Porcelain Veneers – Are They the Best Solution For Whiter Teeth?

One of the most dramatic teeth treatments is porcelain veneers-an intricate (and expensive!) procedure in which natural tooth material is removed from the tooth’s surface and then replaced with a thin porcelain sheath that is strongly and permanently bonded to the front of the tooth.

Other than the high cost, this sounds wonderful, right? Consider the advantages:

Veneers can correct many of the natural imperfections in teeth that could take months to change through other methods like braces. Short and stubby teeth – wavy surfaces – gaps between teeth – uneven lengths – can all become non issues with a skillfully applied set of veneers. Veneers are manmade material that will never discolor. So veneers can not only instantly create teeth in any desired shade of whiteness, unlike your natural teeth, the veneer material will never stain or darken or be affected by dental decay.

Many television personalities, performers and actors have obtained their perfect smiles through the help of porcelain veneers applied by the hands of the industry’s most skilled cosmetic dentists, enforcing the popular stereotype of the “Hollywood smile.”

However, before you jump to invest your life’s savings in a set of bright new veneers, here are a few things to consider:

Are veneers permanent?

In a word, no. Long lasting, certainly-but even with the most modern materials and applications, the typical life of a veneer is approximately 10 years. Even more concerning-depending on lifestyle and habits, veneers can chip, break or fall completely away from the tooth at various (and at the most inconvenient) of times, requiring costly follow up treatments at various intervals for the rest of your life.

Since their inception as a means of cosmetic restoration in the 1980’s, methods and materials for applying porcelain veneers have substantially improved. Many factors can influence the longevity of veneers such as: the effectiveness of the bond to the tooth, the patient’s bite, and inappropriate use of one’s teeth (such as to bite package labels or hard materials).

Skillfully and correctly applied and protected appropriately, a set of veneers could last well beyond the original10 year estimate. And as newer and better adhesives emerge, who knows how long today’s new veneers could survive?

But realistically, if you are planning to purchase veneers, you should also plan for eventual maintenance and replacement of even the best set of veneers.

What if I don’t like the look of my veneers?

Although it is possible to change or replace veneers that don’t suit you, it can’t be said too many times: You should check and double check and triple check the results, the reputation and even the warranty of the cosmetic practitioner you choose.

When clients are unhappy, their complaints can include a feeling of “thickness” that can happen if a dentist didn’t reduce the tooth enough to allow room for the porcelain layer or the dental lab who constructed the veneers made them too thick. In addition to checking references, see if your prospective dentist can fit you with a diagnostic “wax-up” that can help you see and feel what the finished product will look like before you proceed.

If I’m not happy, can I have my veneers re-done?

Yes, it is possible for dentists to remove and replace veneers that are old or that aren’t to a client’s liking-however, one should consider the difficulty (and expense) of having this done. Far beyond the intricacy of applying a veneer in the first place, the most challenging cases any cosmetic dentist will face would be the process of removing a newly-applied veneer to correct someone else’s mistakes. The removal of old veneers can be extremely costly and tedious, and if a dentist removed too much tooth structure, the mistake could even affect the longevity and health of the original tooth. This is yet one more reason to be very sure of your decision to purchase veneers and to be extremely cautious about reviewing the photos and results of other veneers your prospective dentist has done.

I have veneers that have fallen off, is that normal?

No. If teeth are properly prepared and the veneers have been correctly bonded, they should not fall of as long as there are no problems related to your bite. Often times it is usually a failure of improper bonding. Bonding porcelain to teeth is a technically sensitive procedure. If the surfaces are not properly treated and free of contaminants such as oil, water or saliva, there will be a bond failure.

I have discoloration at the margins of my veneers where they meet the tooth and I can see my old tooth color between my teeth. Is there anything I can do?

It sounds like the veneers were not bonded correctly. Either you have resin cement that has discolored or there is a gap and stains are getting into the margin. The fact that you can see the color of your original tooth probably means that the tooth was not reduced properly so that the porcelain would cover that part of the tooth.

What are the most typical complaints about dental veneers?

Incomplete coverage of the tooth can occur if a veneer doesn’t cover the edges of the teeth completely, leaving the spaces between the teeth prone to darkening or decay. Also, if gum shrinkage occurs in the years after the veneers are applied, there will be additional tooth exposed that isn’t covered by the original veneer, which could lead to an artificial “two-toned” appearance at the top of the smile.

Far and away, however, the most common complaints surrounding too white, too thick, or poorly applied veneers can result in an artificial “denture-like” appearance that ironically doesn’t enhance a person’s appearance-it could actually serve to make the individual appear more old (not unlike the stark appearance of a jet-black hair dye or wig on a middle aged individual-yes, the gray hair is eliminated, but a software hair tone would be more forgiving of the skin tone and “laugh lines” that naturally become more apparent with age). It is important to consider the overall impact and even “try on” a color or style of dental improvement for size before making an expensive decision that may be difficult or impossible to adjust or reverse.

Also-it is important to note that nail biting is one of the habits that is most damaging to any variety of dental veneers. If you have a nail biter, you must be sure you are able to reliably break that habit before you invest in veneers.

Are there other drawbacks to dental veneers?

Far and away, the biggest con to porcelain veneers is their cost. A single porcelain veneer can cost upwards of $1,500 (plus eventual replacement and maintenance). Veneers constructed of “composite” materials may be less expensive – however, with an investment for something as permanent and as visible as veneers, you will want to save your money for the best product you can possibly afford.

Because of the high cost, it is typical for clients to purchase veneers for just the front 6 or 8 teeth that are exposed when they smile, and clients frequently purchase veneers for top teeth only. In this case it is critical that clients whiten their bottom and remaining teeth that are visible as often as required to avoid an unsightly mismatch with the veneers. It is also important to pay attention to the spaces between teeth to keep them from darkening with time and use and creating an even more visible disparity with the glowing white veneers on the front of their teeth.

If we have convinced you of nothing more, the most important factor to remember in considering veneers is that veneers are nigh unto permanent. Many people look upon porcelain veneers as the greatest investment they’ve ever made-but perhaps more than any other appearance altering procedure, it is important to enter the decision to purchase veneers with thorough research and impeccable care.