Veneers are wafer-thin laminates or shells of tooth-coloured material which can be either porcelain, ceramic or composite bonding material.
They are “cemented” to the front surface of teeth to improve their cosmetic appearance. Many dentists use the analogy that dental veneers are for your teeth what false fingernails are for your hands.
Badly stained teeth that cannot be improved by tooth whitening or prophyflex treatments can be greatly improved by dental veneers, which function to cover any existing stains on your teeth.
Spaces or gaps (diastemas) between your teeth can easily be closed using dental veneers, giving you a more uniform-looking smile.
Teeth that have become badly worn through excessive grinding (bruxism) or by carbonated drinks, as well as those that have been chipped or broken, can benefit from veneers. A small chip on a tooth can quickly be repaired with composite bonding, also known as "composite veneers".
A single damaged tooth can easily be repaired with a porcelain veneer that has the same characteristics and colour as your natural teeth.
For teeth that are not severely crooked, veneers placed over their front surface will give a straight and perfectly aligned-looking smile. For this type of treatment, many people refer to veneers as "instant orthodontics", as you get a similar end result in a fraction of the time.
However, veneers are not the ideal treatment for severely crooked teeth; from the point of view of preserving your natural teeth structure, orthodontics or Invisalign braces would probably be a better solution. However, such treatments can take up to a year or longer.
The most popular type of veneer is porcelain, which offers a stronger and more durable alternative to its composite counterpart. Porcelain veneers also offer a more natural looking, translucent appearance that is more stain resistant and last longer than composite veneers.
Composite veneers are much cheaper than porcelain veneers in general. However considering they do not last as long and need replacing more often, they could end up costing more in the long run. Composite work is ideal for small chips, as this treatment preserves more of your natural tooth structure.
Your dentist will discuss every step of your treatment with you and decide which veneer is best for you.
The first part of any dental procedure is the initial consultation and examination where your dentist can get a feel for what you want and understand your needs and concerns. The dentist will explain the treatment procedure to you and give an estimate to the likely costs of your treatment.
Before your veneers are created, your dentist may need to reshape and prepare the front surfaces of your teeth so that they can accommodate the veneers. Your dentist will numb the teeth and gums with a local anaesthetic so that you do not feel anything during the procedure.
Using a special tool called a burr (a dental drill or file), a tiny part of the front surface of your tooth/teeth will be shaved off. The amount removed should be equivalent to the thickness of the veneer that will sit over the top of the tooth.
An "impression" or mould of your teeth is taken and sent to a dental laboratory. The laboratory uses the impression to cast an accurate model of your teeth, which is used as a guide to fabricate your new veneers. This process can take between one and three weeks.
While you're waiting for your veneers to be fabricated, your dentist may fit you with some temporary veneers to protect your prepared teeth. Not all teeth require temporary veneers.
On your second appointment, your dentist will fit your new veneers to your teeth. First, the dentist may just sit the veneers over your teeth to see how they look with your smile, as he/she may need to trim or adjust the veneer.
Next, your teeth will be thoroughly cleaned and the front surfaces etched (roughened) with a special acid gel so that they provide a good surface for the dental cement to stick to.
The veneers are then cemented into place, and a special curing light is used to activate the dental cement so that it permanently bonds the veneer to the front surface of your prepared tooth. If there is any excess cement, it is usually trimmed away and polished to leave a beautiful and natural-looking restoration.
Porcelain veneers will typically last between five and ten years, while composite veneers last a year or two at most. The bottom line is that your veneers will eventually need to be replaced. Although veneers are strongly cemented into place, occasionally they may be dislodged by hard foods or trauma. In such situations, it is important that you keep hold of your veneer and contact your dentist immediately.
To make your veneers last longer, follow a good oral hygiene program and visit your dentist for check-ups on a regular basis.
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