What to do about porcelain veneers that look fake


I was born without my front left tooth and I’ve been wearing a flipper most of my life. While I was in the military I got a implant put in but it didn’t look natural. I went to a cosmetic dentist and he suggested four porcelain veneers on my front teeth. When he put them in they looked fake and everyone I talked to knew I had dental work done. I went back to him and he told me their were limitations and he couldn’t do anything about it. I want to get these porcelain veneers re-done so that they don’t look fake. My question is how do I go about getting my money back.

—Anthony in Washington


This is a common complaint, and the system is stacked against you. You expected that the porcelain veneers would look life-like, thinking that your dentist was a true cosmetic dentist. That’s a normal assumption. But there is no legally separate specialty of cosmetic dentistry, which means that you’re very vulnerable here. Your porcelain veneers look fake. But if they’re well-placed and they protect the teeth, they probably meet the legal standard of care. Neither the courts nor the American Dental Association nor state boards of dentistry recognize cosmetic dentists as being any different from general dentists. So, if you were to lodge a complaint against the first dentist, his work will be judged by the standards of general dentistry, which will look mainly at the structure and function of the work–it meets the standard of care. Saying that your porcelain veneers look fake isn’t going to sway the system.

You don’t want your porcelain veneers to look fake. A true cosmetic dentist understands that. But there’s a strong feeling in the dental profession at large that cosmetic dentistry is trivial–that real dentistry is solid, functional, and may not necessarily be perceived by the patient as beautiful.

Here’s what you can do. I would do this before you have anything done to your teeth–that will give you the most leverage: Go to a new expert cosmetic dentist and try to enlist their help. Get some statement from the new dentist that these porcelain veneers and the implant CAN be made to look natural and that what was done wasn’t enough, and then try to negotiate some kind of deal with the old dentist. If you’re sweet and persuasive, you can maybe get the first dentist to pitch in some money to help you get it fixed right. That’s about all you can do. I wouldn’t expect a complete refund, but possibly you could move him to try to help with fixing it so it looks great.

I hope this is helpful,

—Dr. Hall

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