What Are Porcelain Veneers?

Many patients are discovering the benefits of dental veneers.

Unlike a crown, which covers the entire tooth, a veneer is a thin covering that is placed over the front (visible) part of the tooth. The dentist applies veneers in a simple, comfortable procedure that takes just a few visits.

Veneers are a popular treatment option for several reasons. Veneers generally are placed on upper front teeth that are severely discolored, poorly shaped or slightly crooked. Veneers may be used to lighten front teeth that are naturally yellow or have a gray cast and can’t be whitened by bleaching.

Veneers are sometimes used to correct teeth that are chipped or worn. They may also be used to correct uneven spaces or a diastema (a large, noticeable gap between the upper front teeth).

Ceramic Veneers…

are extremely thin shells made of a strong and durable dental ceramic. The dentist removes a small amount of enamel from the front and sides of the tooth. This makes room for the veneers and prevents the restored tooth from feeling or looking bulky or unnatural. Next, the dentist makes an impression of the prepared teeth so that the shape of the preparations and surrounding teeth can be replicated in the dental laboratory.

The dentist also looks for the shade that will best match or blend with the other teeth.  The impressions are sent to a dental laboratory that makes the ceramic veneers to fit your individual teeth. This may take several days.

At the next visit, the dentist places the veneers on the teeth to check the fit and shape. After any adjustments, the teeth are cleaned and the ceramic veneers are then bonded to the teeth with dental cement. Further adjustment may be done at a subsequent appointment.

Composite resin veneers…

generally are done in one appointment. After the tooth is prepared or reshaped, the dentist carefully bonds and sculpts the composite material in a color that matches your other teeth. A special light is used to harden the composite. The veneer is smoothed and polished to look like a natural tooth.

Ceramic veneers have a smooth translucent surface that provides a very natural appearance. They are more resistant to staining that composite veneers but may require more visits to complete. Ceramic veneers generally are more expensive because they involve custom impressions in the dental office and custom fabrication by a dental laboratory technician. The procedure for ceramic veneers can require the removal of more tooth enamel than that for composite veneers.

Composite veneers can often be completed in one appointment because they do not require dental laboratory work or impressions. They are generally not as strong or wear-resistant as ceramic veneers; but should they fracture, composite veneers are easily and quickly repaired. If a ceramic veneer fractures, another may be needed to replace it. For both types of veneers there may be a period of adjustment, a few days to a week, to become accustomed to the feel of your restored teeth.

Teeth must be healthy and free of decay and active periodontal disease. Your dentist can treat these conditions before a veneer is made. Veneers typically require less removal of tooth enamel than crowns. However, the process is not reversible once the enamel is removed.

Patients who clench or grind their teeth are not good candidates for veneers, because the thin veneers may chip or break. If you clench or grind, your dentist may suggest a plastic dental nightguard to be worn while sleeping, which can help minimize stress on the teeth.

Because veneers are somewhat brittle, they might chip or peel. Avoid biting your fingernails and chewing on hard objects, such as pencils or ice. Like any dental restoration, it is possible, over time and with wear, for veneers to dislodge. In that case new ones may be needed.