Porcelain Veneers Cost
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The cost of a porcelain veneer can range from $800 to $3,000 per tooth. This price can differ radically from case to case because of several factors, including the dentist's reputation and credentials, materials used, manufacturing methods, the extent of treatment, and the geographic location of the practice.
I have seen smile design take huge leaps forward over the last 30 years. Having personally witnessed the often life-changing benefits that a properly performed porcelain veneer treatment can provide, I believe it is essential that people who are interested in upgrading their smiles understand why their treatment carries a certain price tag, and how to get the most out of their investment.
Cost: Then versus Now
"Once everyone saw how beautifully porcelain veneers worked, it became a much more expensive treatment."
Believe it or not, porcelain veneers cost about $100 to $200 per tooth when they were first developed in the late 1970s. In today's terms, that's still only about $550 per tooth, but that modest price did not last long. Irwin Smigel, DDS, founder of the American Society for Dental Aesthetics, made a landmark appearance on the early 1980s variety show That's Incredible!, demonstrating the transformative power of veneers. Suddenly, demand - and price - increased dramatically.
"When we first started, the procedure was very affordable," Dr. Smigel said. "But once everyone saw how beautifully porcelain veneers worked, it became a much more expensive treatment."
As demand for porcelain veneers grew, new materials and techniques came into use, making it possible to provide stronger, more natural-looking enhancements.
There are several kinds of dental porcelains that can be used to create veneers. Each offers unique advantages that make it more appropriate in some cases than in others. The cost of these materials varies, but it is important to consider that extensive work using a less expensive material could ultimately carry a higher price than minimal work performed using a more expensive material.
e.max® Press and Empress® 2 veneers are made of pressed ceramic, layered by a skilled lab technician to realistically mimic the translucency and subtle color transitions seen in natural teeth. e.max® Press consists of lithium disilicate glass ceramic. Empress® 2 contains a disilicate core layered with sintered glass ceramic. The two brands are similarly priced. While some patients and dentists find that Empress® 2 provides the most natural-looking results, clinical tests have found e.max® Press to be more than twice as durable. Because they are especially strong, e.max® Press veneers can be thinner, thus requiring less preparation of the tooth than Empress® 2 veneers.
Feldspathic veneers are created by hand-layering a liquid porcelain either into an impression of the patient's tooth, or onto the tooth itself. These veneers can be very thin, and are usually a good choice if you are not trying to make major changes to the shape or color of the teeth. The results can be exceptionally natural-looking, and can require little or no preparation of the natural tooth. The intricate layering, along with the skill required to apply the porcelain, can make this one of the most costly options in veneers.
No-prep or minimal-prep veneers are especially thin, and can usually be placed without having to alter the structure of the natural tooth. Depending upon the dentist you choose, no-prep veneers can cost about as much as Empress® and e.max® crowns. An added benefit of no-prep veneers for some patients is that the treatment can be reversed; that is, the veneer can be removed and the natural tooth can function without a restoration of any kind. On the other hand, a tooth that has been prepped for a traditional veneer will always require some kind of restoration, so patients should expect further expenses at some point in the future.
The materials used in your treatment will depend upon your needs and your dentist's recommendations. For example, a patient may require an exceptionally durable e.max® Press veneer on one tooth, an Empress 2® veneer on another, and a feldspathic veneer elsewhere.
Choosing the Right Dentist
The dentist you choose will easily have the greatest influence on the cost of your porcelain veneers. The dentist's credibility plays a major role in what he or she charges. Put simply, a dentist who has been in practice for 20 years and has earned a reputation for delivering beautiful results can charge more than a dentist who has been in practice for six months.
"Does the patient's enhanced smile have the dreaded "chicklet" look, or otherwise appear artificial?
Does the patient truly look better for having undergone the procedure?"
While credibility speaks volumes, it is also very important to conduct a close analysis of the doctor's work in order to determine whether you feel his or her price is justified.
Take a look at the before-and-after photos of the dentist's porcelain veneer patients. They should have dozens of them on file for you to examine, and they should depict the doctor's actual patients. As you browse the photos, ask yourself: Can I pick out the veneer from among the patient's natural teeth? Does the patient's enhanced smile have the dreaded "chicklet" look, or otherwise appear artificial? Does the patient truly look better for having undergone the procedure?
To further investigate whether a dentist is worth your money, ask if members of his or her office staff have had a veneer placed by the dentist. This will give you the opportunity to see the dentist's work up close and in person.
Your dentist should also be willing to spend plenty of time answering your questions. I typically spend at least 90 minutes with my patients during consultations to answer questions, go through before and after photos, and basically get an understanding of their needs and goals. Your dentist should also make certain that you are not experiencing any health issues that must be addressed before moving forward with a cosmetic treatment.
Be sure to ask about the dentist's process of creating and placing the veneers. A lack of communication between the dentist and the ceramists who create the veneers is one of the most common reasons why some porcelain veneer treatments fail to deliver satisfying results. My personal approach is to determine what the final results should look like, and work backwards from there. In other words, I will take time to create a wax-up and provide provisional veneers that patients can wear for several weeks. This gives patients an intimate understanding of how their enhanced smile will look. It also gives the patient a chance to make certain that their veneers will feel comfortable. I encourage patients to give me detailed feedback regarding the look of their veneers and their effect - if any - on how their teeth meet when they bite down. In some cases, veneers can actually improve the balance of your bite. Once I have made the adjustments necessary to achieve comfort as well as the desired appearance, we use the provisional veneers as the template. At that point, the patient, the ceramist, and I have a clear expectation of what the final results should look like.
