Last Updated: Feb 15, 2013
Dental veneers are a thin custom made layer of tooth-colored material mounted over the front surface of a tooth to improve appearance. Often referred to as porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates, dental veneers change a patient's teeth color, shape, size, or length.
Veneers last from 5 to 10 years. After this time, they must be replaced. They do not require any special care, but patients must continue to follow good oral hygiene practices. These include both brushing and flossing. Even though porcelain veneers resist stains, a dentist may recommend that patients avoid stain-causing foods and beverages (coffee, tea, and red wine).
Dental veneers are made from porcelain or resin composite materials. Porcelain veneers resist stains better and reflect more light than natural teeth. Resin veneers are thinner and require removing less of the tooth surface before placement. Patients are encouraged to discuss the best choice for their needs with their dental specialist.
Veneers offer an intermediate choice between bondings and crowns. They are best suited for patients who want to change the shape of their teeth more than just a little bit - as is done with bonding - but not enough to require a crown.
Why get Veneers?
Dental specialists recommend veneers to improve the appearance of:
- discolored teeth due to root canal treatments, stains from tetracycline, excessive fluoride, or the presence of large resin fillings that have discolored the tooth.
- Worn down, chipped, or broken teeth
- Misaligned, uneven, or irregularly shaped teeth spaces between teeth
- Provide a natural tooth appearance
- Porcelain is gum-tissue tolerant
- Porcelain veneers are stain resistant
- Porcelain veneers’ color can be customized
- They are a conservative approach to change a tooth's color and shape.
- They don't require extensive shaping like crowns do and yet offer a stronger more aesthetic alternative
- The process is irreversible
- Veneers are more expensive than composite resin bonding
- Veneers are not repairable should they chip or crack
- The tooth may become more sensitive to hot and cold because enamel has been removed.
- Veneers may not match the exact color of other teeth. The veneer's color (once set) cannot be altered once in place. Whitening teeth must be done before getting the veneers.
- Veneers can dislodge and fall off. To minimize the chance of this occurring patients should not bite their finger nails, chew on pencils, ice or other hard objects; or put excessive pressure on their teeth.
- Teeth with veneers can decay and need to be replaced with a crown.
- Veneers are not a good choice for individuals with unhealthy teeth, weakened teeth, or for those who have an inadequate amount of existing enamel on the surface of their teeth
- Patients who clench and grind their teeth are not good candidates for porcelain veneers as this can cause the veneers to crack or chip.
How to Prepare?
Getting a dental veneer usually requires three trips to the dentist; one for consultation and successive visits to make and apply the veneers. The process can be applied simultaneously to multiple teeth.
Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
Patients should explain to a dentist the results that they desire. The dentist will examine a patient's teeth to ensure dental veneers are appropriate and discuss what the procedure will involve and its limitations. Dentists may take X-rays and make impressions of the mouth and teeth.
A dentist will apply local anesthetic to numb the teeth area; trim about ½ millimeter – the standard thickness of the veneer - of enamel from the tooth surface; Then make a model or impression of the tooth/teeth. This impression is sent out to a dental lab that will manufacture the veneer. The lab will ship the veneer to the dentist's office within two weeks. Temporary dental veneers can be placed while the permanents are being done.
Dentists will examine the fit and color of the permanent veneers. He or she may place it temporarily on the tooth, remove it and trim it as needed to achieve the proper fit. He or she will use a different shade of cement to adjust the color of the veneers.
To prepare the tooth to receive the veneer, the dentist will clean, polish and etch the tooth. Then, he or she will apply special cement to the veneer and place it on the tooth. Once properly positioned on the tooth, the dentist will apply a special light beam to the dental veneer to activate chemicals in the cement, causing the cement to harden or cure very quickly. Then, he or she will remove any cement excess, evaluate the patient's bite and make any final adjustments to the veneer. Patients may be asked for a 2-week follow up visit to check how the gums are responding to the presence of the veneer and examine the veneer's placement.