Not everyone looks at their smile and loves every part of it. In fact, we’d venture to say that most of us have at least a few things we’d like to change. The good news is that you have options — you just have to determine which one is right for you.
Veneers and implants are two of the strongest and most durable smile enhancements, but you’ll find that one is probably the best fit for your goals. Let’s dig into how they compare so you can select the right treatment for you!
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Dental veneers are wafer-thin shells custom-made to enhance your smile. The dentist applies each customized veneer to a specific tooth, so if you want to cover six teeth, you’ll need six separate veneers. They only cover the front surface of each tooth, wrapping around slightly to the edges and bottom, but they never cover the backs. They hide various imperfections, from stains to chips, and can even help alter the contours of your smile. In limited cases, they can also provide protection when the enamel is thin, weak, or cracked.
You’ll work with your dentist to determine exactly how your veneers will look. You can customize the color to improve your smile while still blending in with your other teeth. You can also choose the size, shape, and even texture. Veneers come in prep and no-prep options and can be made from composite resin, ceramic, or porcelain.
Dental implants are an alternative or support to dentures and bridges for replacing missing teeth. Rather than using other teeth as support, dental implants sustain themselves, just like natural teeth and roots do. Once they’ve healed, they’re stable and highly durable, lasting a lifetime with proper care.
First, the oral surgeon will insert a titanium root into the jawbone, which connects to an abutment and the abutment to the crown. Once the root has fused with the jawbone and all the parts are in place, a dental implant looks and functions just like a natural tooth. You and your dentist work together to determine the crown’s appearance, selecting the color, size, and even shape to meet your expectations. With back teeth, this doesn’t matter too much, but if you are replacing any of the frontmost six teeth, you’ll likely want control over the look.
Dentists typically use these two treatments for very different purposes, so it’s rare that you’ll have to decide between them. Still, it’s important to know which one might apply to your specific condition.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Veneers?
To benefit from veneers, you need to have either compromised enamel or cosmetic concerns in the upper front six teeth. Although veneers can be placed on other teeth, it increases the risk of damage, and there are better options out there. The teeth you’re treating must have no active decay and enough of the natural tooth left that the veneers have a surface to bond to. You also cannot have active gum disease since veneers worsen this condition.
Veneers are only a good restorative option when they can fully cover the compromised area. Chips must be small enough that the veneer can wrap around them to protect the dentin and cracks cannot be behind the teeth.
Bruxism decreases the lifespan of veneers by weakening the dental cement and increasing the chances of cracks forming; if you grind your teeth at night, get a night guard or look for an alternative to veneers. You also shouldn’t get veneers if you plan to have orthodontic treatment in the future, since braces and aligners can damage them.
Candidates need to be comfortable losing some of their enamel — unless they select no-prep veneers. If you need to have enamel removed, you’ll have to replace your veneers as often as needed for the rest of your life.
Who Is A Good Candidate For Dental Implants?
Dental implants are designed to replace missing teeth, so to qualify, you need at least one missing tooth or a tooth that requires extraction. Dental implants are a restorative appliance, so dentists typically won’t offer them if you only have cosmetic concerns.
The titanium root runs through the gums and implants into the jawbone. As a result, all dental implant candidates must have healthy gums and bones. The jawbone also must be dense enough to accommodate surgery with the ability for the bone to grow back around the root, securing it.
People who use tobacco products are typically disqualified from surgery since these products are harmful to the teeth and gums — plus they increase the risk of oral cancer. Candidates need to have excellent oral hygiene practices and be willing to see the dentist for check-ups and twice-yearly cleanings. Finally, if someone has bruxism, they may not qualify for treatment since grinding and clenching can stop the post from rooting to the jawbone.
You’ve nailed down which treatment is right for you — but that’s just the start. You still need to physically get it done. Both typically take multiple dental appointments, but after they’re in place, you shouldn’t need any more work on them for years to come.
How Do I Get Veneers?
The veneer process varies depending on the type you want. Direct composite veneers, Lumineers, and other no-prep veneers only require enamel removal in limited cases. And the dentist forms direct composite veneers directly on the teeth, meaning the entire process takes just one visit.
In most cases, you will need 2–3 visits to get your veneers — one for planning and prep, one for placement, and one for follow-up. If necessary, planning and prep can be two separate appointments. During the planning, you’ll talk to your dentist about your smile goals and they’ll help you determine which veneer type is best, plus note the customizations you need.
If your veneers require prep, your dentist will shave off 0.3–0.5 millimeters of enamel, then take a mold of your teeth. They’ll provide temporary veneers to protect your teeth and send the mold to a dental lab so they can make your permanent ones.
