What Are Porcelain Veneers?
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, porcelain veneers are defined as ultra-thin shells of ceramic material, which are bonded to the front of teeth. This procedure requires little or no anesthesia, and can be the ideal choice for improving the appearance of the front teeth. Recently veneers have been promoted on Extreme Makeover that require a great deal of tooth enamel removal and must use anesthetic. These veneers are more properly called ¾ crowns and when needed are just as beautiful as porcelain veneers. Porcelain veneers are placed to mask discolorations, to brighten teeth, and to improve a smile. Highly resistant to permanent staining from coffee, tea, or even cigarette smoking, the wafer-thin porcelain veneers can achieve a tenacious bond to the tooth, resulting in an esthetically pleasing naturalness that is unsurpassed by other restorative options.
The thin veneers we use most often are Lumineers by the Den Matt Corporation. These veneers can be so thin they match the thickness of many contact lenses, yet they are very strong and beautiful. Many times little or no painful tooth structure needs to be removed to have these veneers done.
Why a porcelain veneer?
Porcelain veneers are an excellent alternative to crowns in many situations. They provide a much more conservative approach to changing a tooth's color, size, or shape. Porcelain veneers can mask undesirable defects, such as teeth stained by tetracycline, by an injury, or as a result of a root-canal procedure, and are ideal for masking discolored fillings in front teeth. Patients with gaps between their front teeth or teeth that are chipped or worn may consider porcelain veneers. Generally, veneers will last for many years, and the technique has shown remarkable longevity when properly performed.
What happens during the procedure?
Patients need three appointments for the entire procedure: diagnosis and treatment planning, preparation, and bonding.
Diagnosis and treatment planning: It's critical that you take an active role in the smile design. Spend time in the decision-making and planning of the smile. Understand the corrective limitations of the procedure. Have more than one consultation, if necessary, to feel comfortable that your dentist understands your objectives.
Preparation of teeth: This appointment will take from one to two hours if a true porcelain veneer is being used and more than three and a half hours for the ¾ crown type of veneers. To prepare the teeth for the porcelain veneers, the teeth are lightly buffed to allow for the small added thickness of the veneer. Usually, about a half a millimeter of the tooth is removed, which may require a local anesthetic. With the ¾ crown veneers at least 1.5 to 2.0 mm of tooth structure is removed. At this appointment, a mold is taken of the teeth, which is sent to the laboratory for the fabrication of the veneers. This can take about one to two weeks. During the time you wait for the lab procedures to be done, you will be wearing temporary veneers that look great and feel good.
Bonding of veneers: This appointment will take about one or two hours. First, the dentist places the veneers with water or glycerin on the teeth to check their fit and get a sense of the shade or color. While the veneers are resting on your teeth, view the esthetic results, and pay particular attention to the color. At this point, the color of the veneers can still be adjusted with the shade of the cement to be used. The color cannot be altered after veneers are cemented. To apply the veneer, the tooth is cleansed with specific chemicals to achieve a bond. Once a special cement is sandwiched between the veneer and tooth, a visible light beam initiates the release of a catalyst to harden the cement.
How about maintenance?
For about a week or two, you will go through a period of adjustment as you get used to your "new" teeth that have been changed in size and shape. Brush and floss daily. After one or two weeks, you'll return for a follow-up appointment.
Have realistic expectations
Porcelain veneers are reasonable facsimiles of natural teeth, not perfect replacements. It's not uncommon to see slight variations in the color of porcelain veneers upon close inspection, as this occurs even in natural teeth. Nevertheless, this procedure can greatly enhance your smile, and can heighten inner satisfaction and self-esteem.
The Academy of General Dentistry is a non-profit organization of more than 37,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up-to-date in the profession through continuing education. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patient's oral health needs. Learn more about AGD member dentists or find more information on dental health topics at www.agd.org/consumer.