On the visit following the initial veneer consultation, your dentist will shave a layer of enamel from the surface of your teeth to accommodate the thickness of the veneers. Then, he or she will make models of the affected teeth and fit you with temporary veneers. The models, in the meantime, will be sent to a dental laboratory that will use them to make your permanent veneers.
On the third visit, your dentist will first ensure your new veneers look and fit right. If the color or size is off in any way, your dentist will trim the veneer as needed, or use various shades of cement to make adjustments for the color. Then the cement and veneer will be placed and positioned, and excess cement cleaned away. Once your dentist is satisfied everything looks right, he or she will use laser light to quickly cure the cement.
There are definite advantages to getting veneers when compared to other options for improving the appearance of your teeth, such as bonding or crowns, or taking no action at all. The biggest plus is that veneers can drastically improve your smile and your self-esteem. They're less expensive than crown work and are resistant to staining. However, staining of adjacent teeth that don't have veneers may cause them to be noticeably different shades.
You should also consider some of the potential disadvantages before getting veneers. For example, errors during the bonding process could result in discolored veneers, due to the selection of cement colors available. If veneers break or crack, fixing them can be an extensive process, especially if the bonding is still strong and intact. Veneers that fall off due to poor bonding can often be reapplied. If a veneer breaks, however, the portion remaining on your tooth will need to be ground down (much like your enamel was when you first received the veneer) and replaced with a new veneer.
Replacing veneers at some point, whether they break or not, is almost inevitable. This is because veneers are considered semi-permanent. In other words, they're permanent enough that you won't want to replace them before their time, but they generally last only about 5 to 10 years, at which point the bonding begins to fail [source: Cleveland Clinic]. And once your enamel has been scraped away to make room for the veneer, there's no going back -- you'll have to keep wearing them.
Veneers are durable, but treat them with care: You'll want to break habits like chewing your fingernails or ice. Teeth grinding may chip or crack veneers to the point of needing replacements, as well.
There's a newer type of veneer available, called Lumineers. Learn more about what they are and how they compare to regular veneers on the next page.