A Complete Guide To Dental Veneers

What are dental veneers?

Dental veneers are thin layers of porcelain or composite resin (typically around 0.5mm) applied to the front facing surface – and edges – of the teeth to improve superficial issues such as colour (shade of white), sizing, and shape of the tooth. Veneers may be recommended in many cosmetic cases, including misalignment, discolouration, chips, and gapping.

How much do veneers cost?

Patients wishing to improve the appearance of one tooth or several teeth should bear in mind the considerable difference in cost between porcelain veneers and composite resin veneers. Although prices may vary, patients should expect to pay up to around €400 for a single composite resin veneer, with single porcelain veneers costing around €850-€1,000.

What is a porcelain veneer?

A porcelain veneer (also called a ceramic veneer) is a custom made ‘skin’ or ‘shell’ that fits over the front surface and edges of a tooth. Porcelain veneers are created in a laboratory by a dental technician. This means that, unlike composite resin veneers (which are created in the mouth) a porcelain veneer is less easy to repair/replace.

A skilled technician is able to create a porcelain veneer that is not only highly durable (in comparison to alternative veneers), but is also life-like in appearance – porcelain veneers provide a smooth or ‘glass-like’ finish. The additional time required to create porcelain veneers increases cost and generally requires more than one visit to complete.

What is a composite resin veneer?

Synthetic composite resin veneers (similar to the material used to restore cavities) are also sometimes referred to as ‘composite bonding’. Although composite resin veneers can be produced in the dental laboratory, the majority of procedures will involve the skill of the dentist sat ‘chairside’ in a live procedure.

Composite resin veneers are usually ‘built up’ directly onto the patient’s tooth. This means that patients benefit from faster treatment times (a typical procedure can be carried out in a single visit). The reduced involvement of the dental laboratory helps to reduce costs. Also, many teeth can be treated in a single lower cost session.

What’s the difference between porcelain and composite resin veneers?

When a patient decides to enquire about the possibility of correcting a cosmetic dental issue through the use of dental veneers, there is often a degree of surprise on learning that there are two types of veneers: porcelain veneers and composite resin veneers (please note, porcelain veneers are also sometimes referred to as ‘ceramic veneers’).

There are many differences between the two types of veneer, ranging from differences in procedure and considerations over cost to differences in the expected aesthetic results. In general, patients should be aware that while porcelain veneers create a more natural look, there is additional cost involved and treatment will require more than one visit.

Do dental veneers look natural?

The materials chosen to create dental veneers are selected to deliver as close to a realistic appearance as possible. The skill and craft of the dentist or dental technician in creating the veneer is of paramount importance in fitting the patient with an end result that reflects the outcome agreed upon at the consultation stage.

Taking into account the desires of the patient, the dentist or dental technician will not necessarily create all veneers in the same way. For example, some patients may request teeth enhancement without looking “fake”, whereas some patients may request an end result that could be labelled a ‘Hollywood smile’ (i.e. a less natural and more cosmetic or ‘bright’ finish).

What are dental veneers used for?

As previously mentioned, dental veneers can be used to great effect in many different cases of restorative dental treatment. The dentist will listen carefully to the concerns of the patient before making a recommendation on the possibility of going ahead with dental veneers. In general, there are several common cosmetic cases that are seen as ideal candidates for veneers.

Veneers may be used to treat many cosmetic issues, including:

  • The colour of the tooth

Dentists use a grading system to denote the colour – or shade – of the teeth. There are four categories, labelled A, B, C, and D, with the most natural shades occuring between the range of A3 to B1 (with B1 being the lightest most natural shade). The dentist will explain how veneers can dramatically improve issues surrounding tooth discolouration.

  • Common issues with alignment or gapping

Misalignment of the teeth (and gapping) occurs where there is malocclusion of the teeth, which can either occur naturally or following trauma. Malocclusion means a relative misalignment between opposing upper and lower teeth. The dentist will explain how veneers can help to restore the smile where there are alignment or gapping issues

  • Improving the apparent shape of the tooth

The causes of malformed or misshapen teeth may relate to environmental factors (e.g. traumatic injury) or may be due to genetic development issues (typically affecting areas of the bite including second premolars, wisdom teeth, and upper lateral incisors). Veneers can provide much greater natural alignment, closing any gaps.

