Veneers are ultra-thin shells of ceramic (porcelain) or a composite resin material, which are bonded to the front of teeth. This procedure requires little or no anesthesia and can be the ideal choice for improving the appearance of the front teeth. Veneers are placed to mask discolorations, to brighten teeth and to improve a smile.
Why a veneer?
Veneers are an excellent alternative to crowns in many situations. They provide a much more conservative approach to changing a tooth's color, size or shape. Veneers can mask undesirable defects, such as teeth stained by tetracycline and damage due to an injury or as a result of a root-canal procedure. They are ideal for masking discolored fillings in front teeth. Patients with gaps between their front teeth or teeth that are chipped or worn may consider veneers. Generally, veneers will last for many years, and the technique has shown remarkable longevity when properly performed.
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!
Veneers Consultation and Treatment Planning
To determine if you are a candidate for dental veneers, your dentist will schedule a preliminary consultation during which your oral health will be evaluated and all available treatment options discussed. Veneer treatment involving tooth preparation is irreversible, so it is important that your dentist discuss any alternatives that provide the same results but with minimal to no removal of tooth structure. If you and your dentist decide that veneers are the best option, the next step involves a thorough review of treatment details, including preparing your teeth for your specific veneer procedure and what will be necessary for them to look and fit correctly.
During your veneers consultation, you will actively participate in the "smile design process." By sharing your preferences for the shape, length, width and color of the veneers and the change in the appearance of your smile that you want them to create, you help ensure that your veneer treatment will meet your expectations. It is important that your dentist understands your objectives when undergoing a veneer procedure.
The Dental Veneer Procedure
The dental veneer procedure can often be completed in two dental visits over the course of six weeks. The visits are comprehensive and may require several hours of examination and tooth preparation. Dental offices typically boast amenities that may include sedation dentistry and audio/visual distractions, and dental spas even offer massages and other services to help you relax and stay comfortable.
The diagnostic and examination phase of dental veneer treatment is essential and identifies any oral health concerns that must first be addressed before veneer placement. Your dentist also will work with you to select the best tooth color for you from a special shade chart. Imaging technologies can provide you with a preview of your expected results, and before and after images can allow you to view other successful cases. Treatment begins when the examination is completed and the customized plan designed.
There are several steps in the dental veneer procedure. First, your dentist will likely administer a local anesthetic so you will be comfortable during tooth preparation and placement of the veneer. Your natural tooth is then prepared by minimally reshaping it with a small handheld rotational cutting device called a bur to provide the best fit. Burs come in various shapes and sizes and allow precise and minimal shaping of a tooth prior to veneer placement.
If your treatment involves direct composite resin veneers, your dentist then will apply the appropriately shaded composite to your teeth, shape the material and harden it using a high intensity light. Additional layers of composite may be applied to build the veneer to the correct shape, length and form for your smile. When all composite is placed, the veneers will be finished and polished using burs and polishers to create a vital and lifelike smile.
If your treatment requires porcelain veneers, your dentist will make an impression of your teeth from which a mold of your mouth will be made. This impression may be sent to an outside dental laboratory where the veneers will be professionally fabricated. Some dentists have an in-house dental laboratory and technicians to provide restorative and esthetic treatments such as porcelain veneers in less time. Other dentists have chairside CAD/CAM technology and may fabricate the veneer in one visit.