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. Applying traditional dental veneers requires more intensive prep work compared to alternatives that are sometimes called “no-prep veneers.” These no-prep veneers — which include options like Lumineers and Vivaneeres — take less time and are less invasive to apply.
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.
No-prep veneers, on the other hand, may require some tooth preparation or alteration, but these alterations are minimal. 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.
Veneers aren’t the same as tooth implants or crowns. Veneers cover the front surface of the tooth. Implants, on the other hand, replace the entire tooth. Crowns also encase the entire tooth, while veneers only cover the front surface of the tooth (which is visible with a smile).
Veneers aren’t often covered by insurance, as they’re considered a cosmetic procedure. According to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, traditional veneers can cost an average of $925 to $2,500 per tooth and can last 10 to 15 years. No-prep veneers cost around $800 to $2000 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 expertise of the dentist.
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 your teeth’s health. 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 a half 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 for the creation of your veneers.
It typically takes between one and two 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 a dental cement to bind the veneer to the tooth. They’ll use ultraviolet light to harden this cement quickly, and once you leave the office, your new smile is ready to go!
This second appointment (where veneers are placed) typically doesn’t last longer than two hours, though it might be an extra thirty minutes if a local anesthetic is used.
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 between 10 and 15 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 possible. These precautions include:
- Don’t chew on hard objects like pens, ice, or your finger nails.
- Never use your teeth to open packaging or condiment packages.
- Try not to chew with your front teeth. Eat harder foods with your back teeth only; cut up hard foods like chocolate bars so that this is possible.
- If you grind or clench your teeth at night, get a splint or retainer to protect your veneers.
- If playing sports, you must wear a mouth guard.