Cosmetic dentistry is a wonderful way to improve the appearance of your smile. It encompasses many different dental procedures, and one of the most popular is porcelain veneers. If you are thinking about investing in cosmetic dental work, this blog will help you understand what you need to know about veneers.
What is a Veneer?
The word “veneer” simply means a covering. Outside of dentistry, the most common usage of “veneer” is in cabinet making to describe a covering or laminate of wood over a substructure of some other material. The goal of the veneer is to change the appearance. In dentistry, a veneer can be porcelain or tooth-colored filling material called composite. A veneer covers the visible portion of a tooth only, which consists of the side facing the lips and cheeks and a small section of the biting surface.
Veneers can be as thin as a contact lens or a few millimeters in thickness. We determine the necessary thickness of a veneer by the level of change we want to produce. We can accomplish minor changes with super thin veneers, and we need thicker veneers in order to make large changes. The thickness of veneers also determines how much enamel we remove to create space for the porcelain or composite.
What Improvements can Veneers Make in a Smile?
Veneers can do almost anything except replace a missing tooth! There are very few limitations on veneers. As we just said, we cannot replace a missing tooth with veneers. In addition, we cannot create the appearance of straight teeth with veneers when the underlying teeth have severe crowding. We cannot rebuild teeth that have severe breakdown from large cavities either.
We use quotation marks in some of the headings below because while we are not technically whitening or straightening the teeth, the veneers will create a whiter or straighter appearance.
Because they cover the visible surface of teeth with a new material, we can choose what shade (color) the new smile will be. This means veneers can create a permanently white smile. We say “permanent” because the highly glaze surface of a porcelain veneer will not collect stains from coffee, tea and red wine the way that natural teeth will.
By covering the underlying teeth with veneers, we are able to cover up minor crowding or small gaps between the teeth. This gives the appearance of straightening the teeth, even though we are not actually moving any of them.
Changing the Shape and Size of Teeth
Veneers are a wonderful treatment for someone who does not like the shape and/or size of the teeth. With veneers, we can reshape and recreate teeth that fit your idea of a beautiful smile. There is a wide variety of what people consider the most attractive shape and size of teeth. What may meet one person’s cosmetic criteria would be unattractive to another. This is the beauty of veneers: we can create any shape you prefer!
What are the Risks of Veneers?
Because some types of veneers require removal of a significant amount of enamel, there are risks involved. These are relatively rare in occurrence, and the likelihood of risk is proportional to the amount of enamel removed. (Removing more enamel leads to a higher risk of the complications noted here.)
Removing enamel can lead to tooth sensitivity and an increased risk for cavities. In patients who clench or grind their teeth at night, there is a risk for the veneers cracking, chipping, or de-bonding (falling off the teeth). We always assess the likelihood of these risks in each specific patient so that we can take steps to prevent them from occurring.
What are the Alternatives to Veneers?
There are alternative cosmetic dental treatments on each end of the spectrum, both more conservative and more aggressive. If you desire minor improvements to your smile, you should lean toward the more conservative side. If you need major changes to the teeth in order to create your ideal smile, you may need more aggressive dental treatment.
More Conservative Alternatives
Patients who are happy with the shape, size and position of the teeth should consider starting with teeth whitening. Both over-the-counter and professional teeth whitening products can produce a brighter, whiter smile. Teeth whitening changes the color, only.
Perhaps you like the shape and size of your teeth, but not the crowded configuration or small spaces between the teeth. You can both straighten and whiten misaligned teeth with clear aligner therapy, like Invisalign®. The only cosmetic dilemma this option will not fix is that of teeth with an undesirable shape or size. Sometimes this is not apparent until you straight the teeth. We commonly use Invisalign® as a tool to improve the alignment of teeth before placing veneers to reshape or resize them.
More Aggressive Alternatives
When we say “more aggressive”, that simply means a dental treatment that requires more than just minor enamel removal.
An example of this would be a case in which the teeth you want to change have either active cavities or a large amount of existing dental work. When the dentist cleans out the decay or old fillings, there may not be enough solid tooth structure remaining to support a veneer. If this happens, the tooth requires a crown, which covers the entire exposed tooth rather than just the visible “face” of it.
Another example is a case in which the patient desires to change not only the teeth, but also the gums to create their ideal smile. Reshaping or re-contouring the gums is not a part of the veneer process, and it requires a separate procedure to accomplish the necessary changes.
More Questions about Veneers?
Call today to schedule a cosmetic consultation with our wonderful dentists. We can answer any question you have and give you specific recommendations based on your unique smile goals.