Recover Your Smile and Confidence
Dental veneers can jump start your new attitude
By Cheryl Alexander
Do talking and smiling make you feel self-conscious due to discolored, uneven, broken or gapped teeth? Do you feel that your confidence would greatly improve if you could repair your smile? If so, dental veneers may be the answer that will provide the life-changing difference you are seeking.
Because our faces are the way people identify us, much of our self-esteem is wrapped up in our smiles. It only makes sense that we want our teeth to be beautiful, strong and white. Cosmetic dentistry continues to change people’s lives, and a smile makeover via dental veneers may be just what you need to jump start your new attitude. Got questions? Here are answers to some common ones:
What are dental veneers?
Porcelain veneers, also termed dental veneers or dental porcelain laminates, are one of cosmetic dentistry’s more recent developments. According to Immediate Past President of Southwestern Society of Oral Medicine Dr. Ronada Davis, D.D.S. (www.ddsassociates.com), “Porcelain veneers are wafer-thin shells of porcelain that can be bonded onto the front side of teeth to make a cosmetic improvement in your appearance.”
Dr. Davis explains that dentists have had materials available for decades that can create a durable bond to tooth enamel. These bonding materials are used to securely attach a thin sheet of porcelain (the porcelain veneer) to a tooth. Although porcelain is inherently brittle, when it is firmly bonded to a sturdy substructure (a tooth) it becomes extremely strong and durable.
Davis adds, “Veneers are placed only on the front surface of the tooth and usually only on the front six to eight teeth (depending on how broad the patient’s smile line is).”
Why would I need a veneer?
Veneers are routinely used to fix:
•Discolored teeth—due to root canal treatment, stains from tetracycline or other drugs, excessive fluoride, or the presence of large resin fillings that have discolored the tooth
•Worn down teeth
•Chipped or broken teeth
•Misaligned, uneven or irregularly shaped teeth
What’s the procedure for getting a dental veneer?
Getting a dental veneer usually requires three trips to the dentist—one for a consultation and two to make and apply the veneers. One tooth or many teeth can undergo the veneering process simultaneously.
•Diagnosis and treatment planning The first step involves interaction between you and your dentist. You should specifically describe to your dentist the result that you want to achieve. During this initial appointment the dentist will examine your teeth to make sure dental veneers are appropriate for you and discuss what the procedure will involve and some of its limitations. More than likely, X-rays and impressions of your mouth and teeth will be taken.
To prepare a tooth for a veneer, the dentist will remove about one-half millimeter of enamel from the tooth surface, which is an amount nearly equal to the thickness of the veneer that will be put on the tooth’s surface. Before trimming off the enamel, a decision about whether or not you’ll need a local anesthetic to numb the area should be made. Next, the dentist will make a model or impression of your prepared tooth. This model is sent out to a dental laboratory, which in turn constructs the veneer. It usually takes one to two weeks for your dentist to receive the veneers back from the laboratory. Some dental offices have in-house labs, which will drastically reduce the time it takes to get your veneers. For very unsightly teeth, temporary dental veneers can be placed, and most dentists never charge for temporary veneers.
Davis asserts, “An excellent dental laboratory is a must for any dentist whoplaces porcelain veneers. Many offices are fortunate to have in-house dental labs, so the porcelain ceramist technicians are chairside when shades are taken and can provide any special characterizations that need to be done to get a perfect match with the patient’s other surrounding teeth.”
Before the dental veneer is permanently cemented to your tooth, the dentist will temporarily place it on your tooth to examine it for perfect fit and color. The veneer will be removed and trimmed in order to achieve the proper fit, and the color can be adjusted by changing the shade of cement that will be used to bond the veneer. Next, your tooth will be cleaned, polished and etched—which will roughen the tooth to allow for a strong bonding process. Dental cement is then applied to the veneer, and the veneer is placed on your tooth. Once properly positioned, the dentist will apply a special light beam to the veneer, activating chemicals in the cement, causing it to harden or cure very quickly. Finally, once any excess cement is removed, the dentist evaluates your bite and makes the final adjustments. You may be asked to come in for a follow-up visit in a couple of weeks to check how your gums are responding to the presence of your veneer and to once again examine the placement of the veneer.
What are the advantages of dental veneers?
The use of porcelain veneers are gaining immense popularity due to the ease of application and the long-lasting benefits that porcelain veneers offer to enhance your appearance. Veneers offer the following advantages:
•They provide a natural tooth appearance.
•Gum tissue tolerates porcelain well.
•Porcelain veneers are stain-resistant.
•Teeth can be whitened by using porcelain veneers.
•Veneers offer a conservative approach to changing a tooth’s color and shape; veneers generally don’t require the same extensive shaping that crowns require prior to the procedure, and the end result is a stronger, more aesthetic alternative.
•Veneers strengthen teeth with visible cracks present in the enamel, chipped and broken edges as well as worn edges.
What are the disadvantages of dental veneers?
The downside to dental veneers include:
•The process is not reversible.
•Veneers are more costly than composite resin bonding.
•Veneers cannot usually be repaired should they chip or crack; they must be replaced.
•Because enamel must be removed, your tooth may become more sensitive to heat and cold.
•Veneers may not exactly match the color of your other teeth. Also, the veneer’s color cannot be altered once in place.
•Though not likely, veneers can dislodge and fall off. To minimize the chance of this occurring, do not bite your nails or chew on pencils, ice or other hard objects.
•Teeth with veneers can still experience decay, possibly necessitating full coverage of the tooth with a crown.
•Veneers are not a good choice for individuals with unhealthy teeth (for example, those with decay or active gum disease), weakened teeth (as a result of decay, fracture, large dental fillings) or those who have an inadequate amount of existing enamel on the tooth surface.
•Individuals who clench and grind their teeth are poor candidates for porcelain veneers, as these activities can cause the veneers to crack or chip.
Are there alternatives to consider?
A natural-colored filling material can be used for minor repairs to front teeth. This type of restoration works great where the tooth supports the filling, but may not work so well for broken tooth corners. There will always be a bond between the tooth and filling material. Crowns are used for teeth that need to be strengthened—either because they have broken, been weakened by a very large filling or have had a root canal treatment.
Veneers offer a nice intermediate option. Veneers may be best suited for individuals who want to change the shape of their teeth more than just a little bit—as with bonding—but not enough to require a crown.
How long do dental veneers last?
There are no hard and fast rules about how long porcelain veneers will last. While you can certainly expect your veneers to last many years, it is unrealistic to expect them to last forever. With good home care and by exercising good judgment, it is very likely that a porcelain veneer could last well in excess of 10 years.
According to Davis, “Porcelain veneers have been available to patients for more than 30 years, and when done correctly, actually strengthen the tooth’s structure.”
Tips for maximizing the lifespan of your porcelain veneers include:
•Practice good oral home care;
•Avoid exposing your veneers to excessive forces;
•Avoid clenching and grinding your teeth;
•Minimize staining influences.
How much do veneers cost?
The cost of veneers vary depending on what part of the country you live in and the extent of your procedure. Generally, veneers range in cost from $800 to $2,000 per tooth. The cost of veneers is not typically covered by insurance. To be certain, check with your dental insurance company.