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Dental veneers (sometimes called porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates) are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials.  They are designed to cover the front surface of teeth to improve your appearance. These shells are bonded to the front of the teeth changing color, shape, size, or length.

What Do Veneers Fix?

  • Teeth that are discolored-either because of root canal treatment; staining caused by 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.
  • Teeth that are chipped or broken.
  • Teeth that are misaligned, uneven, or irregularly shaped.
  • Gaps and spacing issues between teeth.

The Procedure:

Step 1: Diagnosis and Treatment Planning.  In this first step, the patient talks with the doctor about the results he or she is trying to achieve.  The doctor will examine the teeth to make sure dental veneers are appropriate and discuss the procedure and its limitations.  Additionally, x-rays may be taken.

Step 2: Preparation. To prepare a tooth for a veneer, about ½ millimeter of enamel from the tooth will be removed.  This is approximately the same thickness as the veneer.  This process may include a local anesthetic to numb the area.  The doctor then takes a model or impression of the tooth to send to a dental laboratory.  This laboratory will construct the veneer, a process that usually takes 1-2 weeks. Temporary dental veneers may put into place in the meantime. 

Step 3: Bonding. Before the dental veneer is permanently cemented to your tooth, the veneer is temporarily placed on the tooth to examine its fit and color. Fit and color can be adjusted prior to cementation or may be adjusted with the shade of the cement to be used.  The tooth is then 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 the tooth. Once properly positioned on the tooth, a special light beam is applied to the dental veneer, which activates chemicals in the cement, causing it to harden and cure very quickly. The final steps involves removing any excess cement, evaluating the resulting bite, and making any final adjustments in the veneer as necessary. 

The Benefits:

  • Veneers provide a natural tooth appearance.
  • Gum tissue tolerates porcelain well.
  • Porcelain veneers are stain resistant.
  • Strategically choosing a veneer gives patients the opportunity to correct dark coloring or misshaped teeth.
  • Veneers generally don’t require the extensive shaping prior to the procedure that crowns do, yet offer a stronger, more aesthetic alternative. 

The Realities:

  • The process is not reversible.
  • Veneers are costlier than composite resin bonding.
  • Veneers are usually not repairable should they chip or crack.
  • 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, 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.

The Longevity:

While the longevity of veneers varies from patient to patient, they typically last in excess of 5 years. Most patients’ veneers last much longer. 

The Required 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 stain, your dentist may recommend that you avoid stain-causing foods and beverages (for example, coffee, tea, or red wine). 

The Alternatives:

Yes, there are alternatives to veneers, include bonding and crowns. Veneers offer a nice intermediate option. Veneers may be best suited for individuals 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. 

The Cost:

The cost of veneers is approximately the same as the cost of full crowns.  However, veneers require much less tooth reductions.  Dental veneers may be a covered benefit on most insurance plans. We can contact your specific insurance company to see if this is a covered benefit.


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