Dental veneers are custom-designed shells of tooth-like ceramic material that, when applied over the surface of a tooth, can cover worn tooth enamel, uneven tooth alignment or spacing and chips or cracks. Dental veneers fall into the category of cosmetic dentistry because they create a bright, white smile with beautifully aligned, shapely teeth. Even better, the translucent ceramic quality of today’s veneers provides a more natural look than what’s been available in the past.
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A precise shade of porcelain can be chosen to give the right colour to improve a single discoloured or stained tooth or to lighten front teeth (usually the upper ones) generally.
A veneer can make a chipped tooth look intact again. The porcelain covers the whole of the front of the tooth with a thicker section replacing the broken part. Veneers can also be used to close small gaps, when orthodontics (braces) are not suitable. If one tooth is slightly out of position, a veneer can sometimes be fitted to bring it into line with the others. Veneers make teeth look natural and healthy.
Because veneers are very thin and are held in place by a special strong bond (rather like super-glue) very little preparation of the tooth is needed. Some of the shiny outer enamel surface of the tooth may be removed, to make sure that the veneer can be bonded permanently in place later. The amount of enamel removed is tiny and will be the same as the thickness of the veneer to be fitted, so that the tooth stays the same size. A local anesthetic (injection) may be used to make sure that there is no discomfort, but often this is not necessary.
Once the tooth has been prepared, your dentist will take an ‘impression’ (mould). This will be given to our dental technician, along with any other information needed to make the veneer. The colour of the surrounding teeth is matched on a shade guide to make sure that the veneer will look entirely natural.
A veneer takes at least two visits: the first to prepare the tooth and to match the shade, and the second to fit it. Before bonding it in place, your dentist will show you the veneer on your tooth to make sure you are happy with it. Bonding a veneer in place is done with a special adhesive, which holds it firmly on the tooth.
Because the preparation of the tooth is so slight you will probably not need a temporary veneer. The tooth will look very much the same after preparation, but will feel slightly less smooth. Only minor adjustments can be made to the veneer after it is fitted. It is usually best to wait a little while to get used to it before any changes are made. Your dentist will probably want to check and polish it a week or so after it is fitted, and make sure that you are happy with it.
The Restorative Benefit to Veneers
In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, dental veneers can also serve a functional purpose by protecting the surface of a damaged tooth. In some cases, veneers may replace the need for a dental crown, eliminating the need for more invasive tooth preparation. However because dental veneers are so thin, they might require little-to-no tooth reshaping when bonded onto the tooth. Once veneers are bonded into place, they are relatively strong and durable; however, care must be taken so as not to abuse veneers because the thin porcelain shells can damage or break. Your dentist may advise you against certain uses or dietary tendencies (such as eating carrots) and may recommend you wear a protective appliance while your sleep, especially if you grind your teeth.