Everyone wants a perfect smile, but very few people are born with one. Thankfully, an advance in dentistry known as veneers can improve the smile of almost any individual.
What Are Veneers?
Veneers are a thin piece of tooth-colored material designed to cover actual teeth. They're custom-made for each patient and are usually applied for cosmetic reasons. Veneers are effective for hiding discoloration, brightening teeth and improving a person's overall smile. They're designed to mimic the strength and resilience of natural tooth enamel, are more resistant to staining and last for several years.
Why Do People Get Veneers?
Veneers are a viable option when a person's teeth are too discolored for conventional whitening or bleaching techniques. They also help make a person's smile look more uniform in terms of shape by hiding fractured teeth, correcting gaps between teeth or fixing minor bite-related problems where teeth are poorly positioned.
The technique first arose in the 1920s. Dr. Charles Pincus, a dentist for Hollywood celebrities, needed a way to improve his patients' smiles for their performances. He created acrylic veneers to attach to an actor's front teeth but could not find a way to make the new look permanent. The concept was discarded until the late 1950s. Dr. Michael Bunocore discovered using a mild acidic solution to etch the teeth made for a better bonding surface. The revised technique was mainly used for restorations and dental sealants. Then, in 1982, R. J. Simonsen and J. R. Calamia took Bunocore's research and found hydrofluoric acid would permanently fasten veneers to teeth.
What Are Veneers Made of?
Veneers are applied individually and created from either composite resin or porcelain. Resin veneers last between five and seven years, though proper oral hygiene helps them last longer. They are built in layers directly on a tooth and shaped and polished after the procedure.
Porcelain veneers require at least one week to create in a separate lab and are bonded to teeth by an adhesive layer. They are more expensive than their resin counterparts but last between 10 and 15 years on average.
"Porcelain veneers can range from $925 to $2,500."
How Much Do Veneers Cost?
Resin veneers cost between $250 and $1,500 per tooth, while porcelain veneers can range from $925 to $2,500. These prices depend on multiple factors, including the experience of the cosmetic dentist performing the procedure, the skill of the ceramist making porcelain veneers, the location of the dental practice, the patient's insurance and the number of teeth covered.
How Can I Pay for Veneers?
Since veneers are mostly for cosmetic purposes, they generally aren't covered by insurance. This isn't always the case, however, especially if the doctor provides proof as to how the veneers will improve a patient's health and quality of life. Patients can also enlist the help of a medical financing company to establish payment plans.
How Should I Choose a Dentist?
Skilled cosmetic dentists in or near major metropolitan areas generally charge more than their colleagues in less-populated locations. Those who have established a reputation for veneers charge the most, but each person should conduct research for themselves before selecting a dentist. Individuals should request pictures of prior patients before and after the procedure - not just industry stock photos but actual people the dentist worked on. Prospective patients should look at these photos carefully and ask themselves if they can distinguish the veneer from the actual teeth, if the person's smile looks artificial and whether or not the patient truly looks better.
In addition, patients should feel comfortable asking their dentist any and all questions about the process. They shouldn't stay with a professional who makes them feel rushed or ignored, and patients should be able to fully explain what they hope to gain from getting veneers. Also, no patient should stick with a dentist who forgoes necessary dental care in favor of installing veneers.
What is the Dental Procedure for Getting Veneers?
If necessary, a cosmetic dentist will begin by administering a local anesthetic so the patient feels little to no pain. Then, the dentist removes less than a millimeter of tooth enamel, allowing the veneer to fit naturally in the mouth. The tooth itself is reshaped slightly with a small cutting device called a bur, which is made of steel, stainless steel, tungsten carbide or diamond grit.
Porcelain veneers take at least two visits over the span of a few weeks.
If the patient is getting composite veneers, resin of the appropriate color is applied, shaped and hardened with a special light. Additional layers are applied if necessary until the veneer is shaped correctly. When the process is complete, the resin veneers are finished with a bur and polishers.
Porcelain veneers take at least two visits over the span of a few weeks. A cosmetic dentist begins by making an impression of a person's teeth. That impression is used to make a mold of the mouth, which is then sent to a laboratory where the porcelain is sculpted. If this lab is offsite, it could take a week or more for the dentistry office to receive the veneers. Otherwise, the porcelain may be ready in as little as one day.
Sometimes, a dentist fits a patient with temporary veneers until the real ones arrive. These are put in place during the initial visit. When it's time to install the true veneers, the temporary ones are removed. The porcelain veneers are evaluated for accuracy in shape, color and fit, and the teeth are cleaned with a mild acidic solution. Afterward, a small layer of enamel is removed. Then, the dentist applies adhesive to the tooth, places the veneer and bonds it with a strong light. The veneers and teeth are cleaned and polished once the procedure is finished.
How Does a Person Get Evaluated for Veneers?
