Veneers, as used in dentistry, are very thin pieces of porcelain or plastic that are applied to the front surfaces of teeth using a bonding agent. Veneers can be used to strengthen teeth that are pitted or chipped, to correct teeth that are misshapen, crooked, or discolored, or to correct wide gaps between teeth. Veneers are considered an alternative to dental crowns, which cover the entire tooth.

happy laughingDental veneers are less expensive to create and apply than crowns, and are considered superior in some cases for several reasons. They do not require the dentist to remove as much of the underlying enamel of the tooth before applying the covering, and as a result the procedure is painless, requiring little or no anesthetic. Veneers are also resistant to staining and are strong and durable, lasting for many years. So they are employed in many cases for patients who want to improve the appearance of their teeth, and at a reasonable cost.

Differences between porcelain and composite veneers

There are two primary types of dental veneers – porcelain and composite. Porcelain veneers are made from a very thin porcelain (ceramic) material. Application of them – even using the newer Lumineer veneers, made of Cerinate porcelain and only .2 millimeters thick – require two dental visits, because the final veneer must be crafted by a dental laboratory before it is applied. The Lumineer veneers are preferred by some dentists and their patients because they are so thin, and thus less of the tooth enamel needs to be roughened or removed before they are bonded to it.

Composite veneers are made from a plastic material, and involve the direct application of a bonding and enamel mixture to the teeth. Depending on the condition of the tooth, the composite mixture can be either applied directly to the tooth or fabricated in a dental laboratory and then bonded to the teeth using a resin cement such as Panavia. Composite veneers are generally not as stain-resistant as porcelain veneers, but can be less expensive because they can often be applied in a single visit.

If you have porcelain veneers applied to your teeth, during the first visit the dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area, and then lightly buff the tooth to remove a thin layer of the enamel to both make room for the veneer and to provide a more suitable surface for bonding. The dentist will then take an impression of the “prepared” tooth and send it to a dental laboratory, where the final veneer is crafted. The tooth will then be covered with a temporary veneer, and when the final veneer is ready you return to the dentist to have it bonded in place using a composite resin cement. A bright light beam is sometimes used to harden or “set” the cement. If you are receiving a Lumineer porcelain veneer, two dental visits are still required, but no local anesthetic may be required during either visit because less tooth reduction is required. Application of a composite veneer can often be completed in a single visit, with no anesthetic needed.

Dental veneers can provide an inexpensive way to strengthen your teeth and improve the appearance of your smile. Talk to your dentist about whether they may be right for you.