Dental Veneers for a Perfect Smile

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Valerie DeBenedette, Senior Medical Editor

Valerie DeBenedette is a science writer who specializes in keeping people informed about medicine and their health. She has more than 20 years of experience writing for newspapers, magazines, and websites and has written about most areas of medicine. For many years, she was a contributing writer to Cosmetic Dermatology and to Drug Topics, the leading pharmacy trade magazine. She also was a contributing editor to The Physician and Sportsmedicine for many years. She has written about most fields of medicine, including dermatology, sportsmedicine, ophthalmology, general surgery, orthopedics, and women's health; as well as public health policy and the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, she is the author of Caffeine, a book for young people. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.


November 07 2007

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If your teeth are stained, chipped, uneven, or worn down, you can improve your smile with dental veneers. Dental veneers, which are also sometimes called porcelain veneers or dental laminates, are thin layers of material that are cemented over the front of your teeth and that can give you a lovely smile full of white, straight teeth.

Dental veneers are an intermediate alternative to crowns, which are made of porcelain or metal and cover the whole visible surface of the tooth, and bonding, which is a thin layer of resin composite that is bonded onto the tooth. Veneers are a sort of middle ground between crowns and bonding, since they do not require as much removal of tooth enamel as crowns, but can correct cracks, tooth chips, and fill gaps better than bonding.

Types of Dental Veneers 

There are two types of veneers that require different procedures to fit and apply.

Resin composite veneers are very thin and are usually applied in one visit to the dentist. The dentist prepares your teeth by buffing away a very small amount, usually about 0.5 millimeter, of the front of the teeth being veneered. The veneer is applied and cemented to the front of your tooth.

 

Porcelain veneers are very thin layers of a ceramic material and require two visits to the dentist to apply. One brand of porcelain veneers is Lumineer. At the first visit, your dentist will remove between 0.5 and 1 millimeter of your tooth enamel to allow for the veneer. If you need a lot of correction to the tooth, up to 2 millimeters may be removed. The dentist will then make an impression of your teeth that will be sent to a laboratory that will make the veneers, which usually takes 1 to 2 weeks. In the interim, you may be given temporary veneers to wear.

At the next dental visit, your dentist will check out the fit on the veneer. Your teeth will be prepared by roughening them to allow for a strong bond. The dentist applies cement and the veneer is placed on your tooth.

Both types of veneers use cement that is activated by light. A special beam of light is applied to your teeth that activates chemicals in the cement and hardens it quickly.

The Advantages Of Dental Veneers 

The advantages of veneers are that they give a natural tooth appearance and are tolerated well by the gums. Porcelain veneers, which are slightly translucent, are especially natural looking and are also extremely resistant to staining. Composite veneers are slightly more likely to stain than porcelain. Unlike crowns, veneers also do not require the removal of much tooth enamel.

The Disadvantages Of Dental Veneers 

The disadvantages are that the process is not reversible and that veneers are not repairable if they crack or chip. Your teeth may also be more sensitive to hot and cold. A tooth with a veneer on it can still decay, which may eventually cause the need for a crown.

Veneers are only for teeth that are basically healthy. If you have a lot of decay in the teeth you want veneered or have active periodontal disease, you are not a good candidate for veneers. A tooth that is badly cracked or otherwise weakened may be better suited to a crown. If you grind your teeth a lot, there is the risk of damaging the veneer.

The Cost of Dental Veneers

Composite veneers last around 7 years and cost about $250 per tooth. Porcelain veneers last 10 to 15 years and cost between $900 and $2000 per tooth. In general, tooth veneers are not covered by dental insurance.