Dental veneers (sometimes called porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates) are thin pieces of porcelain used to recreate the natural look of teeth, while also providing strength and resilience comparable to natural tooth enamel. It is often the material of choice for those looking to make slight position alterations, or to change tooth shape, size, and/or color.
Veneers are routinely used to fix:
- Teeth that are discolored — either because of root canal treatment; stains from tetracycline or other medications, 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 (for example, have craters or bulges in them)
- Teeth with gaps between them (to close the space between these teeth)
You’ll often hear people say that celebrities have veneers and this may seem like the best way to replicate picture-perfect teeth, but each mouth is different and veneers need to be carefully researched. Communication with your dentist about what you want corrected is critical for a successful result. Spend time clearly identifying what cosmetic improvements you want to accomplish. Deciding that porcelain veneers will create the look you want is only one step in the process. There is much more to learn before proceeding further.
The Benefits of Veneers
- Since veneers are individually sculpted for each patient, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between a veneer and a natural tooth. Unlike natural teeth, custom-made veneers resist coffee and tea stains, and cigarette smoke because they are made of high-tech materials.
- With veneers—as opposed to crowns—your natural teeth remain largely intact with only a minimal amount being altered to fit the veneer.
- For teeth that resist whitening, veneers can make even the darkest teeth appear bright white.
- Dentists may also recommend veneers to quickly fix minor twists, overlaps, and small gaps.
Potential Veneer Downsides
- Because a portion of the original tooth enamel is reduced, a veneer is not considered a reversible treatment. Although adjustments and even new veneers can be made, you can never reliably return to the original condition of the tooth.
- Creating porcelain veneers requires some laboratory time, so expect at least a week before they’re ready to be applied.
- After the porcelain veneers are attached you will probably have some sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures due to the removal of that thin layer of enamel. This typically disappears within a few days. In a healthy mouth properly treated with porcelain veneers—and where destructive forces are minimized or eliminated—a patient should be able to use porcelain veneers like his or her own teeth. Although they’re very strong, veneers are also brittle. You should avoid the same excessive stresses you would avoid with non-veneered teeth: don’t bite your fingernails, chew ice, or open beer bottles with your veneers!
Maintenance of a Porcelain Veneer
- Maintaining porcelain veneers is actually quite simple: Treat them as you would your original teeth, with routine brushing and flossing. Using non-abrasive fluoride toothpaste will typically be suggested by your dental professional.
- One week after your veneers are placed, you will be required to return to the office for a follow–up visit and evaluation so the dentist can see how your mouth is reacting to the veneers. Even if you feel the veneers are a success, this appointment is vital to your future oral health.
- If you have a habit of grinding or clenching your teeth, your dentist may fit you with a nighttime bite guard so you do not damage your veneers.
- You should also return to your dentist for regular professional maintenance because porcelain veneers should be polished with a specially formulated, non-abrasive paste, and because your dentist needs to inspect your dentistry for any sign of potential failure.
How Long Do Dental Veneers Last?
Veneers generally last between 5 and 10 years. After this time, the veneers would need to be replaced.
Are There Alternatives to Dental Veneers?
Yes, alternatives to veneers include bondings 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.