What Are Porcelain Veneers?
Modern porcelain veneers are durable, tooth-shaped, natural-looking dental prosthetics that are bonded to the surfaces of the front teeth to mask cosmetic imperfections. They can be used to close gaps, elongate the teeth, cover stains and discoloration, and make the teeth appear uniform and straight.
Procedure – Placing Veneers
Before porcelain veneers can be placed, your dentist must first conduct a thorough evaluation of your teeth. During this step in the process, you and your dentist will discuss your aesthetic goals and your oral health, and he or she will inform you of your treatment options. If it’s decided that porcelain veneers are the treatment best suited to your needs, the affected tooth or teeth will be prepared for acceptance of the veneer.
Step 1 – Preparation of the Tooth: Once it’s been determined that veneers are right for you, the first step entails removing the outer layer of enamel to provide space for the accompanying porcelain veneer, and to create a suitable surface with which the veneer can be attached. Because the enamel is removed, the placement process for porcelain veneers is irreversible. Though your veneers can be replaced should they chip, crack, or become worn down, they cannot be removed.
Step 2 – Taking an Impression: Once the teeth have been prepared and the appropriate thickness of enamel has been removed, digital or physical impressions will be taken of the teeth. From these impressions, your dental veneers will be designed and fabricated so that they specifically match your smile. Veneers can be fabricated in a dental laboratory, typically off-site, or chairside using an in-house milling machine, such as CEREC®. This will differ by practice, as some dentists opt to utilize the services of outside laboratories while others choose to fabricate dental prosthetics in-office.
Step 3 – Placing a Temporary Veneer: After the tooth has been prepared and your impressions taken, a temporary veneer will be placed to serve as a placeholder while your permanent veneer is fabricated (except in cases of chairside restorations).
Step 4 – Placing Your Permanent Veneer: Upon completion of your veneers, you will return to your dentist’s office to have your temporary veneers removed and your permanent veneers placed. The shape and color of the veneer will be checked to ensure a suitable match with surrounding teeth, and will then be placed. The veneer is held in place with permanent dental cement, and the bond holds almost immediately. Once the veneer has been positioned, you’ll enjoy an entirely new smile.
Are You a Candidate for Porcelain Veneers?
Individuals with small teeth, gaps in-between the teeth, cracked or chipped teeth, misshapen teeth, minor malocclusion, or teeth that have become worn down may all benefit from porcelain veneers. Whether veneers are right for you will depend on a variety of factors, which can be discussed in detail during your initial consultation with your dentist. There are alternatives, however, and it’s important that you weigh the alternatives and consider all options before making a decision regarding treatment.
Alternative Treatment Options
In some cases, your needs may be met through other means or porcelain veneers will prove unsatisfactory as a solution for your goals. For the types of issues porcelain veneers are typically utilized to address, the following options can also serve as effective treatments.
Dental Bonding – Veneers are designed to mask minor cosmetic imperfections such as chips, cracks, and unsightly gaps in-between teeth. However, the placement process involves removing the outer portion of enamel from the tooth, permanently altering its shape and strength. For that reason, veneers may not be the best option if the flaws being corrected are truly small in scope. In such instances, dental bonding may be better suited to meet your needs. This direct restoration can be administered in a single dental appointment and can instantly restore the shape and appearance of an affected tooth. By applying the dental bonding material directly, it can be molded, matched to the tooth, and hardened in place so that it is an exact match.
Orthodontics – Because porcelain veneers can mask gaps in-between teeth, they are sometimes referred to as “instant orthodontics” because they can provide the appearance of a straight, uniform smile nearly instantly. Quite simply, once the veneers are in place, any unsightly gaps or minor crowding will be effectively hidden from view. That being said, veneers are no alternative to true orthodontic appliances. It is important to note that veneers provide merely the appearance of straight teeth – they do not actually straighten the teeth. If your teeth are severely crowded, misshapen, or misaligned, traditional orthodontic treatment will be necessary to correct the health, function, and appearance of your teeth.
The importance of a personal consultation between you and your dentist cannot be overstated. During this meeting, your dentist will evaluate your oral health and the state of your smile and determine the most effective course of action to help you realize your goals.
Weighing the Risks and Benefits of Veneers
The risks associated with porcelain veneers are minimal (veneers can become damaged or worn down over time, at which point replacement will be necessary) but there are serious considerations that one must take before deciding on treatment. The removal of tooth material is permanent and non-invasive alternatives should always be considered first. If your aesthetic goals can be realized through other means, such as teeth whitening or dental bonding, then it is likely in your best interest to take advantage of these alternatives.
If you do opt for porcelain veneers, then you can enjoy tremendous benefits. A straight, uniform, bright white smile can have a profound impact on your appearance, self-esteem, confidence, and proclivity to interact with others, as well as leave a lasting impression on the people that you meet. You can enjoy improved quality of life and take pride in a new-found confidence and sense of self. Your smile is a defining trait of your appearance, and with porcelain veneers, you can have the smile of your dreams.
Factoring Cost into the Equation – What Will You Pay?
The cost of porcelain veneers differs by dentist, by state, by community, and perhaps most fundamentally, by patient. Every treatment is unique, and designing, fabricating, and placing porcelain veneers is different from patient to patient. The cost of your veneers treatment is impossible to accurately predict; that being said, typical costs for porcelain veneers in the United States range from $750 to $3,000 per veneer. Should you require more than one veneer, total treatment costs can range from as low as $1,500 to as high as $20,000 – again, consulting with your dentist is a crucial step in the process of determining what the cost of your treatment will be. It should be noted that porcelain veneers are considered an elective procedure and typically are not covered through dental insurance.