Most of us have something about our smile we’d change if we could. Some discoloration, a tiny chip, that one tooth that’s shaped a little different. For many cosmetic dental concerns, veneers are considered the ultimate solution, able to hide multiple issues on a single tooth, creating a perfect smile.
But are veneers perfect? No solution is, but you might have heard worse — that veneers permanently damage your teeth. At the core of every myth is a grain of truth, but getting veneers doesn’t mean trading healthy teeth for a pretty smile. Let’s get to the bottom of things with an honest take.
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What Are Veneers?
Veneers are wafer-thin shells applied to the visible surfaces of individual teeth. Custom made to fit and enhance a specific tooth, dentists tailor every veneer’s size, shape, and color to your smile. In most cases, they require 2–3 visits to plan, prep the teeth, and place the veneers, though this depends on whether your case requires enamel removal.
Since they cover every visible part of the tooth, veneers can hide many aesthetic concerns and give the appearance of an attractive smile. They’re meant to mimic the look of your enamel and blend in with the other teeth. While they can stand in for enamel lost to erosion, overall, they are considered a cosmetic treatment, not a restorative one.
Benefits of Veneers
- They cover multiple cosmetic issues in a single tooth
- Some types resist staining so you can easily keep your smile bright
- They don’t require much special care
- They match the surrounding teeth, making them very hard to detect
- They have a big impact on your appearance and confidence
Drawbacks of Veneers
- If you want to cover your most visible teeth — the social six — it could cost up to $15,000
- You have to replace damaged veneers (except certain composite options, which can be repaired)
- Some require enamel removal, permanently altering the teeth
- If the dentist makes them poorly or places them wrong, they increase the chance of tooth decay
Do Veneers Damage Your Teeth?
This is the question that brought you here, and one everyone should have an answer to before signing on for veneers. But it’s not quite as simple as yes or no.
First, when people talk about veneers damaging the teeth, they’re usually referring to enamel prep: shaving a small amount off the surface of a tooth so the veneer sits flush with the surrounding teeth. But can you call necessary prep that ensures a more attractive result damage? Especially when the veneer protects you from the consequences of this so-called damage?
Ask most dentists and they’d say no, enamel prep doesn’t damage the teeth. It’s a controlled and necessary procedure — at least, with certain types of veneers, it is.
And this is where it gets a little more complicated. Many veneers require at least some enamel removal, but not all do. So even if you consider enamel prep damaging, not all veneers damage the teeth. If the idea of losing enamel concerns you, choose veneers that don’t require prep.
Types of Veneers
There are several different types of veneers, each of which has its own unique benefits, drawbacks, and impact on your teeth.
Known for its incredible strength and natural appearance, porcelain is considered the gold standard for veneers. They can last upwards of 20 years with proper care, and they’re the best choice for anyone looking to hide dark stains, large cracks, or who needs to add strength after enamel loss. However, they always require enamel prep to prevent the teeth from looking too thick. In most cases, the dentist has to remove 0.5 millimeters of enamel.
While all porcelain is ceramic, not all ceramic is porcelain. With veneers, this usually translates into a weaker product, but they’re also thinner, which means less enamel prep. Still, expect to lose at least 0.3 millimeters for these veneers. It’s up to you if the tradeoff between durability and less prep is worth it.
Indirect Composite Veneers
These veneers are made in a lab from dental resin and other materials. They are usually about 0.25 millimeters thick, so that’s how much enamel removal they require. Because of their thinness and material, they are among the weakest veneer options, but also one of the most affordable.
Direct Composite Veneers
Unlike their indirect counterparts, this type of veneer rarely requires enamel prep. That’s because they’re formed directly on the teeth, giving your doctor significant control over their thickness. They are no more durable than indirect composite veneers, but they’re often easier to repair, which can extend their lifespan.
These veneers can be made from any material, but usually, they use ultra-thin porcelain or ceramic. This gives them more strength than composite veneers, but because they’re so thin, they aren’t always as strong as regular porcelain veneers. The benefit is that they require little to no enamel removal, which is why they’re called no-prep veneers.
