel like real teeth.

Aftercare 

After the placement of veneers, the dentist may want to check them in a follow-up appointment. During this, they will look to make sure that the veneers have stayed in place and are comfortable for the wearer.

This is a good opportunity for a person to mention if any of the veneers do not feel right, as a dentist can help fix them.

A person with new dental veneers does not need to avoid any particular foods or beverages following their appointment.

That said, because veneers may stain over time, a person may want to avoid coffee, tea, and red wine, as well as other things that can cause stained teeth, to make them last longer.

The dentist may also advise against:

  • biting hard objects
  • biting the nails
  • using a mouthguard
  • grinding the teeth
  • chewing very hard foods
  • opening items with the teeth

A person may notice rough patches on the veneers. This should improve over time. If not, a person can have their dentist smooth them. Rough patches tend to occur due to a dentist leaving extra bonding material on the veneers.

Also, a person can still develop cavities even though they have veneers, so it is important to practice good oral hygiene, including brushing the teeth twice per day and flossing daily.

With the right care, a person can expect their veneers to last around 10 years. After this time, a person may need to replace them.

How long veneers last may vary based on the materials the dentist used and how well the person takes care of them. A person can talk to their dentist about time frames for replacement veneers.

Summary

Dental veneers are a cosmetic device that alters the appearance of a person’s teeth. Dental veneers help improve color, provide a natural tooth shape, reduce gaps, and hide chips and other minor damage to teeth.

Veneers can range in both cost and durability. Porcelain veneers are generally stronger and last longer, but they come with a much higher price tag. Resin-based composite veneers are more affordable but do not last as long and may break more easily.

Dental veneers are a long-term solution to cosmetic tooth problems. A person considering cosmetic dental work should discuss their options with a dentist.

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