Hey, we can’t all have Julia Roberts-esque smiles. Or can we? Dental veneers aim to give the public what they crave: artificial, sparkling pearly whites. Hey you with the buckteeth! Or you with the coffee-stained bicuspids! Now it’s your turn to be the Pretty Woman (see Julia Roberts reference from earlier). But wait, what’s that? You don’t have dental insurance? Well, don’t worry because this procedure won’t be covered most likely.
What is it?
Dental veneers fall under the umbrella of cosmetic dentistry, as they are custom-designed shells of tooth-colored materials meant to be applied over the surface of a tooth to improve appearance. There are primarily two different types of veneers that a dentist can use, either porcelain veneers or composite resin veneers. Porcelain veneers (or if you have a predilection for speaking fancy, dental porcelain laminates) are generally more expensive ($900-$2,500 per tooth) but they last longer (10-15 years). Composite veneers cost around $250 to $1,500 per tooth and should last approximately 5 to 7 years.
The procedure will involve slight trimming of enamel from your actual teeth. Basically, the dentist will whittle down a particular tooth (with a small, specialized instrument known as a bur, if you were wondering) to allow the veneer to fit properly over the tooth you’ve decided to disown (Hey, better to disown a tooth than a child. That is, until Pixar releases a movie about a cute little tooth- voiced by Julia Roberts perhaps- being disowned by its master). From there an impression of your teeth will be made (don’t worry, Frank Caliendo is not involved) and a mold will be sent to a dental lab where professionals (formerly know as toothsmiths) will personally craft your veneers.
Before your dentist permanently cements the veneers to your nub-like, whittled-down teeth, he or she my apply them temporarily to see how they fit and to see if they need any last minute alterations. From there your tooth/teeth will be cleaned, polished, and etched (similar to slipping and scoring for you clay pottery nuts out there) before the veneer is cemented over it. Lastly, your dentist may want you to come in for a follow-up visit just to make sure everything is in order.
Who needs it?
All British people. Just kidding (that’s a stereotype and a racist thing to assume; I will save all other quips on the British for a later article I intend to write entitled Countries Who’s Food Looks and Tastes Like Vomit). Otherwise, veneers may be an option for those with teeth that have severe dullness, wear, discoloration, chipping, cracking, spacing, or those whose teeth are uneven. It should be noted that there are other, more inexpensive ways to solve some of these problems, especially if they’re not considered severe. Therefore, it would be best to get the opinion of your dentist to see what options you have.
Veneers may be considered as somewhat of a luxury because they are truly indistinguishable from your actual teeth (especially if you can nail a natural looking color) but they also cost a pretty penny. Aesthetically speaking, a veneer can cover up any problem a tooth may have, as it primarily functions as an appearance-booster more than anything else. However, sometimes veneers can serve a functional purpose of protecting the surface of a damaged tooth, therefore getting rid of the need for a dental crown.
Nowadays, patients have the option of minimal and no-prep veneers, as well. This type of procedure refers to veneers that can be adhesively bonded to the “facial (front) surface” of the teeth which means that your teeth would not have to be grinded down by the dentist and therefore, permanently reliant on veneers. In some cases, a little tooth modification is still necessary, though only minimal penetration will occur in the enamel.
There are certain risks and disclaimers that should be made aware to those considering veneers. Firstly, a procedure known as bonding may be a better alternative for small chips and cracks in teeth, as it is just as effective and a lot cheaper. Likewise, if you’re considering veneers because of mildly stained teeth, you may want to attempt a whitening procedure first. Just to remind you, the dentist will most likely need to whittle down the teeth your getting veneers for, meaning that your real teeth stay permanently nubby. However, veneers are not permanent and will need a replacement somewhere within 5 to 15 years, depending on what type of veneers you’ve opted for. And who knows how expensive they’ll be in another 15 years (damn you, inflation!).
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’ve got the funds, and some jacked up teeth, then veneers will serve as a durable solution. I’d also look into minimal and no-prep veneers, as they claim they can serve the same purpose as veneers but without permanently damaging your real teeth. Either way, it is best you consult your dentist, as their professional opinion may steer you towards other, less expensive solutions.
The information in the article is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care an appropriate health care provider.