Veneers are very thin, tooth-colored shells that cover the fronts of teeth to change their shape and color. They can be thought of as “false fingernails” for teeth. Veneers can be used to close gaps, cover stains and discolorations, and correct chipped or misshapen teeth to give you a bright, even, attractive smile. Usually multiple teeth are veneered at the same time to provide a uniform appearance, but occasionally just one veneer is necessary. Most commonly the upper front teeth are veneered, though any teeth that show with smiling can be covered.
The most permanent veneers are made of porcelain, and are custom-fitted. The porcelain shells are glued to the teeth with resin cement. Sometimes the teeth will be cut on the front surface to accomodate the thickness of the veneer or to change the shape of the teeth, and other times the veneers can be glued onto uncut teeth. The best way to determine if the teeth need to be cut before having veneers is to have a “wax-up” done on a model of the teeth. The dentist and patient can make sure that the wax-up looks acceptable before actually doing any changes to the patient’s teeth. The teeth are then prepared and an impression is made for the laboratory where the veneers are made. The patient returns to have the veneers cemented at a subsequent appointment. At this appointment, the veneers are placed on the teeth without cement for a “try-in”, and are cemented permanently only after approval by the patient.
A less expensive, less permanent version of veneer is done with composite resin filling material. Filling material is molded into a thin layer directly on the front of the tooth and polished. This can be an economical way to change the appearance of the teeth, and it can be done in one appointment. This type of veneer is more likely to stain or discolor over time.
Veneers should only be done on teeth that do not have large fillings. If the teeth do have large fillings, crowns that fully cover the teeth are better because they help keep the teeth from breaking. People with “short” teeth or strong bites may not be candidates for veneers because the veneers can break or come off easily.