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Dental Veneers

Authored by
Reviewed by Nathan Birnbaum, DDS

Dental veneers, sometimes referred to as porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates, are thin shells of tooth-colored material that cover the front surface of teeth. They were developed by Adrian Jurim, CDT, and received a US patent in 1986. Laminates can be made of either composite or dental porcelain. Although veneers are not always a cosmetic procedure, most insurance companies do not cover veneers because they are considered cosmetic. Today’s veneers are more advanced than those of a few years ago, with a translucent ceramic quality that gives them a more natural appearance. Dental veneers are expensive, but they are an excellent way to fix unattractive teeth. Veneers can solve most problems, including:

  • Missing teeth
  • Broken teeth
  • Cracked teeth
  • Chipped teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Worn out teeth
  • Uneven teeth
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Gaps between teeth

Types of Dental Veneers

There are two types of materials used to create dental veneers: composite resin and porcelain. Both are made in a dental laboratory by a dental technician, and are referred to as “indirect” veneers. However, so-called “direct” composite veneers are occasionally created in a patient’s mouth while he or she is at the dentist’s office. Such composite resin veneers are typically applied to the teeth in thin layers. Porcelain veneers are more expensive, but last longer than composite veneers. Once the veneers are created, they are bonded to the teeth with resin cement by the cosmetic dentist.

The good thing about both types of dental veneers is that they do not need any special care after they have been bonded to the teeth. It is always important to maintain excellent oral hygiene habits, especially if you do not have a full set of veneers. Dentists still suggest staying away from stain-causing foods and beverages (e.g., coffee and red wine) to ensure that non-veneered teeth do not change color.

The Dental Veneer Procedure

Typically you will need to see your dentist three times to complete the process, regardless of whether you are getting one or more veneers. The first visit is for a consultation, after which two more visits are needed to make and apply the veneers. During the consultation your dentist will take radiographs (x-rays) to make sure your teeth are in restorable condition and that you are a good candidate for veneers. He or she may also take impressions of your mouth and teeth. The x-rays and the examination of your mouth and teeth will help your dentist determine whether veneers are your best option. During the examination, your dentist will pay extra attention to the shade of your teeth, your facial features, and the measurements of your face. During this consultation you should ask your dentist anything you would like to know about veneers—the cost, details of the procedure, or anything else of that nature. You can expect to spend an hour or two at the consultation.

During the second appointment, your dentist will prepare your tooth for the veneer by removing about ½ millimeter of enamel from your tooth’s surface. The veneer is nearly equal in thickness to the amount removed. Before this is done you will be numbed with a local anesthetic. After the preparation your dentist will make an impression of your tooth and the adjacent and opposing teeth, using either an elastic impression material or a digital scanner. The impression is then sent to the laboratory where your veneer will be fabricated. The veneer will be returned to your dentist within one to three weeks. During the waiting period your tooth will be smaller than you are used to. If you feel it is necessary to have a temporary veneer applied, your dentist can do so, although you may be charged extra for the procedure.

When the dentist receives the custom veneers, you come in for the third visit. Your dentist will examine the veneer on your tooth to check its fit and color. It may need to be removed and trimmed to ensure that it fits properly. If the color is off, a cement may be used to adjust the veneer’s color for a better match to the adjacent teeth. Before the dental veneer is permanently bonded, your tooth will be prepared. It will be cleaned, polished, and etched, which aids the bonding process. Your dentist will then apply resin cement to your veneer and place it on your prepped tooth. Once the veneer is in its correct position, a special light beam is used to activate the chemicals in the cement, which causes them to harden quickly.

Your dentist will remove any cement that remains in the area, evaluate your bite, and make any necessary final adjustments. A follow-up visit will be scheduled for two to three weeks later to check the veneer’s placement and see if your gums are responding positively to it.

There is also a way to create and apply temporary veneers at home. These ‘no-prep’ veneers are molded to your existing teeth. They are made of a thin, flexible resin material and are removable and reusable. There are also do-it-yourself home kits available that allow you to take an impression of your teeth and send the impression to a lab. The lab will make you an actual veneer and send it back to you through the mail.

Dental Veneer Advantages

There are several advantages to wearing dental veneers, including:

  • Porcelain does not irritate the gum tissue.
  • They provide a natural tooth appearance.
  • Porcelain veneers are stain-resistant.
  • Porcelain veneers come in a variety of colors.
  • Veneers offer a stronger, more aesthetically appealing alternative to dental crowns.
  • They protect the surfaces of damaged teeth.
  • The procedure does not require too many invasive preparations.
  • Almost everyone is a candidate.
  • They can help build a person’s self-esteem.

Dental Veneer Disadvantages

Unfortunately there are disadvantages to wearing dental veneers, including:

  • Veneers are very expensive.
  • The process cannot be reversed.
  • Teeth may become sensitive because of the enamel that is removed.
  • The veneers may not match the color of your other teeth.
  • On rare occasions, veneers can fall out.
  • Veneers cannot be whitened or darkened, so if you want to whiten your teeth, you should do so before getting veneers.
  • If they break, chip, or crack, they cannot be repaired.
  • They will eventually need to be replaced.

Am I a Candidate for Dental Veneers?

Here are a few questions to help you determine whether you are a good candidate for dental veneers.

  • Do you grind your teeth at night?
  • Do you play partial or full-contact sports?
  • Do you have periodontal disease?
  • Do you have weak teeth as a result of fillings, decay, or fractures?
  • Do you have poor oral hygiene?

If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, you may not be a good candidate for veneers. Because it is considered a cosmetic procedure, veneers are usually not covered under most dental insurance plans. It is always best to seek advice from your dentist and your insurance company. There are alternatives to veneers, such as bonding and crowns, which are the most common options.

Cost of Dental Veneers

Composite veneers generally last for five to seven years and cost up to $1,500 per tooth, while porcelain veneers last ten to fifteen years but may cost up to $2,500. There are several factors that determine the cost of dental veneers, including:

  • Fees charged by the cosmetic dentist who performs the procedure
  • Whether or not your dental insurance will cover some of the cost
  • Material used (composite resin or porcelain)
  • Number of teeth requiring treatment

Most dentists are willing to offer payment plans for patients seeking cosmetic dentistry procedures such as dental veneers.

Talking to Your Dentist

Here are some questions you may want to ask your dentist about dental veneers:

  • Which type of veneers do you offer?
  • What other options do I have besides veneers?
  • My insurance will not cover the veneers. Can we work out a payment plan?
  • How much do you charge for each veneer? What does the cost include?
  • How long will this procedure last me? How many visits will it take to complete the work?
  • Do you have before-and-after photos of previous patients who have had this procedure done?
  • How long have you been creating and applying veneers?
  • What will my veneer procedure be like?
  • How should I prepare for this procedure?

Page updated September 2012



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