In dentistry, a veneer is a wafer-thin layer of super-strong porcelain that convincingly substitutes for natural tooth enamel.
What makes a smile beautiful? That’s a complex question, but some qualities of a lovely smile are immediately identifiable: good tooth color, shape, and alignment are a few of the most important ones. If your teeth could use improvement in any of these categories, porcelain veneers could be just what you’re looking for.
You may already know that a veneer is a thin covering over another surface. A veneer is a wafer-thin layer of super-strong porcelain that convincingly substitutes for natural tooth enamel. When bonded to your teeth, veneers can create a natural-looking, beautiful new surface. That’s because dental porcelain, like natural tooth enamel, is translucent and tough. But it doesn’t stain like tooth enamel does.
Recent years have brought remarkable advances in dental porcelain technology. These days, veneers can be made so thin that they can sometimes be bonded directly onto your existing tooth surface. In other cases, a very thin layer of tooth enamel — as thin as the veneer itself — needs to be removed to fit the new porcelain surface and make it look as lifelike as possible. Either way, the results are sure to make you smile.
Veneers can be used to improve any of the following characteristics of your teeth:
There are some situations in which veneers would be inappropriate. For example, orthodontics might be a more appropriate solution than veneers if you have significantly misaligned teeth or a large gap. And if you have lost a lot of tooth structure from decay or trauma (or a particularly severe grinding habit), restoring your teeth with porcelain crowns that cover the entire tooth might be better.
The first step in creating a new smile with porcelain veneers is to communicate what you don’t like about your smile as it is now. Bringing pictures of the smiles you like as a starting point for discussion is a great idea. It’s possible to see how veneers would look on your teeth in one of several ways. A model of your teeth can be created over which wax “veneers” can be placed; sometimes, acrylic (plastic) or tooth-colored filling material can be placed directly onto your teeth to demonstrate the veneers’ effect on them.
Once the plan has been agreed upon, your teeth will be prepared by removing a small amount of enamel if necessary. Molds of your teeth will be taken and used by a skilled dental laboratory to create your veneers, and you will receive a temporary set of veneers for wearing during the few weeks it will take to create your permanent veneers. When the veneers return from the lab, they will be cemented onto your teeth.
Like the teeth nature gave you, teeth restored with veneers need gentle brushing and flossing daily. This will remove dental plaque and ensure healthy gum tissue around the veneers. Regular checkups at the dental office will remain as important as always to your oral and general health. And keep in mind that as tough as veneers are, they may not be able to withstand forces that come from using your teeth as tools (to open packages, for example) or biting into very hard foods like candy apples — which isn’t good for your natural teeth, either! And if you grind or clench your teeth at night, you might be advised to get a custom-made nightguard to protect your veneers — and your investment.