Dear Dr. Hall,
I recently had porcelain veneers done on my upper six front teeth and four ceramic crowns on the ones next to them. My teeth were discolored and had some spacing. The problem is I do not like the color of the porcelain veneers and crowns. When telling my dentist this, he reassured me he did everything he could to mask the discolorations. He did not use an opaque core but told me he used the lightest possible. He also used “universal yellow” bonding cement which he said was an opaque. My porcelain veneers and crowns look gray in outdoor and fluorescent light and I only like them in indoor soft light. My dentist is trained in cosmetic dentistry and is a DMD. I don’t know what to do. I really didn’t expect the porcelain veneers to be perfect, especially since I did not do my lower. Now, my upper looks gray and my bottom looks yellow. Please give me your opinion about the matter. Am I just being unrealistic about what veneers can do for discolored teeth? I was told my teeth were only moderately dark. Thank you so much!
—Lynn in Minnesota
Your dentist may have told you he is trained in cosmetic dentistry, but do you realize that he can legally claim to have this training even if he has done nothing more than graduate from dental school? Cosmetic dentistry is not a legally recognized specialty, which makes you really vulnerable here.
Your issues are really not that difficult to solve. Let me go over them.
First, if the laboratory had done them right, your dentist wouldn’t have even needed any special cements to block out the underlying color. It’s a risky business, anyway, for a dentist to rely on the cement for opaquing, because it is difficult to predict how thick the cement will be once it is finally in place. There are two reliable ways to deal with colorations that need to be masked. One would be to mask them before the case is sent to the laboratory. The dentist would shave a little bit more from the front of the tooth and build it back up with an opaque material, then do the porcelain veneers over that. That’s how I would do significant color-change cases. The other way would be to communicate the intensity of the discolorations to the dental lab, maybe with a photograph, and have the ceramist opaque them with the porcelain.
Second, “universal yellow” bonding cement is not an opaquer. It sounds like this is just something your dentist had on hand and so that’s what he used, hoping it would work.
The fact that the veneers show a different color depending on the lighting situation indicates that maybe the laboratory isn’t fully familiar, either, with some of these color issues and so used a porcelain that looks different under different lights. So unfortunately, it seems like you were dealing with amateurs all the way around.
How to solve your problem? There really isn’t any way to change the color of porcelain veneers after they are placed, other than taking them off and starting over. It is possible to treat discolorations with beautiful porcelain veneers, by using opaquers and other color management techniques, but the dentist has to know what he or she is doing and the laboratory also. See the photographs of work by porcelain veneer dentists who are members of our referral network, and you will see how beautiful these can be! Some of the teeth pictured had terrible discolorations before getting porcelain veneers.
—Dr. David Hall
Click here to read the other “cosmetic horror stories.”
Another cause of discoloration underneath these restorations is the chemical ferric sulfate. Read a bad experience one patient had with Lumineers and crowns, where Dr. Hall suspected ferric sulfate to possibly be the culprit.
More information about porcelain veneers:
- Click here for general porcelain veneers information.
- For the porcelain veneer procedure, click here, where we explain what the cosmetic dentist does in each appointment, and click here to find out how to take care of your porcelain veneers after they’re on. There’s advice here for patients and for dental hygienists.
- What should I do if my porcelain veneers are too dark?
- Learn about costs of porcelain veneers.
- I’m getting stains on the edges of my porcelain veneers. How can I get rid of those?
- What can I do about my fake-looking porcelain veneers?
- Do porcelain veneers last very long? Some dentists say they don’t