  • Restoring a tooth following damage (e.g. chipped teeth)

Where a patient presents with a minor chip to the tooth enamel, the dentist will likely proceed to restore the tooth through ‘bonding’, using a small amount of composite resin. However, where the chip or damage exceeds the effectiveness of a minor fix, the dentist may recommend veneers as a way to restore the tooth’s natural shape and appearance.

  • Repairing damage from non-trauma related damage such a teeth grinding

Teeth grinding is a relatively common condition known as bruxism. The act of grinding the teeth is linked to a response to stress while awake or as an unconscious act during sleep. Veneers can restore the natural appearance of the affected teeth – however, the root cause of the grinding must be addressed to prevent damage to the veneers.

What is the dental veneer procedure?

Whilst composite resin veneers can generally be completed in a single visit (as compared to the usual two visits required to make and fit porcelain veneers), this doesn’t take into consideration any necessary restorative dental work that may be required to prepare the teeth for veneers. Depending on the individual circumstances of the patient, additional visits may be needed.

The process will begin with a face to face consultation. The dentist will listen to what the patient wishes to achieve before examining the teeth. Where the dentist feels extra investigation will be beneficial in the treatment planning stage, x-rays or moulds of the mouth may be required. The dentist will then make an informed decision on how to proceed with a personalised veneer plan.

In general, most veneers are completed within one-to-three visits:

  • Appointment 1: Initial consultation – treatment discussed, moulds/photographs taken
  • Appointment 2: (porcelain only): Teeth prepared, temporary veneers fixed in place
  • Appointment 3: (Temporary veneers removed) Permanent veneers fixed in place

An additional “corrections” appointment may be required if upon closer inspection the patient discovers any undesirable results (e.g. size or shade issues).

Further information on the dental veneer procedure:

Preparing the tooth for the veneer

Once a treatment plan has been agreed between the patient and the dentist, the tooth must be prepared for the veneer. This could involve the dentist removing roughly the amount of enamel from the tooth that the veneer will replace (approximately 0.5mm). The dentist will also make the decision over whether a local anaesthetic is required.

Where a patient is being fitted with porcelain veneers, the tooth is prepared and an impression is taken. This impression – or mould – is used by the lab technician to create the porcelain veneer, a process that may require several weeks (unless in-house technology is available). Meanwhile, the patient is fitted with temporary veneers.

The tooth must be cleaned and prepared before introducing the veneer

Any discolouration or defect on the surface of the tooth enamel cannot be easily restored once the porcelain or composite resin veneer has been fixed in place. The dentist will take care to prepare the tooth in full to avoid any issues.

Porcelain veneers are cemented in place

When the porcelain veneers are returned from the lab, or where the porcelain veneers are created in-house and are ready to be fitted, the dentist will further prepare the tooth by applying a gel-like substance that helps to produce a rough surface – this creates an ideal ‘fixing’ area onto which the veneer may be bonded to the tooth.

Composite veneers are applied by the dentist in a single visit

Where the patient has chosen to proceed with composite resin veneers, the dentist will prepare the tooth and apply the veneer in a single visit. The composite resin is applied in layers, sculpted, set, and polished to achieve an agreed finish. This means that, unlike porcelain veneers, the patient is unable to see the veneer until the process is complete.

Veneer aftercare – how to look after veneers

In order to prolong the expected longevity of veneers, patients should consider switching to a non-abrasive toothpaste. Flossing and brushing twice per day as usual will help to minimise the risk of poor dental hygiene, discoloration, and infection. Damage to the veneer may result in the dentist recommending crown work, where the tooth is shaped and fitted with a full prosthetic.

How long will porcelain veneers and composite resin veneers last?

Depending on lifestyle choices and maintenance, porcelain veneers are expected to last between 10 to 15 years, whereas composite resin veneers come with an expected lifespan of around five to seven years. Where the veneer is poorly maintained, teeth whitening procedures cannot be used as a restorative treatment and should not be relied upon as a safety net.

Does the process of being fitted for veneers cause pain?

The process of being fitted for veneers (either porcelain veneers or composite resin veneers) is not considered to be a painful experience. However, if a local anaesthetic is applied, there may be slight and temporary discomfort from the needle. The numbness from the procedure should fade within hours of completing the procedure.

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