Dental veneers (sometimes called porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates) are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front surface of teeth to improve your appearance. These shells are bonded to the front of the teeth changing their color, shape, size, or length.
Dental veneers can be made from porcelain or from resin composite materials. Porcelain veneers resist stains better than resin veneers and better mimic the light reflecting properties of natural teeth. You will need to discuss the best choice of veneer material for you with your dentist.
Getting a dental veneer usually requires three trips to the dentist – one for a consultation and two to make and apply the veneers. One tooth or many teeth can simultaneously undergo the veneering process described below.
Diagnosis and treatment planning. This first step involves your active participation. Explain to your dentist the result that you are trying to achieve. During this appointment, your dentist will examine your teeth to make sure dental veneers are appropriate for you and discuss what the procedure will involve and some of its limitations. He or she also may take X-rays and possibly make impressions of your mouth and teeth.
Preparation. To prepare a tooth for a veneer, your dentist will remove about 1/2 millimeter of enamel from the tooth surface, which is an amount nearly equal to the thickness of the veneer to be added to the tooth surface. Before trimming off the enamel, you and your dentist will decide the need for a local anesthetic to numb the area. Next, your dentist will make a model or impression of your tooth. This model is sent out to a dental laboratory, which in turn constructs your veneer. It usually takes 2-4 weeks for your dentist to receive the veneers back from the laboratory. For very unsightly teeth, temporary dental veneers can be placed.
Bonding. Before the dental veneer is permanently cemented to your tooth, your dentist will temporarily place it on your tooth to examine its fit and color. He or she will repeatedly remove and trim the veneer as needed to achieve the proper fit; the veneer color can be adjusted with the shade of cement to be used. Next, to prepare your tooth to receive the veneer, your tooth will be 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 your tooth. Once properly position on the tooth, your dentist will apply a special light beam to the dental veneer, which activates chemicals in the cement, causing it to harden or cure very quickly. The final steps involve removing any excess cement, evaluating your bite and making any final adjustments in the veneer as necessary. Your dentist may ask you to return for a follow-up visit in a couple of weeks to check how your gums are responding to the presence of your veneer and to once again examine the veneer’s placement.
Veneers offer the following advantages:
They provide a natural tooth appearance.
Gum tissue tolerates porcelain well.
Porcelain veneers are stain resistant.
The color of a porcelain veneer can be selected such that it makes dark teeth appear whiter.
Veneers offer a conservative approach to changing a tooth’s color and shape; veneers generally don’t require the extensive shaping prior to the procedure that crowns do, yet offer a stronger, more aesthetic alternative.
Veneers generally last between 7 and 15 years. After this time, the veneers would need to be replaced.
Dental veneers do not require any special care. Continue to follow good oral hygiene practices, including brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash as you normally would.
Even though porcelain veneers resist stains, your dentist may recommend that you avoid stain-causing foods and beverages (for example, coffee, tea, or red wine).
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.