In dentistry, a veneer is a thin layer of restorative material placed over a tooth surface, either to improve the aesthetics of a tooth, or to protect a damaged tooth surface. There are two main types of material used to fabricate a veneer, composite and dental porcelain. A composite veneer may be directly placed (built-up in the mouth), or indirectly fabricated by a dental technician in a dental laboratory, and later bonded to the tooth, typically using a resin cement such as Panavia. In contrast, a porcelain veneer may only be indirectly fabricated.
Veneers are an important tool for the cosmetic dentist. A dentist may use one veneer to restore a single tooth that may have been fractured or discolored, or multiple teeth to create a "Hollywood" type of makeover. Many people have small teeth resulting in spaces that may not be easily closed by orthodontics. Some people have worn away the edges of their teeth resulting in a prematurely aged appearance, while others may have malpositioned teeth that appear crooked. Multiple veneers can close these spaces, lengthen teeth that have been shortened by wear, provide a uniform color, shape, and symmetry, and make the teeth appear straight.
Preparing the Teeth
Veneers require very little removal of the enamel surface of the tooth. It will generally depend on the type of veneer used, position of the teeth, or the dentists preferred method of preparing the tooth.
You may or may not require local anesthetic for the appointment. Teeth that have been root canalled (root canal) or teeth that require very little preparation, may allow you to avoid the need for anesthetic. Your dentist will use the high speed handpiece to contour the front surface of the tooth. Impressions of the prepared teeth are taken inside your mouth using a very precise impression material that starts our as a thick paste. The impression material is filled into a tray and placed on the teeth. The dental assistant will likely hold the impression tray in your mouth until the material sets, usually after 3 to 5 minutes. An impression of how your teeth bite together is also taken. Impression material is applied to the biting surface of the bottom and top teeth. You will be asked to bite down into the material for 1 to 2 minutes until the material is set; depending on the brand used. If the dentist is satisfied with all of the impressions, they are delivered to the dental laboratory (lab equipment).
Caring for Your Veneers
Although veneers are designed to allow you to function normally, you may want to consider trying not to bite into hard food with your front teeth, or use your teeth to open difficult items, because they may chip or break. Occasional you may have foods and beverages like red wine, tomato sauce, grape juice, and tea or coffee. But keep in mind that the porcelain material can pick up stain from deeper pigmented foods and beverages. And unlike our natural teeth, they cannot be whitened with tooth whitening gels.
Your dentist may recommend the use of a night guard, or splint while sleeping. This will protect your lower teeth from the effects of the porcelain grinding on the enamel. Even if you do not knowingly grind your teeth, porcelain is damaging to enamel during even slight grinding of the teeth. Veneers are designed to last between 10 to 15 years. Regular cleanings from your dental hygienist are still recommended, along with regular dental checkups.