Provisional veneers also help me to make sure that permanent veneers will not interfere with speech, and you should ask questions to be certain that your dentist is considering this when designing your treatment. When a patient tries on their provisional veneers, I always do speech testings. If the patient can't say "f" and "s," those veneers are not in the right place. Keep in mind that when it comes to your teeth, form follows function. If your dentist takes time to provide veneers that feel comfortable and allow you to speak and chew normally, they will probably look good, too.
Being discriminating when it comes to your dentist is one of the best ways to make sure that you will be happy with the results of your treatment.
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"When it comes to the difference in the cost of veneers between one region and another, it really goes back to a cost of living thing, in addition to overhead expenses."
The geographic location of your dentist's practice will probably have a significant impact on the price you can expect to pay for treatment. One might assume that coastal residents are simply more image-conscious or more aware of treatments like porcelain veneers, resulting in a higher demand. However, John Goodman, DDS, a cosmetic dentist practicing in Kansas City, Missouri, says his patients are typically very well-acquainted with these treatments, and many are eager to experience the benefits.
"When it comes to the difference in the cost of veneers between one region and another, it really goes back to a cost of living thing, in addition to overhead expenses," Dr. Goodman explained. "Obviously, the cost of real estate in Los Angeles and New York City is much different than in the Midwest."
Number of Veneers
In general, it is fair to say that more veneers equals a higher overall price. However, on a price-per-veneer basis, a plan that involves only one veneer can still be costly. It is more difficult to match a single veneer to a mouth full of natural teeth than it is to match 10 veneers to each other. The chances of creating a single veneer that looks exactly right on the first try are much lower, so the lab may have to make more than one attempt. That is why many practices will charge as much as a 50 percent premium for a single veneer.
Handmade Veneers versus Machine-made Veneers
When meeting with a dentist about porcelain veneers, be sure to ask how and where the veneers are created. While many practices work with an offsite laboratory where technicians and ceramists create veneers by hand, other practices are adopting new in-office computer-aided drafting (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technology that allows them to provide veneers in a very short amount of time.
Veneers created using CAD/CAM technology can save hundreds in lab fees and provisional veneers, but in many ways, they don't provide the same value. Patients must understand that a machine milling a veneer out of a single block of porcelain cannot provide the natural-looking results a ceramic artist can. In order to create a realistic-looking veneer, you have to be able to layer different translucencies. If you take a close look at your own teeth in the mirror, you will notice that they are not one shade - they are multidimensional. Presently, machine-made veneers do not capture the subtle nuances that make a veneer look natural. It's also important to note that with single-visit veneers, there is no opportunity to try in a provisional veneer or provide detailed feedback about how the veneer can be improved. Handmade veneers give you much more for your money.
Choice of Laboratories
If, like me, your dentist works with an offsite lab to create porcelain veneers, it is important to realize that some labs charge more than others. While there are many domestic labs providing excellent quality work, some are considered boutique, and may charge hundreds more per veneer. Again, deciding whether a dentist partnering with a boutique laboratory is worth a higher price can often come down to a close analysis of the results the dentist has provided for others.
Veneers versus Orthodontics
In terms of aesthetics, veneers and orthodontics are performed for the same reason: to achieve an appearance of symmetry and alignment in your smile. Some patients may find the idea of achieving a smile that is actually straight and properly aligned (as opposed to having a facade that only makes it appear that way) more appealing. Meanwhile, both traditional orthodontics and new clear removable mouthpiece-based orthodontic treatments range in cost from about $3,000 to $5,000. Based on the number of teeth you wish to treat, orthodontics may actually be a more affordable option.
However, orthodontics can require one to two years to achieve the results you desire. Veneers, on the other hand, can give you the results you want in the span of about three weeks. Time spent feeling great about the appearance of your smile provides exponentially greater returns than time spent hiding your smile in photographs or hesitating to laugh out loud at a good joke. If the imperfections in your smile are not compromising your oral health, veneers could very likely be the better investment.
Patients who want porcelain veneers rarely require only porcelain veneers to achieve their goals. Veneers do not stain or whiten. Therefore, it is important that you are satisfied with the shade of your natural teeth, since your veneers will be crafted to match them. In most cases, patients who want veneers undergo teeth whitening, which can cost between $300 and $800, depending on whether you choose an in-office treatment or custom take-home kit. In some cases, patients require gum contouring, a process of removing excess gum tissue to create a more attractive frame for the teeth. Depending upon the extent of treatment needed, gum contouring can add $300 to $3,000 to the overall cost of your procedure.
Making a Wise Investment in a Beautiful Smile
Perhaps it goes without saying, but the single greatest factor that justifies the price of a smile enhancement using porcelain veneers is the boost in confidence it can provide. My receptionist Janette is also a patient of mine. A few years ago, I provided her with porcelain veneers.
"It was wonderful," Janette said about the results she achieved with veneers. "Everyone comments on how great my smile looks, but no one knows I have veneers. Before, I had a very gummy smile, and I had to have some gum contouring done before I had the veneers placed. After the entire treatment was complete, I had so much more confidence in my smile. I started smiling more in pictures."
Although the estimated cost of veneers may exceed what you are willing to pay immediately out of pocket, there are many reasonable financing options available, either through a third-party financing company, your own credit resources, or practices themselves. No matter what, do not compromise your goals. Determine what will make you happy, find a dentist who can provide those results, and take the necessary measures to place the cost of achieving the smile you want within your budget.
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