Dental veneers are thin, tooth-colored shells that are attached to the front surface of teeth to improve their appearance. They’re often made from porcelain or resin-composite materials and are permanently bonded to your teeth.

Veneers can be used to treat a number of different cosmetic concerns, including chipped, broken, discolored, or smaller-than-average teeth.

Some people may only get one veneer in the case of a broken or chipped tooth, but many get between six to eight veneers in order to create an even, symmetrical smile. The top front eight teeth are the most commonly applied veneers.

Dental veneers are most commonly made out of porcelain or composite resin and require intensive prep work. But there are also “no-prep” veneers, which are applied through a different process.

Applying traditional dental veneers typically involves grinding down the tooth structure, sometimes removing some of the tooth — even past the enamel. This allows for proper placement, but it’s also an irreversible procedure that can be painful to go through and often requires a local anesthetic.

Tooth reduction depends on your dental concerns and the number of teeth involved. When several teeth are involved, a dentist may order a wax model to show you how the veneers would look.

On the other hand, no-prep veneers may require some tooth preparation or alteration, but these alterations are minimal.

Porcelain veneers

Some dentists will begin by grinding down the teeth and then making an impression of your teeth for the creation of a mold. Then they’ll send the mold out to a lab for the porcelain veneer to be made.

Once the veneer is ready, your dentist can place it on your prepared tooth and cement it in place. Temporary veneers may be used until the permanent veneers come back from the lab.

Meanwhile, other dentists may use CAD/CAM technology so a computer can design the veneer. Your dentist can make the actual veneer right there in the office.

Composite resin veneers

If you choose composite resin veneers, your dentist will etch the surface of your tooth before applying a thin layer of the composite material to your prepared tooth.

Additional layers of composite may be necessary to achieve your intended look. Your dentist will finish by curing, or hardening, the composite veneer with a special light.

No-prep veneers

These include options like Lumineers and Vivaneers, which are specific brands of porcelain veneers. They take less time and are less invasive to apply.

Instead of removing layers of tooth under the enamel, no-prep veneers only affect the enamel. In many cases, no-prep veneers don’t require local anesthetics or temporary veneers.

How do you know which type of veneer is best for you? You’ll want to consider several factors:

  • cost
  • length of time of the installation process
  • appearance of the veneers
  • longevity of the veneers
  • your dentist’s recommendations
Porcelain veneers:Resin-based veneers
more expensiveless tooth needs to be removed to prepare the tooth
may require more than one visit to the dentistveneers often can be applied in just one visit to the dentist
stronger and longer-lasting than composite veneersless expensive than porcelain veneers
more expensivelasts 5-7 years
less likely to staineasier to fix
may get damaged more easily

You may be surprised by how much of a difference a dental veneer can make, taking you from a chipped, cracked, misshapen, or stained tooth to an evenly shaped, naturally colored tooth. Check out this set of before-and-after photos to see what you can expect.

Veneers aren’t often covered by insurance because they’re considered a cosmetic procedure. In general, you can expect to pay between $925 and $2,500 per tooth, according to the American Dental Association.

Composite veneers cost around $400 to $2,000 per tooth and last between 5 to 7 years. In the long term, traditional veneers are often the most cost-effective option.

The cost of your veneers depends on factors like what type of veneers you’re choosing, what brand name your dentist has available, your area’s cost of living, and the dentist’s expertise. It can cost significantly less if you visit a clinic with dentistry students who are supervised by dentists on the dental school faculty.

The biggest benefit to veneers is improving the appearance of your teeth, giving you a brighter and more even smile. Dental veneers are often used to treat the following cosmetic occurrences:

  • broken or chipped teeth
  • severe discoloration or uneven coloring that can’t be fixed with whitening
  • gaps in the teeth
  • smaller-than-average teeth
  • pointed or unusually shaped teeth

Veneers can last for more than a decade, depending on the type of veneer you choose, making them a semipermanent investment that can make you more confident in your smile.

Before you get your veneers, you’ll have a preliminary appointment with your dentist to discuss which options are right for you and how many veneers you want to have placed. In some cases, if teeth are crooked or uneven, you may need to have braces before your dentist can place the veneers.

Your dentist will often take X-rays at this stage to evaluate the health of your teeth. They’ll look for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, or the need for root canals. If you have any of these conditions, you may not be a candidate for veneers.

To get accurate sizing for your veneers, at the next appointment, your dentist trims down about half of a millimeter of your tooth (they remove the enamel using a grinding tool) before they take a mold (impression) of your teeth. This mold is then sent off to the lab to create your veneers.

It typically takes between 1 and 2 weeks after your dentist creates your mold to get your veneers back from the lab.

Once your veneers are in, you can schedule an appointment to have them placed. At this appointment, your dentist evaluates the fit, shape, and coloration of the veneers to make sure they’re perfect for you.

Next, your dentist thoroughly cleans your teeth. This is important, as it keeps bacteria from being trapped under the veneer and causing decay.

After they do this, they use the grinding tool to create a rougher texture on each tooth on which a veneer is to be applied. This makes it easier for the veneer to stick to the tooth.

Your dentist then uses dental cement to bond the veneer to the tooth. They’ll use ultraviolet light to harden this cement quickly.

This second appointment (where veneers are placed) typically doesn’t last longer than 2 hours. But it might vary depending on the number of veneers being done and if a local anesthetic is used.

Veneers aren’t the same as dental implants or crowns. Veneers cover only the front surface of the tooth, while crowns encase the entire tooth. Veneers are also thinner than crowns: about 1 mm, compared to 2 mm.

Veneers are less invasive, too. If you need a crown, your dentist will have to file or ground down more of your tooth to prepare it for the crown than would be necessary for the application of a veneer.

Meanwhile, an implant is installed in the bone to replace a missing tooth, and a crown is placed on top of that. It can take several months after the implant is placed for the area around it to heal enough for the replacement tooth to be placed on top.

Unlike other dental procedures, the recovery process doesn’t take an extended amount of time. Instead, once the veneers are cemented on, and any anesthetics wear off, you can eat and chew as you normally would. While the anesthetic is wearing off, be conscious of not chewing on your cheeks or tongue.

In some cases, immediately after the veneers are applied, you may notice that they feel a little rough. These rough spots (usually from extra cement that can adhere to the veneer) wear down after several days of normal eating and teeth brushing. If they don’t, your dentist can smooth them out.

Traditional porcelain veneers typically last at least 10 years (and some research suggests that they can sometimes last as long as 20 years), and no-prep veneers last around 5 to 7 years. Taking certain precautions can help make sure that you get the longest lifespan out of them as possible. These precautions include:

  • Don’t chew on hard objects like pens, ice, or your fingernails.
  • Never use your teeth to open packaging.
  • Try not to chew with your front teeth. Eat harder foods with your back teeth only; cut up hard foods so that this is possible.
  • If you grind or clench your teeth at night, get a splint or retainer to protect your veneers.
  • If you play sports, you should wear a mouth guard.
  • If you grind or clinch your teeth, you should get a mouth guard or retainer.