Do chipped, stained or crooked teeth keep you from beaming your smile to the world? Does the thought of major cosmetic dentistry make your teeth itch?
Then porcelain veneers might be the answer for you, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing dental education. "The great thing about veneers is they allow a conservative approach to long-lasting, major cosmetic change," says Bruce Burton, DMD, MAGD, AGBD, an Academy spokesperson.
Porcelain veneers are thin layers of tooth-shaped porcelain that are affixed to the surface of your natural teeth to enhance their shape, color, length or size. They are custom-made from a model of your teeth to fit precisely and look completely natural. Veneers are easily color-matched to your teeth, and they have uncanny enamel-like qualities that defy detection, making your smile beautiful and natural. Because veneers are wafer thin and cover only the face of the tooth, they require very little removal of tooth material, according to an article in the July/August issue (Volume 50, Number 4) of the clinical, peer-reviewed publication, General Dentistry.
Only about 1 to 2 millimeters of tooth needs to be removed, according to the article's author, Bruce Small, DMD, MAGD. Dr. Small says people with good occlusion (bite) and healthy teeth are the best candidates for veneers. "Veneers are usually best for people who want to change the shape of their teeth more than a little bit, as with bonding, but not enough to require a crown," he says. According to Dr. Small, it usually takes two visits to prepare and place veneers. In the first visit, your dentist will discuss the shape and size of your teeth and remove a tiny bit of tooth material, to make room for the veneer to fit over it without sticking out. This includes shortening the incisal (biting) edge, and sanding a tiny bit of material off the face of the tooth. The dentist will then make an impression-or mold-of your teeth and send it to a lab, where laboratory technicians will create the veneers from strong, natural looking porcelain. On the second visit, your dentist will check the veneers' fit and color and permanently place them over your teeth. Dr. Small says that while veneers are strong and long lasting, they require proper oral hygiene and the same care you would show your natural teeth. (No opening bottles with your teeth or chewing ice!) Keep in mind that a veneer's color cannot be changed after it is placed.
So if you plan to whiten your teeth, you should do it before getting veneers, as the porcelain's color cannot be altered through bleaching, Dr. Burton said. Only your dentist can tell you if veneers are right for you.