What are Porcelain Veneers?

Porcelain veneers, also called dental veneers or dental porcelain laminates, are wafer-thin shells of porcelain that are "glued" (bonded) onto the front side of teeth and can create a cosmetic improvement for a tooth. Porcelain veneers are routinely used by dentists as a way to make cosmetic changes for teeth that are discolored, worn, chipped, or misaligned.

What does a porcelain veneer look like?

A porcelain veneer looks a bit like a artificial fingernail and are usually very translucent (light will pass through it). That's because just like an artificial fingernail a porcelain veneer is very thin and delicate. Porcelain veneers are usually less than 1 millimeter thick, or about the thickness of a credit card.

Placing a Porcelain Veneer is not a reversible process.

A small amount of the tooth, most of which is enamel, is removed from a tooth when it is prepared for a porcelain veneer. But the procedure still requires less removal that a typical crwon preparation on a tooth. Porcelain veneers can can make dramatic changes for a smile but the process is not a reversible one. Once a tooth has had a porcelain veneer placed on it, it will always need a dental veneer covering of some sort on it so to look and function corrrectly. No dental restoration can be expected to last forever, so you will need to have your porcelain veneers replaced some time in the future.

Many times a dental crown is a better choice than a dental veneers.
A crown or a veneer can often produce the same cosmetic end result but these two types of dental restorations are very different.

Porcelain veneers are typically best suited for those situations where initially the tooth is still fairly intact (as opposed to having large portions missing due to fracture or decay) and when the tooth is not expected to be exposed to excessive loads (extreme chewing pressures or potential tooth clenching and grinding habits). When some aspect of the ideal conditions for a porcelain veneer are (or are expected to be) exceeded then a dental crown is typically the preferred dental restoration. The dentist will make a determination about which of these two procedures would be most appropriate for your particular situation.

What can dental veneers do for me?

1. Dental veneers can be used as a way to lighten the color of a person's teeth. This can be done by using dental veneers to change the intrinsic (current natural) color of a tooth, or to alter tooth staining as a result of exposure to chemical compounds, or to correct tooth staining associated with existing dental restorations or previous dental treatment.

2. Dental veneers can be used to create shape changes for teeth, such as closing spaces.

3. In some cases dental veneers can be used to change the apparent alignment of teeth instead of lenghty orthodontic treatment.

So, veneers are routinely used to fix:

Teeth that are discolored – either because of root canal treatment; stains from tetracycline or other drugs, excessive fluoride or other causes; or the presence of moderately large tooth colored 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)

Is dental anesthetic needed when teeth are prepared for porcelain veneers?

More than likely the dentist will need to "numb up" your tooth and its surrounding gums with a local anesthetic ("Novocaine") before he begins the process of preparing it for a porcelain veneer. Doing so will insure that you will be comfortable throughout the entire procedure.

In theory the amount of tooth reduction that a dentist needs to perform will be confined to just the enamel layer that covers the tooth. And if this is the case it might be possible that a dentist could trim a tooth without the dental patient experiencing discomfort or sensitivity.

In reality sometimes the edge of the veneer needs to lie on a tooth's root surface and this part of the tooth (tooth dentin) certainly can be sensitive when drilled upon. Additionally the thickness of the tooth's enamel can be so thin in certain areas, or become so thin during the drilling process, that sensitivity is experienced during the preparation procedure.

Another consideration relates to the gum tissue that surrounds the tooth. The tooth trimming required for a porcelain veneer will need to end either right at the gum line or just slightly below it. The dentist may need to push your gums back a little bit wiht a string (called a retraction cord) so they can work in this region without the drill touching them. Retracting gums in this manner can pinch somewhat.

How much to porcelain veneers cost?

The time and effort to create a porcelain veneer and a crown for a patient is virtually the same. In fact, veneers can take more time to place and finish, and the laboratory fees associated with them can be considerably higher than for a crown. So the fees for porcelain veneers are usually similar to that of a crown.

What Are the Disadvantages of Dental Veneers?

The downside to dental veneers include the following:

The process is not reversible.
Veneers are more costly than composite resin bonding.
Veneers are usually not repairable should they chip or crack.
Because enamel has been removed, your tooth may become more sensitive to hot and cold foods and beverages.
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, or other hard objects; or otherwise put 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 periodontal 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.

How Long Do Dental Veneers Last?

Veneers generally last between 5 and 10 years, possibly longer. After this time it is possible the veneers would need to be replaced.

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