Dental veneers (sometimes called porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates) are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front surface of teeth to improve your appearance. These shells are bonded to the front of the teeth changing their color, shape, size, or length.
Dental veneers can be made from porcelain or from resin composite materials. Porcelain veneers resist stains better than resin veneers and better mimic the light reflecting properties of natural teeth. Resin veneers are thinner and require removal of less of the tooth surface before placement. You will need to discuss the best choice of veneer material for you with your dentist.
What Types of Problems Do Dental Veneers Fix?
Veneers are routinely used to fix:
- Teeth that are discolored -- either because of root canal treatment; stains from tetracycline or other drugs, excessive fluoride or other causes; or the presence of large resin fillings that have discolored the tooth
- Teeth that are worn down
- Teeth that are chipped or broken
- Teeth that are misaligned, uneven, or irregularly shaped (for example, have craters or bulges in them)
- Teeth with gaps between them (to close the space between these 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 simultaneously undergo the veneering process described below.
- Diagnosis and treatment planning. This first step involves your active participation. Explain to your dentist the result that you are trying to achieve. During this appointment, your 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. He or she also may take X-rays and possibly make impressions of your mouth and teeth.
- Preparation. To prepare a tooth for a veneer, your dentist will remove about 1/2 millimeter of enamel from the tooth surface, which is an amount nearly equal to the thickness of the veneer to be added to the tooth surface. Before trimming off the enamel, you and your dentist will decide the need for a local anesthetic to numb the area. Next, your dentist will make a model or impression of your tooth. This model is sent out to a dental laboratory, which in turn constructs your veneer. It usually takes 1-2 weeks for your dentist to receive the veneers back from the laboratory. For very unsightly teeth, temporary dental veneers can be placed for an additional cost.
- Bonding. Before the dental veneer is permanently cemented to your tooth, your dentist will temporarily place it on your tooth to examine its fit and color. He or she will repeatedly remove and trim the veneer as needed to achieve the proper fit; the veneer color can be adjusted with the shade of cement to be used. Next, to prepare your tooth to receive the veneer, your tooth will be cleaned, polished, and etched -- which roughens the tooth to allow for a strong bonding process. A special cement is applied to the veneer and the veneer is then placed on your tooth. Once properly position on the tooth, your dentist will apply a special light beam to the dental veneer, which activates chemicals in the cement, causing it to harden or cure very quickly. The final steps involve removing any excess cement, evaluating your bite and making any final adjustments in the veneer as necessary. Your dentist may ask you to return 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 veneer's placement.