What are porcelain veneers?
Frequently seen on "extreme makeover" shows, porcelain veneers (sometimes called porcelain laminates) are thin, translucent pieces of porcelain which your cosmetic dentist bonds to the front of your teeth. Their lifelike appearance makes porcelain veneers a popular way to a achieve a picture-perfect smile
How do they work?
Using imaging and/or molding, the thin veneers are manufactured in precise custom shapes - usually in a lab, but some cosmetic dentists have the resources to make veneers in their office. The teeth they will be applied to are "trimmed" by your dentist - a layer of the the tooth about the same thickness as the veneer is shaved away from the front of the tooth. This new surface is etched to improve bonding, and the veneer is bonded (glued) to the tooth. The process usually takes two or more visits to your dentist.
Advantages of porcelain veneers:
Porcelain veneers are a very natural-looking way to improve your smile!
They resist staining and can hide a wide array of dental imperfections
including stained or chipped teeth and gaps between teeth. A skillful cosmetic
dentist can even apply porcelain veneers to give you the appearance of
straighter teeth - an alternative to orthodontist visits for people with
teeth that are only slightly misaligned. They are the perfect solution
if you have a type of tooth discoloration that doesn't respond to teeth
Disadvantages of porcelain veneers:
Porcelain veneers are permanent - once you have them you can't just take them off and go back to your natural teeth. Enamel needs to be trimmed from the front of your teeth in order to apply the veneers, so the process is not reversible. Also, veneers can occasionally chip, break or come unglued. A veneer which becomes detached from a tooth can usually be reapplied, but chipped or broken porcelain veneers will need to be replaced.
Porcelain veneers are also costly - they can cost as much as $1000 or more per tooth! Less expensive composite veneers are available, but the porcelain ones look and wear better. Composite veneers are more prone to wear and staining.
Not recommended for:
Porcelain veneers are not a good choice for people with unresolved oral health issues such as periodontal disease or broken or decayed teeth. These problems must be addressed by your dentist before veneers can be applied. In the case of broken teeth a crown may be more appropriate than a porcelain veneer as it will better protect the remaining part of the tooth. Also, those who chronically clench and grind their teeth (what dentists call "bruxism") are prone to damage their veneers - this may be controlled by using a dental mouth guard when sleeping.
In any of these cases, your cosmetic dentist can help you determine if porcelain veneers are right for you or provide you with alternative options.