Dental veneers are medical procedures which restore the natural appearance of teeth. They involve the creation of a mould made from composite resin or ceramic materials, which is then bonded to teeth via a specially formulated dental cement. The aim is to resolve problems relating to damaged or discoloured teeth, improving their physical appearance.
What does a veneer procedure entail?
There are usually a number of separate stages in the veneer installation process, which can last a few weeks from beginning to end.
1. Firstly, patients tend to visit their dentist for a preliminary consultation. Their dentist will examine their teeth, looking for signs of damage or decay, and decide whether the patient is a suitable candidate for veneer treatment. If there is an underlying condition that is compromising the patient's teeth, the dentist may recommend against veneers. But if the teeth are healthy and the problems are purely cosmetic, the veneer construction process can then begin.
2. A second visit to the dentist will then be arranged. Here, the dental specialist will use precision tools to remove the outer layer of enamel from the teeth being treated. The width of the layer will correspond approximately to the layer of veneer being applied, and an anaesthetic may be needed to dull the pain during this process.
3. When the tooth has been prepared, the dentist will then make a mould that will be used in the construction of the veneer.
- In some cases, this mould will then be sent to a dental laboratory, which uses either ceramic materials to produce an exact replica of the damaged tooth. This can take 2-4 weeks, depending on which medical provider patients use. In others, the mould can be created in the dental surgery as patients wait. This method uses composite materials.
4. When the mould is ready, the next step is the bonding procedure. There may be a need to trim the veneer slightly to fit the tooth, or to calibrate the colour of the veneer to suit the patient's teeth. Then, the tooth needs to be prepared for bonding. The dentist will polish the tooth, then etch it to create a suitable bonding site for the cement and the veneer.
5. After that, the dental cement is applied, followed by the veneer. By training a beam of light on the veneer, dentists can “activate” the cement, tightly bonding the veneer to the tooth, a process which happens in a matter of minutes. Finally, any excess cement can be quickly removed, leaving the veneer in place and restoring the natural appearance of the patient's teeth.
What types of veneer are there?
There are two ways that veneers can be installed. Firstly, they can be “palatal”, which means that they are applied to the back of teeth, giving them extra support. These are less common, that the other variety, which are applied to the front of teeth, and tend to be a more effective cosmetic intervention.
There are two major types of frontal veneer: composite and porcelain.
Composite veneers: composite veneers are made from specially created resins and they can be created in one sitting as patients wait. A skilled dental surgeon can create a precise mould based upon the patient's teeth, and apply several layers of resin to build a replica. This mould sets in a few minutes and can then be bonded using standard dental cement.
Composite veneers are more convenient than porcelain alternatives, as they require fewer visits to the dentist. They also tend to require less drilling and processing of the patient's teeth. However, they are usually less hard-wearing than porcelain veneers, and will generally have to be replaced within 5-10 years of installation. In many cases, they are also more susceptible to staining, which can compromise the cosmetic qualities of the veneer.
Porcelain or ceramic veneers: a more expensive and time-consuming variety, porcelain veneers have many qualities that make the inconvenience worthwhile. In this case, the veneers will be constructed by specialist labs away from the dental surgery, and there may be a delay of a couple of weeks during this time.
Porcelain veneers may require some extra dental work to prepare teeth for the bonding procedure, but they have some significant benefits. They tend to reflect light in a more natural manner, mimicking the effect of tooth enamel; they are stronger and last longer than composite alternatives, and they resist staining more effectively.
Additional Options: No-Prep Veneers and Same-Day Veneers
No-prep veneers: the most widely used brands include LUMINEERS®, Vivaneers™, and DURAthin®. A no-prep veneer is much thinner than a traditional veneer and does not require any tooth preparation. This means that the enamel of your teeth will not be shaved off as they are designed to be placed directly on top of your natural teeth.
Same-day veneers: these restorations are designed to be prepared and placed on the same day. This is done thanks to CEREC (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics) technology, where veneers are custom made directly at the dentist’s office.
Both no-prep and same-day veneers might not be the right option for every patient. Your dentist will help you choose the right one for your individual needs.
What should i expect?
During the veneer installation process, patients can experience some pain as their dentist works on their teeth and reshapes them to accept the veneer. However, a skilled dentist can carry out this work sensitively and quickly, and use anaesthetics to ensure that pain is minimised. As noted above, patients can also expect a delay of a few weeks if they choose porcelain veneers.
After the procedure, it will be necessary to attend a follow-up appointment with your dentist to assess how the veneers have bedded in. The dentist will examine how the veneers have interacted with the patient's gums, and make any recommendations for gum or tooth cleaning going forward. But further invasive dental work should not be required.
Maintaining dental veneers is generally simple, but important. As with natural teeth, they need to be kept clean to ensure that their pristine appearance is retained for as long as possible. A non-abrasive toothpaste variety may be suggested to ensure that cleaning does not compromise the surface of the veneers. In some cases where patients grind their teeth, the dentist may also recommend a night-guard to protect the veneers as patients sleep.
Patients should also expect to make regular appointments with their dentist while their veneers are installed. To enjoy the maximum benefits of installing veneers, it is advisable to book hygienist sessions where specialists can apply non-abrasive polishes that are formulated specifically for veneers. Regular dental appointments can also flag up any concerns about the integrity of veneers, or secondary problems resulting from their installation such as tooth decay.
By and large, you can expect an instant improvement in the cosmetic appearance of your teeth and renewed confidence as a result. But plan it makes sense to keep maintenance and oral health in mind whenever veneers are put in place.