Veneers (sometimes called porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates) are ultra-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored material. The veneers are designed to cover the front surface of the teeth to improve appearance. Veneers provide virtually the ultimate in cosmetic enhancement, since they can be used to optimize tooth color, shape, size, texture, and shininess.
Dental veneers can be made from porcelain or from composite resin. Porcelain veneers resist stains better than resin and better mimic the light reflecting properties of natural teeth. Porcelain is also much more durable than resin---resin veneers are much more likely to chip than porcelain veneers. However, the superior properties of porcelain veneers come at a cost---they are typically more expensive than resin.
What Types of Problems Do Veneers Solve?
Veneers are routinely used to fix:
- Teeth that are discolored, due to: 1) Dark natural tooth color or 2) Trauma or other event: tooth injured, root canal treatment, stains from tetracycline or other drugs, excessive fluoride present in a child’s diet, etc.
- Teeth that are worn down from grinding (bruxism).
- Teeth that are chipped or broken.
- Teeth that are misaligned, uneven, or irregularly shaped.
- Teeth with gaps between them.
What is the Procedure for Getting a Veneer?
Number of Visits
Getting a porcelain veneer usually requires three visits to the dental office: one for a consultation and two to make and apply the veneers. One tooth or many teeth can simultaneously undergo the veneering process.
Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
This first step involves an in-depth consultation between you and Dr. Mitchell to discuss the results you are trying to achieve. During this appointment, Dr. Mitchell will examine your teeth to make sure dental veneers are appropriate. She will also discuss what the procedure will entail. To determine this, records will be gathered during the consultation. These include diagnostic photos, x-rays, and impressions (or molds) of your teeth. The jaw joint (or TMJ) will also be studied to determine whether this will be a factor in treatment.
The Porcelain Veneering Process
To prepare a tooth for a veneer, Dr. Mitchell will remove about 1/50 of an inch of enamel (an extremely small amount) from the tooth surface, which is an amount equal to the thickness of the veneer to be added to the tooth. Next, a model or impression will be made of your tooth. This model is sent out to a cosmetic dental laboratory, which in turn fabricates the veneer. It usually takes about 2-3 weeks for the veneer to be produced. While the final porcelain veneers are being fabricated, temporary veneers are placed over the teeth, giving the patient an excellent idea of how the final veneers will look.
During the 2-3 weeks that the temporaries are in the mouth, good oral hygiene is extremely important. Inflamed gums from a lack of brushing or flossing can cause numerous problems with the delivery of the final veneers. Patients will be given thorough instructions on how to avoid this.
Once the porcelain veneers come back from the laboratory, the final appointment is relatively easy for the patient and often can be done without anesthetic: temporaries are simply popped off and the permanent porcelain veneers are cemented on to the teeth. The visit ends with removal of excess cement, some polishing, and an adjustment of the bite.
Composite Resin Veneers and Bonding
Composite resin veneers (for the entire tooth) or bonding (for only a portion of the tooth) involve sculpting a new look directly on to the tooth. Typically, very little drilling is involved since the process is usually additive (not subtractive) in nature. This procedure is extremely technique sensitive and requires the skills of a sculptor. Results vary dramatically from dentist to dentist, depending on the skill level and amount of advanced training the dentist has received. In the hands of a master cosmetic dentist, though, the results can be astounding. (Dr. Mitchell is a nationally recognized leader in the cosmetic area and has been featured on CNN, ABC Nightline, and the Today Show).