What’s The Deal With Veneer Prep?
Knowing that there are no-prep veneer options, you might be curious why veneer prep exists at all. First, a rougher surface does a better job of sticking to the veneer. Even when the veneer is thin, most dentists will “rough up” the enamel to achieve that grip.
Second, veneers go on top of the teeth, and even thin ones make them thicker and longer. Depending on where your other teeth sit relative to the one being treated, a lack of prep can make the veneered teeth stick out too far, making them more noticeable.
Is Veneer Prep Reversible?
Some tissues regenerate with time — even bone tissue, which is why we can heal from a fracture or break. Unfortunately, once you lose enamel, it is gone for good. So if you get veneers that require prep, you are locked into using them or a suitable alternative for life. Without a protective covering, enamel removal leaves the dentin and pulp accessible to bacteria.
What Risks Come With Veneer Prep?
If you maintain your veneers and replace them when they get old or damaged, there shouldn’t be any risks from enamel removal — assuming the veneers were properly made and placed. In most cases, the only risk is if you continue to wear old or damaged veneers or have them removed but don’t replace them.
So, what are the risks in this situation?
On the mild end, you will experience sensitivity since the enamel no longer stops sensations and other triggers from reaching the dentin, pulp, and root. Hot food, cold drinks, and sugar are all likely to cause pain. Over time, this can lead to ongoing toothaches and difficulty chewing. You’ll also appear to have tooth stains since the dentin and pulp are yellow and will show through.
On the more severe end, you are significantly more likely to experience chips, cracks, and complete breakage, since enamel gives teeth their strength. Cavities are also more likely, because bacteria can access the interior of the tooth, eventually causing tooth loss. Essentially, no matter how annoying or expensive it may be, once you have enamel removed, you must keep up with your veneers.
Possible Complications From Veneers
So, it isn’t that veneers damage the teeth, but if you get enamel removed and make certain choices, problems can occur — right? That’s a solid summary, but it doesn’t include the fact that all dental treatments come with the risk of complications, veneers included.
These risks are minimal when you get veneers from an experienced provider who partners with a reputable dental lab, but they’re still present.
Injured Tooth Pulp
While shaving down the enamel, dentists use very precise instruments and a light, steady hand. These factors combine to reduce the likelihood of adverse effects. However, it is possible to traumatize the tooth pulp. In some cases, the pulp can even die, which often causes tooth loss.
It’s normal to have inflamed gums for a few days after enamel prep and veneer placement. However, in rare cases, actual tissue damage can occur. Catching it early is essential to preventing infection and recession, and it’s one of the main reasons dentists ask that you come in for a follow-up appointment one week after placing your veneers.
Cavities Under Veneers
Before placing your veneers, the dentist disinfects your teeth, ensuring no bacteria gets trapped underneath — which would guarantee a cavity. However, as veneers and their bonding agents age, the veneers can pull away from the teeth, allowing bacteria to get underneath. Unless you address it quickly, this can cause cavities.
Shaving Off Dental Bond
Even if you and your dentist do everything right, there is a risk when it comes time to remove the veneers. Shaving off the dental bond so they can apply more and place new veneers carries a risk of damage to the teeth, including tissue and nerve death. It isn’t particularly likely, but it is something to be aware of.
How Do I Know If There’s Something Wrong With My Veneers?
For most people, having veneers is smooth sailing. But you still need to be on the lookout for problems. Early detection minimizes the likelihood of complications, keeping your teeth healthy and your smile beautiful. Especially if your veneers are older, talk to your dentist if:
- You notice a bit of your natural tooth showing between your veneers and your gums
- There are chips, cracks, or uneven wear in the veneers.
- You feel discomfort in the tooth where the veneer is placed.
- You suspect tooth decay in the veneered tooth.
- The veneer has changed color or looks dull.
- There are black or blue stains around the edge of the veneer.
- The veneer feels loose.
The moment you notice or suspect any of the above, make an appointment with your dentist.
