Veneers and crowns are both dental restoration methods that can improve the look and function of your teeth. The main difference is that a veneer covers only the front of your tooth and a crown covers the entire tooth.

Dental restoration procedures are costly, so it’s important to know which one may be best for you. Although the procedures are different, both have good success rates.

Here’s a look at the differences between veneers and crowns, the pros and cons of each, and how they’re used.

A veneer is a very thin layer of porcelain or other materials, about 1 millimeter (mm) in thickness, that’s bonded to the front of your existing tooth.

A crown is about 2 mm in thickness and covers the whole tooth. It can be all porcelain, porcelain fused to a metal alloy (PFM), or an all-metal alloy.

Whether a veneer or a crown is right for you will depend on the condition of your teeth and what you’re trying to fix. Common conditions for restoration are:

Both crowns and veneers are color matched to your teeth, except for all-metal crowns.

A veneer covers only the front surface of your tooth. They’re not as invasive as crowns, because the preparation leaves more of your original tooth intact.

About half a millimeter of the enamel on the front of the tooth is ground down to roughen the surface for bonding the veneer. Some newer types of veneers don’t need as much grinding of the tooth surface. You may need a local anesthetic for this, because the grinding may be painful.

For a veneer to work properly, your tooth has to have enough enamel on it for a veneer to bond to it.

A crown covers the entire tooth. With a crown, more of the tooth needs to be filed or ground down to prepare for the crown placement.

If you have tooth decay, your dentist will remove the decayed part of the tooth before making the crown. In this case, your tooth may need to be built up to support the crown.

Your tooth may also need to be built up if it’s damaged. You may have a local anesthetic for this procedure.

If your tooth has a large filling, a root canal, or is very worn or cracked, a crown is likely the best option.

If your tooth is basically intact and the restoration is for cosmetic purposes, a veneer may be the best option. Veneers can also be used for minor shape corrections.

Veneers and crowns can be costly. Individual costs vary, depending on the size of your tooth, where it is in your mouth, and the average prices in your area.

Most dental insurance programs won’t cover cosmetic dentistry. Also, most dental plans have a maximum annual limit of coverage. Check with your insurance company to see what they’ll cover.

Veneers

According to the American Cosmetic Dentistry organization, the cost for a veneer can range between $925 to $2,500 per tooth.

Porcelain veneers are more expensive than composite veneers, but they last longer, according to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry. The price of composite veneers ranges from $250 to $1,500 per tooth.

Crowns

The cost of a crown varies by the material used to make the crown, the amount of prep work needed, and the size of the tooth.

According to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, crowns can range in price from $1,000 to $3,500 per tooth. This figure doesn’t include other procedures such as core buildup or root canals that might be needed before the crown is made.

Porcelain and ceramic crowns tend to be slightly more expensive than all-metal crowns.

Ways to save

Ask your dentist if they have a budget or payment plan, or if you can space out your payments over one or two years without interest.

Dental prices in your area may vary. Call other local dentists to see if there are better options.

If you live near a university with a dental school, you may be able to find a dental clinic where supervised dental students perform dental procedures for crowns, veneers, and other dental needs at reduced rates.

You’ll want to know at the outset how much your crown or veneer is going to cost, and how much, if anything, your insurance will pay toward the cost. You’ll also want to know about your dentist’s experience with both procedures.

Other questions for your dentist depend on your particular needs, but some questions you may want to ask include the following:

  • Are there other options to consider, such as dentures or implants?
  • How long do you expect my veneer or crown material to last?
  • Will the initial cost cover subsequent visits if the crown fit isn’t right?
  • Will I need to wear a mouth guard?
  • Do you recommend any special care for the veneer or crown?

Both veneers and crowns can improve your smile and the function of your teeth. Both are costly procedures, especially when more than one tooth is involved.

Veneers are used when you want cosmetic improvement, like covering crooked or chipped teeth, especially your front teeth.

Crowns are used when the tooth has a lot of decay or is broken or needs a root canal. Crowns may also be more appropriate when you need to brace adjoining teeth.

Getting regular dental checkups and practicing good dental hygiene are vital for maintaining your veneer or crown and the rest of your teeth.