Dental veneers are a common cosmetic treatment option. But what exactly are veneers in dentistry? What are the side effects? Alternatives? All and more will be answered in this article, which has been laid out in a Q&A format.
1. “What are veneers?”
Let’s answer this by looking up the word in the dictionary:
“Veneer: a thin layer of a material bonded to the surface of a less attractive or inferior material”
This general definition is actually not a bad way of defining veneers in dentistry. Dental veneers are thin coverings, usually made from porcelain, that are bonded onto the front surface of the dentition.
2.“What are veneers used for?”
These restorations are used for a variety of reasons. These reasons include:
- Discoloration, especially those that have not responded to (or are unsuitable for) whitening treatment.
- To straighten slightly misaligned front teeth. For example, a mildly rotated tooth. Veneers here are sometimes used as an alternative to orthodontic treatment. But they are not suitable to straighten teeth that are more than slightly out of line.
- To reshape worn-down teeth that have been damaged from acid erosion.
- To fill out any gaps that may be present.
3. “When are they not suitable?“
While they are often a great option for cosmetic treatment, but there are circumstances where they are not ideal. These reasons may include:
- Where there is a ‘heavy bite’ or you grind/clench.
- When the teeth are badly broken down or heavily filled. Here protection from dental crowns is necessary.
- Where any damage or defects are small. Here dental bonding may be preferable.
- Where a tooth is very badly discoloured, a traditional porcelain veneer may not be sufficient to mask the darker color.
4. “What’s involved in the procedure to get these placed?”
Once it has been decided with your dentist that you are getting veneers, what’s next? Here is a very brief run-through of the procedure involved in getting the treatment:
- The shade required, to match the final work in with your needs and wants, is chosen.
- Once the area has been ‘numbed’ with local anesthetic, the teeth are filed down. The amount of filing down needed will depend a few factors. Usually around 1mm of the front surface is filed down.
- A mold is taken to record the shape of the filed-down teeth.
- Temporary coverings may be applied to stay in place until; the final restorations are ready.
- The mold is sent to a lab, where the dental technician will make the restorations. This can take up to two weeks.
- When the veneers are ready, they are carefully bonded to your teeth. The treatment is finished, and your dentist will show you how to maintain and care for the work.
5. “What about treatment in a day?”
Some dentists have invested in CAD/CAM technology. This machinery allows the veneers to be produced ‘in-house’ and then fitted within an hour! The speed of the treatment will mean a greater cost due to the very high price of the technology.
6. “How long do they last for?”
There is no definite answer to this, although an average is 5-10 years. The length of time veneers last will depend on a number of factors, including how well you look after them (in terms of oral hygiene and a tooth-kind diet).
7. “What are the side effects and downsides to getting veneers?”
The main downside is that some of the tooth enamel needs to be filed down. The normal amount of filing down will cause little side effects, but if deeper drilling is needed this can cause sensitivity. Any sensitivity is more likely in the early days after treatment and should settle down quickly.
The other downside is that once they are placed, you have committed to them for life, and they will need replacing every 5-10 years on average.
8. “What are the alternatives?”
As alluded to above, veneers are not always the best option to improve the cosmetic appearance ones smile. Some alternatives include:
- Whitening, where the color only and not the ‘shape’ of the teeth needs improved.
- Dental bonding, where only small defects or chipping is present.
- Composite veneers offer an alternative to the usual porcelain ones.
- Dental crowns are needed when there is extensive damage or there is a ‘heavy bite’.
- Orthodontics are a necessary alternative when the dental arches are badly misaligned (crooked).
This article will hopefully have enlightened you as to what dental veneers are, as well as outlining the pros and cons of the treatment.