A veneer is a thin layer of tooth-coloured material that is put onto the front surface of a tooth to make it look better. Traditionally veneers are made of porcelain but sometimes a tooth-coloured ‘composite’ material is used instead of porcelain.
Veneers can appear to improve the colour, shape and sometimes position of your teeth. A veneer can make a chipped tooth look whole again. The porcelain covers the whole of the front of the tooth, with a thicker section replacing the broken bit. A veneer can be used to disguise a darkened tooth by covering the front of the tooth in a shade of porcelain that is lighter than the tooth.
Veneers can also be used to close small gaps, when orthodontics (braces) are not suitable. If one tooth is slightly out of position, sometimes a veneer can be used to make it seem more in line with the other teeth.
Your dentist will carry out a full dental assessment to check that you are a suitable candidate to have veneers. They will carefully check your bite (occlusion) and the health of your gums. They will also check that any fillings in the tooth are OK.
A local anaesthetic is used to make sure there is no discomfort.
A small amount of natural tooth substance is drilled away from the tooth to make room for the veneer.
Once the tooth has been prepared the dentist will use a putty-like material to take an ‘impression’(mould) of your teeth. This is then given to the dental technician (lab) along with any other information needed to make the veneers such as the shade of the surrounding teeth.
A temporary veneer is fitted to the tooth until the permanent veneer is ready. When the permanent veneer comes back from the lab, the dentist will show you it on the tooth to make sure that you are happy with how it looks. The veneer can then be bonded in with a special adhesive that holds it firmly in place.
In cases where several veneers are being placed, there is at least one additional visit for a what is called a ‘mockup’. This gives the patient the chance to trial their new smile using a temporary material. They can then give feedback and suggest alterations regarding size and shape of the teeth.
Nothing lasts forever in dentistry. Veneers should last for many years (15 is what dentists often quote); but they can chip or break in the same way that your own teeth can.
Veneers can sometimes come away from (fall off) the tooth or break if the tooth gets knocked. Sometimes they can be bonded back on but if they are damaged, they will need to be replaced.
If you grind your teeth at night you will need to wear a nightguard to help protect your veneers and the rest of your teeth from damage.
There is a biological cost associated with putting a veneer on a tooth. Everytime you drill a tooth, that is a negative stimulus to the nerve at the centre of a tooth. A percentage of teeth that are prepared for veneers will die off and require root canal treatment. Various studies put this figure at 5-15%.
When making the decision to place veneers on teeth, patients should take into consideration the costs that will be involved in replacing them in the future.
When replacing veneers, if there is not enough enamel surface of the remaining tooth to bond to, crowns will likely be required instead. Crowns are more destructive than veneers.
As previously mentioned, veneers can come away from the tooth and this could possibly happen at an inopportune time.
Traditionally veneers have been made of porcelain. An alternative is to use a tooth-coloured filling material called composite. This is sculpted onto the tooth and then bonded in place. This is termed ‘composite bonding’. Composite is not as strong as porcelain and so is more prone to chipping. Composite bonding when done well can look as good as porcelain but it loses its polished look over time. Composite bonding generally doesn’t involve any drilling down of the natural tooth structure.
Veneers can greatly improve the appearance of some peoples’ smile when done well. They hide imperfections and involve the removal of very little natural tooth substance when prepared carefully. If the tooth is strong, a veneer is often a better option than a crown for improving a tooth’s appearance as it is less destructive.
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