What are dental veneers?
Dental veneers, introduced in 1983, are a relatively new technique that provides an excellent means of improving the look of discoloured teeth. They are a porcelain surface fitted to the face of a tooth, designed the match the mouth and enhance appearance. As such they are an alternative to other treatments, such as tooth bleaching or enamel bonding.
Dental veneers fall between the least invasive methods, such as bleaching and bonding, and more invasive methods, such as dental crowns. However, the degree of intervention represented by dental veneers is not the sole consideration when looking at this treatment.
Compared to bleaching and bonding, veneers have some significant advantages. First, treating discolouration with bleaching or bonding is not a permanent solution to discolouration, while veneers retain their brightness for the duration of the veneer, and, given today’s veneer materials, that’s a long time.
Second, veneers provide additional aesthetic advantages as they can improve the appearance of teeth that are chipped, broken, or cracked, they can improve the look for teeth that are crooked or gapped, and they can counteract some of the look of a “gummy” smile.
The process of fitting veneers
The first step in getting dental veneers is consultation to determine the patient’s goals, the materials to be used, and the strategy to preserve as much of the original tooth structure as possible. The aim is choosing the most conservative treatment while meeting the aesthetic and practical goals. Veneers have the capability of being specific to the face of the patient, and consultation will guarantee the best outcome.
Preparing the teeth
Next, the teeth to be veneered are carefully measured and the person is assessed for suitability. Not all situations are ideal for veneers: in some cases of gum disease or advanced tooth decay, veneers are not recommended. If little enamel remains on a tooth, a veneer will not properly adhere. Also, people who are prone to tooth grinding are less likely to have a successful outcome when veneers are applied.
Once the decision to go ahead is made, the teeth are prepared to receive their veneers by removing a thin layer of enamel, just the amount that will be replaced with veneer. A mold of the teeth is then made, to guide the preparation of the veneers. While the permanent veneers are being made, temporary veneers are fitted to replace the enamel that has been removed.
Applying the veneers
When the new veneers are ready, you return to the dentist, where the temporary veneers are removed, the tooth surface is etched so the permanent veneer will adhere strongly, and the permanent veneers are glued. Modern dental techniques minimize the time involved and the number of dentist visits.
Care of veneers
Veneers are made of extremely tough material, but they are not indestructible. They are tougher than bonding, and the improvements in ceramics and the evolution of adhesives mean that veneers will normally last many years.
Nevertheless, care must be taken with veneers not to expose them to unusual stresses, such as biting hard objects or tooth grinding. Veneers should also receive the same hygienic care as unmodified natural teeth, as in fact they are still natural teeth beneath the veneer, and are similarly prone to dental caries.
Veneers can fail mechanically (chipping, cracking, failure of adhesion), periodontally (loss of dental support or tooth fracture), or biologically (caries), but taken collectively all these possibilities for failure are remote. Given the proper care, veneers are stable and long-lasting.
Deciding on veneers
Alternatives to veneers, discussed above, are on one hand whitening techniques such as bleaching and microabrasion, and on the other bonding, dental crowns, or dental prostheses. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages, but veneers offer a convincing combination of benefits.
As they are aesthetic and functional, offer predictable outcomes, and are among the least invasive of procedures, veneers are a strong option when choosing treatments that will made aesthetic improvements to teeth.