Porcelain VeneersWhat you need to know about the ultimate “smile makeover”
By Judy Latta
Mother Teresa once said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” A big smile, which is often the first thing people see when they look at you, tells the world that you are friendly, welcoming and self-assured. However, if dissatisfaction with the appearance of your teeth is preventing you from offering the world a full, toothy smile, you may be the perfect candidate for a cosmetic porcelain veneer “smile makeover.”
Porcelain veneers are an enamel replacement treatment that is used to correct aesthetic dental problems and to provide you with a dazzling, confidence- building smile in a relatively short period of time. Your teeth naturally wear down and darken as you age, and dental veneers are an excellent method for refreshing your face to keep you looking younger. Because porcelain veneers are custom sculpted to fit your mouth and to blend with your existing teeth and facial features, they look completely natural and can considerably improve the appearance of your smile.
What Are Porcelain Veneers?
According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, “Porcelain veneers are thin pieces of porcelain used to recreate the natural look of teeth, while also providing strength and resilience comparable to natural tooth enamel.” Porcelain veneers, which are about the thickness of a fingernail, are bonded with a resin adhesive to replace the front exterior layer of the tooth.
Function and Advantages
Porcelain veneers are an excellent option for addressing several common aesthetic dental problems. They can improve the appearance of stained teeth that are resistant to whitening and/or bleaching. Porcelain veneers are a very good solution for improving unappealing tooth shape and/or texture, as well as worn, decayed, chipped or broken teeth. They can also fill gaps between teeth. In some cases, porcelain veneers can be used as an alternative to orthodontic braces or Invisalign straightening. Teeth can be straightened in a matter of weeks as opposed to a year or more.
Unlike natural teeth, porcelain veneers are not porous, thus they will resist staining caused by coffee, wine, cigarette smoke, food, and normal wear. Additionally, although veneer treatments are considered to be cosmetic dentistry, they also serve a functional purpose by repairing and protecting the surface of damaged or worn teeth, and may eliminate the need for more extensive treatments.
A major upside to veneers is that they are minimally invasive because only a thin layer of the natural tooth needs to be removed to fit the veneer. A veneer treatment can often be completed in two appointments over a period of a few weeks. Crowns, bridges and dentures, on the other hand, typically require tooth grinding and/or tooth removal, and generally require several lengthy office visits.
Prior to veneer treatment, your dentist will conduct a thorough dental examination. Any oral health problems need to be addressed before the veneers can be placed.
Following this phase, you will meet with your dentist for a cosmetic consultation, during which you will actively participate in the design process for your smile makeover. Your dentist will ask your preferences regarding the length, width, shape and color of your veneers. You may be given the opportunity to identify elements of other successful veneer treatments or natural smiles that you would like to use as a model for your treatment. You will provide specific input regarding how much change you desire in the appearance of your smile. It is important for you to provide clear guidelines regarding your objectives for the veneer procedure to ensure that the outcome will meet your expectations.
Once your initial smile design is developed, your dentist may use virtual dental makeover technology to provide you with a working preview of projected results. You can use this preview to determine if the design will match your expectations and to make any final changes to the plan.
According to the American Dental Association, once the examination, diagnosis, dental treatment and customized cosmetic design processes are complete, there are five main steps for fitting veneers.
• When necessary, the dentist removes a small amount of enamel from the front and sides of the tooth. There has to be room for the veneer so the tooth looks natural.
• Next, the dentist makes an impression of the prepared teeth so the shape of the preparations and surrounding teeth can be copied in the dental lab. The dentist also decides on the veneer shade that will be best for you.
• The impressions are sent to a dental lab that custom-makes the veneers to fit your teeth. This may take several days. The dentist may give you temporary veneers to wear in the meantime.
• At the next visit, the dentist places the veneers on the teeth to check the fit and shape. After any adjustments, the teeth are cleaned and the veneers are then bonded to the teeth.
• Further changes may be made at future appointments.
Because a thin exterior layer of enamel is removed to fit a porcelain veneer, this treatment is permanent. Veneers can be replaced, but you can never reverse the process and go back to bare natural teeth. Thus, you should consult your dentist regarding whether porcelain veneers would be the best option for solving your aesthetic dental problems. Dentists generally prefer to try the least invasive procedures first to treat their patients.
After veneer treatment, many people experience heightened oral sensitivity to hot and cold. For most this is a temporary condition, but for some the sensitivity persists. Additionally, although veneers are strong, much like your natural teeth, they are not indestructible. Your dentist will probably advise you to avoid hard or sticky foods, and to refrain from biting your nails or using your teeth as a tool for tearing materials or opening containers and packages. Also, just as with natural teeth, good oral hygiene is critical for preserving the life of your porcelain veneers.
According to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, the cost of dental veneers depends on many factors, including:
• The fees of the cosmetic dentist performing the procedure.
• The artistic and technical skill of the technician making the veneers and the cosmetic dentist who places the veneers.
• The location where dental veneers treatment is performed. Costs for dental veneers and all cosmetic dentistry procedures vary widely by region of the country, specifically from large metropolitan areas to smaller towns.
• The type of dental insurance you have. Dental insurance typically does not cover cosmetic procedures.
• The material used. Porcelain veneers are more expensive than indirect or direct composite resin veneers.
• The number of teeth requiring veneers.
For more information on whether porcelain veneers are a good option for you, contact a dentist trained in the art of cosmetic dentistry.