What are Porcelain Veneers?
Porcelain veneers are thin wafers of porcelain. Traditional veneers have a minimum thickness of about half a millimeter (the thickness of a fingernail). They are bonded onto the fronts of teeth to create a smile makeover. Properly done by a dentist with artistic talent they produce a beautiful result. Porcelain mimics tooth structure better than any other restorative material. It is harder than enamel, so it resists wear and can last for many years. Dental artists can manipulate the color and translucency to re-create the look of any tooth. And it resists stain better than tooth enamel. Very rarely will it discolor, unless the surface has been damaged.
While some ultra-thin porcelains can be placed with no tooth preparation, in most cases the teeth are shaved a little bit. The amount of reduction is minimal and doesn’t damage the teeth. The picture on the right shows how thin they are and how a prepared tooth looks very much like an unprepared tooth. The purpose of this preparation is to first, end up with the original tooth contour and second, to create a seamless margin between the porcelain and your tooth.
What can be accomplished with Porcelain Veneers
Many problems with your teeth can be solved with porcelain veneers. As shown on the left, they are great for restoring worn or chipped teeth.
They can be used to cover stained teeth. While some stains can be bleached away, others require covering. For example, if you have tetracycline teeth stains, this is the only way to get a beautiful smile. Any spotty stains would also need to be covered. But even with stains that are even and bleachable, with porcelain veneers your dentist/artist has the ability to control the exact shade and to also alter the shapes of the teeth.
They can also be used to close spaces between the teeth, or to lengthen the teeth.
And they can also be an alternative to braces. Some people call them “instant orthodontics” because with porcelain veneers, in two appointments you can have your teeth appearing perfectly straight, rather than waiting one to three years for regular orthodontic treatment.
How Porcelain Veneers Are Made
Click here to read about the porcelain veneers procedure.
Porcelain Veneers should be placed by an expert cosmetic dentist
General dentists, as a rule, are not very artistic. What attracts them to dentistry is that they like to fix things, so they are engineers at heart rather than artists. However, placing porcelain veneers is an art—in fact, it is a very demanding art form. My estimate is that 98 to 99 percent of dentists don’t have the artistic passion required to create a beautiful smile. And they don’t have the passion required to motivate them to pursue the extensive continuing education required past dental school to master the techniques involved. Click here to find a cosmetic dentist with the artistic passion and training to be able to create a new smile.
Let me illustrate this lack of artistic sensitivity in the dental profession with an incident that I viewed on a popular online dental forum. A dentist posed a situation: He said that a beautiful woman who was his patient had a large space between her front teeth. It was large enough, he said, that he could fit an extra tooth in the space, so he asked about the feasibility of placing a dental implant there. There followed a discussion of whether there would be enough bone to support this, how long it would last, and whether orthodontics would work better. I came into the discussion late and was the only dentist participating in the forum to question how it would look to have an extra front tooth. This is typical with dentists—they are generally great, sincere people but have little artistic sense.
Can you imagine going to a technician dentist to get a new smile with porcelain veneers when that dentist thinks that having three front teeth instead of two looks okay? But that is what happens, and my e-mail files are full of complaints from disappointed patients who, after getting a smile makeover from their family dentist, are wondering why it doesn’t look beautiful and sparkly like they expected.
Click here to ask Dr. Hall a question about this or any other cosmetic dentistry topic.
For information about what they cost, click the link in the right sidebar of this page.
This page is written by Dr. David Hall
Other porcelain veneers information:
- Lumineers are a particular brand that are of a new class of ultra-thin. These ultra-thin veneers can be bonded to the fronts of the teeth without having to prepare the teeth beforehand. They are made by DenMat. They are popular with non-expert cosmetic dentists because the technical aspects of placing them are easy. We warn you to be cautious in responding to ads about Lumineers. Doing them right requires even more artistic ability than conventional veneers, so it’s important to go to an expert cosmetic dentist.
- Pick the cosmetic dentist, not the lab or the porcelain material. If you pick the right dentist, they will use an excellent lab and excellent materials, but neither the porcelain nor the lab can make up for deficient skills in the dentist.
- See photographs of extreme makeover cosmetic dentistry. You will marvel at what can be done by talented cosmetic dentists.
- Learn about one-appointment CEREC porcelain veneers. Before he retired, Dr. George Mantell, in Tucson, had patients fly into Tucson and get a new smile in a single four-hour appointment. This technique is now being used by other cosmetic dentists in our network.
- One patient asks, “I’m getting stains on the edges of my porcelain veneers. How can I get rid of those?”
- Our cosmetic dentistry costs page has fee survey information about cosmetic dentistry costs.
- Some general dentists say porcelain veneers don’t last. Do they?
- Read some of the cosmetic dentistry horror stories we’ve received through e-mails from our visitors, where Dr. David Hall answers questions from visitors.