How to Prevent Any Complications With Your Veneers
The risks are minimal, but they’re there. The question is, what can you do about them? A lot, actually. With the right approach, you can minimize or mitigate the potential risks of having veneers.
Choose No-Prep Veneers
Since the biggest risks are associated with enamel removal, the number-one thing you can do to lower your risk is get no-prep veneers. There are still potential issues, including bacteria getting underneath the veneers and eating away at the tissues, but it’s less likely.
Get Veneers From a Qualified Professional
This can be a general or cosmetic dentist, but they must have the right training and experience. They should also partner with a quality dental lab or have their own on site. Don’t be afraid to ask about their qualifications or to see photos of their previous work. And look for comments specifically about veneers in their online reviews.
Don’t Get Them if You Have Active Tooth Decay or Gum Disease
And this isn’t just restricted to the teeth and gum tissue surrounding them. Any active oral health issues can easily impact your whole mouth. You need to remedy them before adding veneers to the mix.
Replace Damaged Veneers
It’s tempting to wear damaged veneers for weeks or months while you save money to repair or replace them. Don’t. Damaged veneers leave the teeth at risk, and even just a few weeks can result in decay.
Get Them Rebonded When Necessary
If the veneer itself is in good shape but feels wiggly, don’t assume all is well; this is a sign that it needs to be rebonded. Just like with damaged veneers, don’t delay this procedure, or you might get tooth decay.
Brush and Floss Twice a Day
So basic, yet so impactful, your daily oral care routine plays a huge role in the health and lifespan of your veneers. Be sure to brush and floss at least twice daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste.
See Your Dentist Twice a Year
Your regular checkups are always important, but once you have veneers, that goes double. During these appointments, your dentist can spot potential issues in their early stages and intervene before things get bad.
Many types of veneers require enamel removal, but calling this tooth damage isn’t exactly fair. Rather, it is an integral part of traditional porcelain, ceramic, and indirect composite veneers treatment. It shouldn’t lead to any issues, as long as the veneers are properly made, placed, and maintained.
While veneers come with risks, just like other dental treatments, they are rare and you can take measures to mitigate them. If you believe veneers are the right solution for your smile concerns, worries about harming your teeth shouldn’t stop you from getting them from a reputable provider.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do veneers require enamel prep?
Without it, some types of veneers will make the teeth look too thick or long. Removing enamel from the fronts and sides of the teeth allows for a more natural look. Additionally, some removal occurs when the dentist textures the veneers for a better grip.
What are the risks of getting veneers?
The biggest risk is just getting them and not liking them, or liking them but not having the money to replace them. If you had enamel prep, you’ll need to have veneers for life, whether you like them or not.
How often do you need to replace veneers?
It varies based on the type of veneer, your oral health, your hygiene habits, and how well the veneers were made and placed. Most people will find their veneers last 7–20 years.
Are veneers expensive?
They are among the most expensive cosmetic dental treatments, but some materials are cheaper than others. Direct composite veneers can cost as little as $200 per tooth. Porcelain veneers are on the other end of the spectrum, with prices as high as $2,500 per tooth.
What’s the best option for covering multiple cosmetic issues in multiple teeth?
Most dentists would agree that, while pricey, veneers are the best option. If the issues are small, bonding might work as an alternative.
What’s the most budget-friendly option for masking cosmetic issues?
In most cases, that’s snap-on veneers. These are removable appliances custom-made to fit your teeth. They cover most or all of the teeth in an arch, hiding lots of issues for one price.
When are veneers not a good option?
They aren’t a good choice for covering up misalignments that would be better off adjusted, can’t hide missing teeth, and aren’t viable if you have active tooth decay or gum disease.
What is the most convenient alternative to veneers?
This really depends on why you want veneers. For example, if you want to hide stains, whitening is easier. If you want to cover up misalignments, clear aligners might be more annoying in the short-term, but more convenient over the years.
Can veneers stain?
Composite veneers can, but porcelain and ceramic veneers shouldn’t develop any internal stains unless they get damaged. External stains can build up if you don’t brush and floss properly.
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