For anyone who has ever wanted to hide their teeth, there is a way to permanently improve a smile. Dental veneers help conceal the imperfections or damage a natural tooth might have. They can cover chips, stains, gaps, and even some alignment problems.
Dental veneers cost quite a bit, and getting them is moderately invasive. But many people think it is worth the trouble and the money for a set of whiter, more perfect teeth.
What Are Dental Veneers? Veneers Explained
Dental veneers are thin porcelain or resin shells that attach to the front of teeth with dental cement. Veneers provide a new cover that protects teeth and looks great.
When someone looks like they have a perfectly even, bright white smile (like many celebrities, for example) there is a good chance that they actually have dental veneers. Whether combined with orthodontia or all by themselves, veneers can give just about any mouth a movie star quality smile.
Patients can get a veneer on a single tooth or the entire front arch. Because they are for cosmetic purposes, they are not typically attached to molars. Sometimes, even the bottom teeth do not need them if they do not show when the patient smiles or talks.
The procedure to get veneers involves the permanent removal of some of the tooth’s enamel. For that reason, they are considered permanent. If one falls off or is damaged, it must be replaced because the tooth underneath is not intact.
Veneers may be porcelain or composite resin, similar to dental filling material. Porcelain veneers are custom-made in a lab. They are fabricated to exact size and shape specifications based on either a physical mold or 3D imaging of the teeth. Patients and dentists can choose the color that matches the desired shade of white. The dentist applies each shell-like tooth cover in one piece.
Composite veneers are a softer resin, painted onto the teeth in layers. The dentist can shape and mold them as they go until the desired size and shape is achieved. Tinting can add pigments for shading to make the tooth look natural.
Are Veneers the Right Solution?
Like any dental procedure, getting veneers starts with a visit to the dentist. A patient’s general or family dentist can offer advice about the best way to fix a tooth’s particular problem.
Some issues are better fixed with something other than a veneer. For example, a tooth with severe decay might need a root canal procedure and a crown instead of a veneer. A cracked or chipped tooth might need only a small amount of bonding material. Or if it is too badly damaged, it might require extraction and replacement with dentures or an implant.
If the tooth’s flaw is one that can be fixed with a veneer, the dentist can advise on the next steps. Some general dentists offer cosmetic procedures like veneers, but they will typically refer the patient to a cosmetic dentist. If the patient’s teeth need to be straightened too, they will typically see an orthodontist braces or use Invisalign first. Once the teeth are in proper alignment, the dentist can place the veneers.
What It’s Like to Get Veneers
Veneers should only be used on patients with healthy teeth and gums. If a tooth has a cavity, it needs to be fixed before the veneer procedure begins. The same is true of gum disease. Once any underlying problems are taken care of, a cosmetic dentist can begin.
To get the veneer to stick to the tooth, the dentist will roughen the enamel with a grinding tool. This may involve some light etching to the tooth surface, or removal of up to a half millimeter of the enamel. This depends on the tooth and the method used to cover it. Composite veneers typically do not require as much enamel reduction. This part of the procedure can be uncomfortable or even a bit painful, so a local anesthetic is typically used.
Composite resin veneers can be applied right away. The dentist brushes on the composite in layers, and then uses an ultraviolet light to cure or harden the material.
If using porcelain, the dentist will either take a putty impression of the teeth, or use a 3D scanning tool to get an exact map of the tooth’s new surface. These measurements are sent to a lab where the veneers are fabricated. This can take up to two weeks, so the dentist might attach temporary veneers.
Once the veneers are ready, the patient returns to the dentist. They remove the temporary veneers and attach the permanent ones using a special adhesive. An ultraviolet curing light will speed up the hardening process.
Veneers Yield Immediate Results
Once veneers are placed on the teeth the results are obvious right away. Patients will walk out of the cosmetic dentistry office with perfect looking teeth.
And other than a bit of sensitivity, there is little recovery time. Dentists advise patients to be cautious when biting and chewing, and avoid overly hot or cold drinks for about two weeks. But in general, normal eating and drinking can resume almost immediately.
Some patients may find getting used to the new shape and size of their teeth a bit of an adjustment. It might feel odd to talk or eat at first. But adapting usually happens quickly.
Weighing the Costs and Benefits of Veneers
Single composite veneers cost on average between $400 and $2000. Porcelain veneers are between $900 and $2500 each. Since they are cosmetic, they are unfortunately not covered by dental insurance.
They do, however, last a long time. When properly cared for, composite veneers will last at least 7 years, and porcelain last more than 15. Their durability, plus their wide range of uses make the cost worth it for some patients.
Take, for example, discolored teeth. Professional teeth whitening must be repeated regularly to maintain whiteness, and may offer mixed results. Veneers can cover even permanently stained teeth.
And caring for veneers is no different than the routine oral hygiene suggested for original teeth. Regular brushing and flossing is sufficient to keep them in good shape. There is a chance that veneers can break or chip, especially when biting down on something hard, but in normal cases, they are very durable.
Dental veneers are a great way to trade in a stained or crooked smile for perfect, whiter teeth. Start the process by visiting a dentist to see if veneers are right for you. For experienced dental professionals in your area, use our handy search tool.