Dental veneers are an incredibly versatile cosmetic dental treatment. They can be used to address a long list of concerns, from recoloring stained teeth through the completely reshaping your smile. They’re one of the most common dental treatments behind teeth whitening.
What are dental veneers?
Dental veneers are thin sheets of material that are applied to the front of a tooth to make cosmetic changes. A simple way to think of them is like fake nails for your teeth.
Dental veneers can be used for:
- Teeth whitening
- Reshaping a chipped tooth
- Closing gaps between teeth
- Reshaping teeth that are naturally crooked or misshapen
How are dental veneers made?
There are two methods of making dental veneers: direct bonding and indirect bonding.
Direct bonding uses a special material called dental composite, made out of plastic and ground glass. This material is applied and shaped directly onto the tooth (hence “direct” bonding) in the form of a paste, then hardened with a special light. The dental composite can be made to match the color of surrounding teeth to better blend in.
Indirect bonding uses porcelain to make the veneers. A thin layer of tooth enamel is shaved off the tooth and an impression is made. The veneer is made in a lab out of porcelain that’s colored to match the surrounding teeth. During a later appointment, the porcelain veneer is bonded to the tooth.
The main differences between getting porcelain and dental composite veneers are speed, cost, and durability.
- Speed: Dental composite veneers can be applied in-chair in a dentist’s office in a single visit. The composite resin is hardened with a special light and you can leave with your new veneers immediately. Porcelain veneers need at least two visits; one to prepare the tooth and make impressions, and a second to actually apply the veneer.
- Cost: Dental composite veneers are significantly cheaper than resin veneers on a per-veneer basis, however can be more expensive in the long run. That’s because:
- Durability: Porcelain is a much more durable material than composite resin. It’s stain-resistant, does not easily chip or crack, and will last over a decade if cared for. Composite veneers stain easily, are prone to chips and cracks, and last only five or so years.
Many dentists use composite veneers as temporary veneers while porcelain veneers are manufactured in the lab. This allows patients to get the look they’re after without the downtime associated with waiting for the fabrication.