Veneers are ultra-thin shells of ceramic (porcelain) or a composite resin 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. Veneers are placed to mask discolorations, to brighten teeth and to improve a smile.
Why a veneer?
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. Veneers can mask undesirable defects, such as teeth stained by tetracycline and damage due to an injury or as a result of a root-canal procedure. They 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 veneers. Generally, veneers will last for many years, and the technique has shown remarkable longevity when properly performed.
What happens during the procedure?
Patients may need up to three appointments for the entire procedure: diagnosis and treatment planning, preparation and bonding.
It's critical that you take an active role in the smile design. Spend time in the 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.
To prepare the teeth for the veneers, the teeth are lightly buffed to allow for the small added thickness of the veneer. Usually, about half a millimeter of the tooth is removed, which may require a local anesthetic. Composite resin veneers are generally done in one appointment. After the tooth is prepared, the dentist carefully bonds and sculpts the composite material onto your teeth. For ceramic veneers, a mold is taken of the teeth, which is sent to the laboratory for the fabrication of the veneers. This may take several days. If the teeth are too unsightly, a temporary veneer can be placed, at an additional cost.
When your ceramic veneers are ready, the dentist places each veneer 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 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 light beam hardens 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 changed in size and shape. Brush and floss daily. After one or two weeks, your dentist will ask you to return for a follow-up appointment.
What are realistic expectations?
Veneers are reasonable facsimiles of natural teeth, not perfect replacements. It's not uncommon to see slight variations in the color of veneers upon close inspection, as this occurs even in natural teeth. Nevertheless, this procedure can greatly enhance your smile and can heighten self-esteem.