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Teeth Veneers

Veneers can make you look like you have a perfect smile.
Veneers can make you look like you have a perfect smile.
©iStockphoto.com/stutzchris

Just as you can put new siding on your house to mask a chipped or fading paint job, you can cover up imperfections on your teeth with the help of dental veneers. Also known as dental porcelain laminates, veneers are "false fronts" that are cemented onto your natural teeth to improve their shape and appearance. Veneers give the impression of the wearer having a flawless, bright smile.

Despite the fact that they're only about a half-millimeter thick, veneers can accomplish quite a lot when it comes to fixing your smile [source: Smith]. People often get them with one or more of the following goals in mind:

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  • fixing teeth that are mottled or stained from use of fluoride or drugs such as tetracycline
  • covering up chips in teeth
  • correcting the appearance and bite of crooked teeth
  • filling in gaps between teeth

Veneers are often made from porcelain or resin composite materials. Both materials have advantages. Veneers made of porcelain look more natural than those made of resin composite materials. Resin veneers, on the other hand, are thinner and require less shaving of the enamel before they're affixed to teeth, but they're also more susceptible to staining [source: Williams].

Veneers are generally used to re-face the front eight upper teeth. Since the reasons for getting veneers are largely cosmetic, there's usually no need to have them on teeth that aren't commonly seen when you smile or talk.

While veneers are a good option cosmetically, they're not cheap: They cost anywhere from $800 to $1,300 -- per tooth [source: Cleveland Clinic]. And again, since getting them is a cosmetic procedure, you'll likely have to pay the full cost out of pocket.

The process of getting veneers is a little more involved than a bonding procedure (during which a dentist can reshape a tooth using composite resin bonding), but less complicated than getting a crown.

Start to finish, it generally takes three visits to the dentist to get veneers [source: Mitchell]. The first visit is a consultation visit. That's the time to ask any questions you may have about the process. Make sure your dentist is skilled and experienced in this procedure. You can ask to see before-and-after photos of your dentist's previous veneer recipient patients, and to be put in contact with them -- especially if you're getting several veneers.

Next, we'll talk about the most involved part of the process -- the second visit -- and whether or not your pricey veneers will last a lifetime.

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.

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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.

You should give up bad habits like biting your fingernails before you get veneers.
You should give up bad habits like biting your fingernails before you get veneers.
©iStockphoto.com/Inkout

Maybe you're a little hesitant to get veneers after hearing phrases such as "enamel shaving." If that's the case, you might want to consider a specific brand of veneers called Lumineers.

Lumineers are essentially thinner veneers made of modern glass ceramic containing a high density of leucite crystals [source: Spiller]. While most traditional veneers are 0.5 millimeters thick, Lumineers are about 0.2 millimeters thick [source: Den-Mat Holdings].

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With traditional veneers, the dentist must shave down a layer of enamel on each tooth that will be receiving a veneer, or else the veneer will protrude from the tooth and feel extra thick in your mouth. That enamel shaving can leave teeth more sensitive to hot or cold temperatures. And, as mentioned on the previous page, once a tooth has been shaved down for a veneer, there's no going back.

However, since they're so thin, Lumineers often need very little -- if any -- enamel scraped off the teeth they're destined for. Lumineers can usually be fitted in two pain-free visits, with a mold of your teeth being made on the first visit. Since in most cases, no enamel has been removed from the tooth, the process is also reversible. In other words, you could go back to a veneer-free smile if you so chose. And while traditional veneers usually last for only about 10 years, Lumineers often stick around for about 20 years [source: Stehula].

But Lumineers aren't right for everyone. For one thing, the contouring of the Lumineer at and just beneath the gumline can cause discoloration of the gums in some cases [source: Hall]. If you have sensitive gums, porcelain veneers may be a better choice. Controlling the final color of the Lumineer-covered tooth -- and making sure it matches all other teeth -- may also be difficult, since Lumineers are so thin.

Lumineers are similar in cost to porcelain or resin composite veneers -- anywhere from $800 on up, depending on where you live and how much prep work your teeth need beforehand [source: Hall].

Your dentist will help you decide if veneers or Lumineers are right for you, and either option can radically improve your smile, not to mention your self-confidence. For lots more information on veneers and cosmetic dentistry, check out the links on the next page.

Related Articles

Sources

  • American Dental Association. "Veneers." (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.ada.org/3000.aspx
  • Cleveland Clinic. "Veneers." Nov. 30, 2006. (Nov. 15, 2011) http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/cosmetic_dentistry/hic_veneers.aspx
  • Corinne Scalzitti, Corrine R., D.M.D., M.A.G.D. "Dental Veneer Problem Resolution." (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.beecavedental.com/bad_veneer.html
  • Den-Mat Holdings LLC. "Lumineers." (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.lumineers.com/
  • Hall, David, D.D.S. "Can you get a cavity with veneers?" (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.mynewsmile.com/cosmetic/cavity_veneers.htm
  • Hall, David, D.D.S. "Gum Irritation Around Lumineers." (Nov. 28, 2011) http://www.mynewsmile.com/cosmetic/Lumineers_gum_irritation.htm
  • Hall, David, D.D.S. "How Much Do Lumineers Cost?" (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.mynewsmile.com/cosmetic/Lumineers_cost.htm
  • Mitchell, Margaret, D.D.S. "Veneers." (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.mitchelldentalspa.com/dental-veneers.htm
  • Pohl, Mitchell, D.D.S. "Failing Porcelain Veneers." (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.palmbeachcosmeticdentist.com/veneer_problems.html
  • Smith, Michael W., M.D. "Dental Veneers." MedicineNet. Jan. 31, 2005. (Nov. 15, 2011) www.medicinenet.com/dental_veneers/article.htm
  • Spiller, Martin S., D.M.D. "Lumineers." (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.doctorspiller.com/lumineers.htm
  • Stehula, E. Michael, D.D.S. "Lumineers F.A.Q." (Nov. 15, 2011) http://lumineersdentistry.com/faq.html
  • Williams, Darren R., DDS. "Dental Health and Veneers." WebMD. Mar. 15, 2009. (Nov. 15, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/veneers

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