Dentists begin with an analysis to examine a patient's current smile and determine what is necessary to achieve the appearance the patient wants. At this point, patients should describe their preferences in tooth color, shape, length and width. A dentist might also use digital imaging to provide patients with mock-up before-and-after pictures. Since veneers are expensive and should only be tampered with if absolutely necessary, it's important dentists understand their patients' wishes as clearly and accurately as possible before beginning.
Getting veneers is not a reversible procedure.
Are There Any Reasons I Should Not Get Veneers?
Because the process involves removing tooth enamel, getting veneers is not a reversible procedure. Patients must be absolutely sure of their decision before proceeding.
Individuals with bad oral hygiene such as gum disease or dental decay can't get veneers until the ailments are treated. Those missing a significant portion of their tooth or who have a large part of it replaced with a filling also aren't viable candidates. Unfortunately, their teeth won't be strong enough for the porcelain or resin. Similarly, veneers need a sufficient amount of enamel to bond properly. A person lacking enough enamel should seek out other options for improving their smile.
How Much Do Veneers Cost to Maintain?
Maintaining veneers is simple - they are treated just as one would treat normal teeth. A dentist will suggest a nonabrasive fluoride toothpaste for patients to brush with, and individuals should floss and rinse daily.
However, veneers do not stay in perfect condition forever. They have the potential to stain, although it is much harder to do so, and porcelain ones carry the danger of chipping. Even perfectly maintained veneers need to be replaced after a few years, so patients should expect to pay operating costs again approximately every decade or so.
Are There Cheaper Alternatives to Veneers?
Bonding is a procedure similar to installing composite veneers. Resin is used to fill in gaps and restore chipped or broken teeth, similar to a dental filing. To begin the procedure, dentists apply a solution to make the surface of the tooth slightly rough. This allows the bonding material to adhere. The dentist then applies, colors and shapes the resin before hardening the material with a high-intensity light in a manner similar to placing veneers. While the bonding material is similar in color to a natural tooth, it is also porous and will yellow and stain easily. Bonding costs approximately $300 to $600 per tooth.
Dental crowns are similar to veneers but do more than just improve appearances. Crowns protect weak or broken teeth, cover dental implants, hold dental bridges in place and support teeth with large fillings. Of all the materials used to make crowns - including gold alloy and stainless steel - only a few mimic the color of natural teeth. Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns look the closest to a person's natural tooth color, but they damage the adjacent teeth. The metal also sometimes shows at the gum line, making them a bad choice for purely cosmetic purposes.
Resin, all-ceramic and all-porcelain crowns are weaker and more prone to fractures than the porcelain-fused-to-metal option, but they are less expensive. The latter two also damage opposing teeth, but they're a good option for people with certain allergies.
Choosing veneers over crowns depends on the patient's individual priorities. Many dentists consider veneers more difficult to place and thus charge more for them. However, teeth covered in crowns are more likely to shift during the weeks after placement. Crowns also do not last as long as veneers in terms of looks.
However, crowns are a suitable alternative for patients whose oral hygiene prevents them from getting veneers. These are individuals who either don't have enough enamel for veneers or suffer from tooth decay or severely misaligned teeth.
Lumineers are another, more modern alternative to veneers. They're similar to porcelain veneers in theory, but Lumineers are thinner - approximately the width of a contact lens. This thinness allows them to rest on a tooth without removing much enamel at all. What's more, Lumineers are translucent and are thus better able to replicate the appearance of a natural tooth. Patients who choose to use Lumineers over traditional veneers should consult a dental specialist certified in the procedure.
Porcelain veneers need polishing with a special, non-abrasive paste.
What Must I Do for Recovery?
Patients should schedule a follow-up appointment a week after getting their veneers. This is just a general check-in to make sure the teeth are adapting smoothly. Afterward, patients should schedule regular appointments with their dentist, as porcelain veneers need polishing with a special, non-abrasive paste. This is also a chance for dentists to inspect the veneers for any signs of damage or failure.
After the procedure, a patient's teeth might become sensitive to hot or cold foods. Dentists generally provide a list of foods and beverages that will cause stains or damage.
Porcelain veneers can potentially chip or fracture, so patients should avoid hard objects like nut shells, bones, ice and hard candies. They also should not use their teeth to tear or open objects such as packages or pill bottles.
If a patient grinds or clenches his or her teeth, dentists may suggest a bite guard for sleeping. Patients can get a generic night guard from the grocery store for approximately $20, but those who prefer a custom option will have to pay more. Some websites promise individually tailored guards starting at $100 and require patients to make a mold of their teeth at home. Guards designed by a dentist average $300 to $500 but can cost $800 or more depending on materials.
While veneers aren't a necessary medical procedure, they make a person's smile more uniform and can help improve self-esteem. Ultimately, it is up to the individual whether or not he or she would like to proceed, as veneers require a lifelong commitment. Still, they are more effective at cosmetic enhancements than at-home treatments like tooth whitening strips and give individuals a natural, pearly white smile.