What are Dental Veneers?

Dr. Kyle Hornby

Hi! My name is Kyle Hornby and I'm a Kitchener, Ontario Family Dentist. A few times a week, I sit down at the keyboard to write blog articles that help dental patients better understand oral health. In today's blog post, I'd like to explore Dental Veneers including some commonly asked questions about the treatment process and outcome.

Dental Veneers: What are they?

You can think of dental veneers as a thin cosmetic surface that is bonded to the outer surface of your teeth. Each tooth can have its own independent veneer meaning that, veneers are not attached or bridged together. Veneers are typically made or white porcelain but they can also be made from acrylic or composite resin dental filling material.

Veneers are about 1mm thick (which is very thin). Your Dentist bonds or "sticks" veneers to your tooth enamel and they can change the shape, alignment and colour of your teeth.

Patients often choose veneers when they want brighter teeth.

What are some of the other reasons why patients choose veneers for their teeth?

  • Straightening teeth without long, expensive orthodontic treatment. That's right, you can use thinner and thicker veneers together to give the illusion of all your teeth being in perfect alignment. Veneers allow you to avoid the typical 18-36 months you'd spend in Braces or using Invisalign to move your teeth into proper position.
  • Covering up worn down or broken surfaces. Our teeth wear down over time and some things like an abrasive or acid-heavy diet or grinding your teeth can speed up this process. Many people have rough, worn edges on front teeth. Veneers can provide smooth surfaces and straight edges to change your smile.

Are Veneers Permanent?

Yes and No. Veneers are thin shells of porcelain that your Dentist bonds to your teeth. They aren't removeable but they can break down, chip or de-bond over time. Commonly, a Dentist will tell their patient they'll need to replace veneers every 10-15 years. However, veneers can often last much longer than that.

Veneers, just like natural teeth need to be maintained through good oral hygiene practices. They should also be checked regularly by a Dentist.

The most common reasons for veneer replacement would be fracture or developing a cavity or soft spot around the veneer's edge. As you can imagine, avoiding hard foods and brushing and flossing regularly will go a long way toward maximizing the life of your dental veneers.

Who is a good candidate for Dental Veneering?

If you want dental work to last and to look its best, you'll want to maintain great oral hygiene, keep your gums healthy, and avoid any foods or activities (tooth grinding and clenching) that can affect how your veneers look and function.

If you've got great looking veneers but your gums are inflamed and bleeding, you won't be framing those teeth properly. If you grind or clench your teeth, you may want to consider a custom night guard to protect your costly dental work during sleep.

Some patients may not be suitable candidates for veneers based on their oral homecare. Others may have issues with their bite or tooth alignment that will result in dental veneers being under excessive stresses during chewing and regular function.

Sometimes, your Kitchener Dentist will recommend small orthodontic changes first to establish a safe zone for your eventual veneers.

When Might Veneers Not Work Well?

  1. Heavily broken down teeth - Dental Veneers need something to hold onto. In cases where a tooth is heavily filled or broken down, there may not be enough tooth enamel for adequate bonding. Additionally, broken down or compromised teeth will benefit from being reinforced by a dental crown or "cap". Veneers don't reinforce teeth at all.
  2. In patients who grind and clench their teeth - Some patients may apply hundreds of pounds of force to their teeth during nighttime grinding bouts. This can chip porcelain on dental crowns and veneers causing early failure. If you're considering veneers, your Kitchener Dentist will assess whether any clenching or grinding habits will compromise treatment. They may elect to proceed with veneer treatment but recommend a custom night guard.

Now that we have the basics down, let's talk about how veneers are "put on" or applied to your teeth...

How Veneers Are Put On Your Teeth

As we discussed above, dental veneers can be made of acrylic, porcelain or composite resin dental bonding. All of these veneer types can be bonded to your tooth enamel for long-lasting application.

There are generally two types of veneer treatments: prep and no-prep veneers. "Prep" Veneers require that a small amount of your tooth enamel is shaved off to accommodate the thickness of the veneer. In "no-prep" veneers, the veneer is bonded directly to your normal, unchanged enamel surface.

Your Dentist will bond the veneers on your teeth using a composite dental resin, resin cement or resin-modified glass ionomer (RMGI). Bond strength with these materials is very high. It's also important that your veneers are a shape and size that your bite can accommodate.

