5 FAQs About Dental Veneers

Cosmetic dentistry is an important practice within general dentistry. In a survey by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, 99.7% of adults said a healthy smile is socially important.

Cosmetic dentists have many tools at their disposal to give patients the healthy smile they want. Crowns, teeth whitening, and dental implants all have their place in dentistry to fix broken, discolored, or missing teeth. Similarly, orthodontists use traditional braces and teeth aligners, such as Invisalign, to straighten teeth.

But what if you have problems with your smile that are fairly minor? Often, these problems can be addressed with dental veneers. Here are five facts about dental veneers to help you make a decision:

What are they?

Dental veneers are thin shells that cover the surface of a tooth. These dental appliances come in two varieties. One variety, typically used for children who have not lost their baby teeth, is made from a dental composite material. Dental composite is a resin polymer, in other words, a plastic. These devices can be applied directly to the surface of a tooth then sculpted to the desired shape and size or shaped in a dental lab then cemented to the tooth.

The second variety is made from dental porcelain. These porcelain veneers are produced in a dental lab and adhered to the surface of the tooth using dental cement.

What are they used for?

Veneers can be used to correct a number of dental issues including:

  • Tooth gaps: The device can be sized with a width that closes the gap between teeth.
  • Malformed tooth: The device can be shaped to a perfect tooth shape to cover up a misshapen tooth.
  • Chipped tooth: When adhered to the tooth’s surface, the device can cover any chip, preventing further damage to the tooth.
  • Small or worn tooth: Whether the tooth is naturally small or has shrunk due to wear, the device can add length to the tooth.
  • Discolored tooth: Stained teeth can be covered by the device.
  • Crooked tooth: The device can be shaped to give the appearance of a straight tooth when adhered to a crooked tooth.
  • Receding gums: The device can fill gaps between teeth at the gum line when gums have receded, leaving space between teeth.

What should I expect at the dentist’s office?

The process for getting composite veneers usually takes place during a single appointment. During this appointment, the dental composite is applied to the tooth and shaped into its final form.

The process for getting porcelain veneers, by contrast, takes a few appointments.

  1. During the first appointment, the dentist will take x-rays of your teeth. The dentist will prepare the teeth by shaving away some of the surface of your teeth, making it easier for the veneer to be applied. The dentist will take pictures and impressions of the teeth so that the dental lab will be able to fashion the devices with the correct inside and outside shape.
  2. After the devices are complete, you will have another appointment for the dentist to attach them to your teeth. If the shape needs to be adjusted, the dentist may trim the edges of the restoration to make sure the shape matches your tooth. The dentist will then etch the teeth with hydrofluoric acid, phosphoric acid, or other etching substances to roughen the enamel and form a stronger bond with the tooth. The acid is rinsed off and the etched tooth is allowed to air dry. The cement itself is a resin composite with a photoinitiator mixed in. The photoinitiator causes the resin to harden when it is exposed to visible or ultraviolet light. Once the device is correctly positioned, the light is applied to the cement. This causes the cement to harden within about one minute. Any excess cement is scraped away and your bite is checked. If the shape of the restoration needs to be further adjusted, the dentist may trim the veneer. After the appointment, you may experience some sensitivity or even pain. Over-the-counter painkillers are usually sufficient to dull the pain.
  3. A follow-up appointment may be scheduled to check the fit and positioning of the devices. The dentist will check your bite and your gum line to make sure the device is not irritating your gums.

How long do they last?

While veneers are meant to be permanently bonded to the teeth, they may break off, chip, or discolor over time. Generally speaking, you will care for your restorations like you would care for your teeth by brushing and flossing regularly and visiting your dentist twice a year. When cared for properly, composite veneers are intended to last about four years while porcelain veneers can last 10 years or longer.

What are the alternatives?

Dental veneers are considered a good option because they are not particularly invasive, cause minimal pain, and can be attached quickly and easily. However, there are alternatives to simple cosmetic issues.

  • Teeth whitening: For stained or discolored teeth, teeth whitening may be a good alternative.
  • Tooth straighteners: Tooth straighteners like Invisalign, can be used to close tooth gaps, straighten crooked teeth, and turn rotated teeth.
  • Scaling and root planing: For receding gums, scaling and root planing may get the gums to reattach to the teeth.
  • Dental crown: Dental crowns can be used to cover misshapen teeth.

Dental veneers can resolve a number of issues, including crooked, gapped, misshapen, or discolored teeth. For dental veneers Dulles loves, contact Loudon Dental Associates today.