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What is a veneer?

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If you have teeth that are badly discolored, uneven, or chipped and broken, then veneers might be for you. They’re commonly used to change a tooth’s color, size, shape and even length. Veneers can be used on one tooth, or all your teeth, depending on your preference and budget.

What are veneers and how do they work?

Veneers are custom-made shells that cover the front surfaces of your teeth. The shells are very thin and made from either porcelain or resin composite materials commonly used in other dental procedures such as fillings. The type of material used for your veneers depends on your teeth and gum health.

Veneers can be a good option for you if you have some of these problems:

  • Your teeth are worn down (not all the same length, for example);
  • Your teeth are chipped or broken;
  • You have gaps between teeth;
  • Your teeth are uneven or irregularly shaped.

It’s important to understand that getting veneers is an expensive procedure not usually covered by dental plans. If veneers are to be used, it would be best to have your dentist submit a pre-determination estimate with proper documentation (written and x-ray evidence) as to the reason for the diagnosis of a veneer.

How are veneers placed on my teeth?

Getting veneers usually takes two or three trips to your dentist – this includes a consultation (with X-rays), a fitting and a visit to have the veneers applied.

To create an “even” appearance, your dentist must file off about a millimeter of enamel from the tooth. (Don’t worry – a local anesthetic will be used so you won’t feel any pain.) Your dentist will then make impressions of the teeth and have them sent to a lab to make the veneers, a process that takes two to four weeks. This “tooth mold” ensures that the veneer will fit properly once it’s applied.

If your teeth are badly chipped and broken, you might get temporary veneers while you wait for the final product.

  1. Once your permanent veneers arrive, your dentist will place them on your teeth as a test to be sure they fit correctly and that you are happy with the appearance. Once the test fit and your satisfaction are assured, the application process will begin. (If your dentist sees the veneers don’t fit correctly, a new impression will be taken and another fit will be scheduled.)
  2. To apply the veneer, your dentist will clean, polish and etch your tooth, making the surface rough so the bonding material adheres better.
  3. A special bonding cement is applied to the veneer, which is then placed on your tooth. A light beam that generates heat is then directed at the tooth, causing the bonding cement to harden.
  4. Once the veneer is attached, your dentist will clean any excess bonding cement, check your bite and make adjustments, if necessary.

What are the advantages to getting veneers?

  • Veneers give your teeth an evenly spaced, bright appearance.
  • Veneers don’t stain, so you don’t have to worry about polishing them like you would your natural teeth.
  • Your gums generally don’t react to the material. (This is something your dentist can test ahead of time.)
  • Getting veneers doesn’t require significant filing down or re-shaping of your teeth, which happens when you have a crown.

Are there drawbacks to getting veneers?

Although everyone’s teeth respond differently to veneers, here are some of the potential pitfalls to consider:

  • They’re permanent: You can’t get veneers and then have them removed because enamel had to be filed off to make the veneers fit.
  • Chips and cracks can’t easily be repaired: Although they’re quite strong once the bonding cement is dry, veneers can chip or even fall off if you put excessive pressure on your teeth. Avoid biting your nails, chewing on pencils or crunching on ice. Keep in mind that when you replace a veneer, the new color may not be identical to that of your original veneer.
  • They are more expensive than other whitening procedures: Veneers are not necessarily covered by your insurance, especially if you’re having them applied for cosmetic reasons. Check your benefits before deciding.
  • You cannot whiten your teeth after getting veneers: The color you choose for veneers is the color you will have moving forward, so be sure you are happy with the look.
  • Your teeth might be more sensitive: Hot and cold foods and drinks might bother you a bit because of the enamel that had to be removed for the veneers.
  • They will need to be replaced eventually: Veneers tend to last seven to 15 years.

What are my options besides veneers?

If you have tooth decay, large fillings or gum disease, you probably aren’t a good candidate for veneers, but you still have options.

  • Whitening: If you have badly discolored teeth, you can still have whitening done at your dentist’s office. Check to see if your dental benefits cover teeth whitening.
  • Uneven teeth: Your dentist may recommend filing down a tooth that is too long to align better with other teeth, or having a crown placed on a short tooth to make it longer.

As with any dental procedure, it’s important to discuss all your options with your dentist to find what would work best for you. Be sure to check your dental benefits to see what your coverage is and ask your dentist to submit a pre-treatment estimate to check your approximate out-of-pocket costs.

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Last updated: July 2018

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.