For instance, if you want to restore heavily worn teeth to their original length, it may put the veneers under excessive forces when you chew food or grind your teeth. No matter how strong any bond is, it can fail under excessive forces or duress.

Because of this, your Kitchener Dentist will typically have you go at least a few weeks in temporary veneers to make sure they're not chipping or de-bonding. If they are, it tells your Dentist that they'll need to adjust the shape or size of the veneers to ensure long-term durability.

Will Veneers Fix Crooked Teeth?

Yes, veneering can be used to change the look and shape of your teeth to give them a straighter appearance. The teeth themselves don't move as in the case of Orthodontics (Braces and Invisalign) but the veneers can be shaped to give the appearance that you have a straighter, more aligned smile.

As you can imagine, there are limits to how much straightening you can achieve without actually moving teeth. In cases of severe crowding and tooth overlap, your Family Dentist may be limited in terms of how much they can achieve using only veneers.

Can Dental Veneers fix an Overbite?

First, let me define what an overBITE is and what an overJET is. An overbite is the degree to which your upper front teeth cover your lower front teeth vertically. An overjet is the degree to which your upper front teeth jet out in front of your lower front teeth.

When we hear the term "buck teeth" or "beaver teeth" the person using them is actually describing overjet. However, most people in the general population use the term overbite to describe what is actually overjet.

I have never met a non-Dentist who has ever heard the term overjet before. But when I ask most of my patients if they know what overbite is they say "yes" and proceed to describe overjet.

So, when people ask about Veneers fixing an overbite, they are wanting a treatment that can bring their upper front teeth back inward so they don't extend way out over their lower teeth.

Importantly, Veneers can't really achieve this result. It would entail shaving a large amount of enamel off your front teeth only to replace some of that thickness with a porcelain veneer.

Currently, the only way to reduce a large overjet is with Invisalign or traditional braces.

Veneers can help achieve the appearance of straightening and un-crowding of teeth and, in some cases, is a suitable alternative to Orthodontic treatment. However, Veneers can't correct an overjet (or overbite for that matter and so, for this, Orthodontic tooth movement is the only answer.

Are Veneers Worth It?

The price on dental veneers can vary based on your Dentist and their level of training in providing cosmetic dentistry. The cost on veneering a single tooth can vary between $500 - $5,000. However, if you are looking for a change in the shade of your teeth or the alignment of your smile, veneers can provide a quick result compared to alternatives.

Using Orthodontics to improve your smile is rewarding but the process is a long one. Commonly, Orthodontic tooth alignment can take 18-36 months and many patients find it to be inconvenient. Dental veneers can be put in place, start to finish, in 2-4 weeks!

Whether or not veneers are worth it or not, depends on a patient's desire to change their smile. I would suggest that veneers are worth it for patients who think constantly about changing their smile. The question is about value. If you are spending thousands of dollars on cosmetic treatment, it should provide you with an outcome you can appreciate each and every time you smile.

How do you Maintain Your Veneers?

Veneers are porcelain or composite resin filling material in composition. This means that you can't get a cavity in a veneer but you can certainly get a cavity in your tooth structure that surrounds the veneer.

So, you definitely need to include your veneers when brushing your teeth. And, yes, you still need to floss! The cleaner you keep your veneers and supporting tooth structure, the longer they'll last and the better they'll look.

Do Veneers Stain?

Many patients want to know if their veneers will stay bright over time. Fortunately, the porcelain in veneers does not absorb particles and pigments that cause tooth stains. This means that you just need to brush and floss your veneers over time to keep them looking tip-top!

Composite bonded veneers must be polished to ensure a smooth surface that won't capture stain-causing particles over time.

Do Veneers Ruin your Teeth?

Dental Veneers are bonded to the outer surface or wall of your teeth. This process is reversible.

In some cases, however, your tooth/teeth must be shaved down to accommodate bonding of the veneer or to make space for a thicker veneer material. In these cases, you are technically removing healthy tooth structure to make way for veneer placement.

While doing so does not "ruin" your tooth, it certainly removes natural tooth structure and may compromise the durability of your tooth.

Veneer preps or reductions can also cause nerve irritation. Occasionally, a patient may require root canal treatment on a tooth if it becomes painful after veneer preparation and placement.

Enjoy a fresh start.
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