When the lab sends the veneers back to your dentist, they’ll call you and have you come in. They’ll first place them with temporary cement so you can see how they look, then make any adjustments you request. Once you’re happy, they permanently bond them to the teeth and send you on your way. About a week later, you’ll come in to have them checked. After that, your dentist will examine them at every office visit, but you won’t need any more veneer-specific appointments until you get them replaced.
How Do I Get Dental Implants?
The dental implant process starts with your initial evaluation. Your oral surgeon will complete a comprehensive exam to ensure your gums and jawbone are in good health and can sustain the procedure. Expect them to take panoramic X-rays and digital scans and use special tools to measure bone density. If your gums and jawbone are not healthy enough for surgery, they may refer you to another specialist to correct this so you can eventually get implants.
At this appointment, they’ll also discuss your goals and options, such as the color, size, and shape you want. And if you are missing multiple teeth, they’ll talk about the best replacement method. They’ll typically use implant-supported dentures and bridges if you have numerous missing teeth.
Once the plan is in place, the oral surgeon will schedule your procedure. On the day of the procedure, if you are replacing a severely damaged tooth, they will extract it. You will either be sedated or under general anesthesia for the surgery itself. If your jawbone is too thin for the surgery, the doctor may complete a bone graft, which needs time to heal and will delay implant surgery by several months. If you don’t need a graft, they’ll surgically implant the root(s) in your jawbone.
Over time, the jawbone will grow around the titanium root, giving it the strength it needs to function. This can take 3–9 months, depending on how your body responds. With the root firmly in place, your oral surgeon will add the abutment and tighten it firmly — typically with local anesthetic. In most cases, the tissues around the abutment need time to heal, so they’ll place a healing cap over the abutment to prevent the gums from growing over it.
After a few weeks, your gum swelling should decrease, and you’ll be ready for the crown. Your doctor can fix it in place with dental cement or make it removable, depending on your preferences. Then, your dental implants are good to go and you can treat them like your natural teeth.
You’re not in budget-dentistry territory here. Veneers and implants can both come with hefty bills, especially if you’re getting more than one. It’s no guarantee that you’ll receive insurance coverage, but financing can still help make the cost more manageable.
How Much Do Veneers Cost?
In the vast majority of cases, dental insurance companies consider veneers a cosmetic treatment and refuse to cover them. In limited cases where they are restorative, your policy might pay for 30–50% of the cost. Go into it expecting to pay the full cost out of pocket.
The cost of veneers varies between dentists. Typically, composite veneers cost $250–$1,500 per tooth. No-prep veneers are generally $800–$2,000 per tooth, and porcelain veneers are often $925–$2,500 per tooth. If you’re concerned about the cost of veneers, talk to your dentist about payment plans and financing.
How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?
Every oral surgeon has their prices for dental implants, but the typical cost of a single-tooth implant is between $1,500 and $6,000. The first tooth is always the most expensive, since its cost includes most of the surgical fees. Subsequent dental implants are usually cheaper — as long as you get them placed simultaneously.
There are also specialized dental implant procedures that have different costs. The all-on-4 is a denture or bridge supported by four implants that usually costs $20,000–$26,000. All-on-6 is similar, except it has six implants and often costs $30,000–$36,000.
In any case, dental implants are expensive. If you have dental insurance, your policy might cover a portion of their cost. You can make your out-of-pocket expenses more tolerable by asking your oral surgeon for a payment plan or by financing your surgery. Many practices offer financing directly to patients, but if your doctor doesn’t, look into third-party financiers.
When you sign on for either treatment, you’re making a long-term commitment. Both procedures will often permanently alter your teeth, gums and/or jaw, so you’ll most likely have them for life. However, while you’ll eventually replace veneers, dental implants can last a lifetime with proper care.
How Long Do Veneers Last?
The lifespan of your veneers depends on their material, how well they were made, the quality of their placement, how well you care for them, and how well you care for your teeth and gums. Here are the average lifespans for different types of veneers:
- Direct Composite: 3–7 years
- Indirect Composite: 5–7 years
- Ceramic: 10–15 years
- No-Prep Porcelain: 15–20+ years
- Traditional Porcelain: 15–20 years
As you would expect, well-made veneers will last longer than lower-quality ones, so the dentist or dental lab you work with really matters. The bonding agent and quality of placement play big roles, too. However, these aren’t typically issues.
Usually, when errors reduce the lifespan of veneers, they’re from the patient. You need to avoid using your teeth as tools and shouldn’t bite into hard, tough, or frozen-solid foods with your veneered teeth (or any teeth, in the case of very frozen food). Plus, you’ll have to give up nail biting, pen chewing, and other bad habits. You also need to keep your teeth and gums healthy, since issues with either can harm your veneers.
How Long Do Dental Implants Last?
Different implant parts have different lifespans. The titanium root can last a lifetime if you keep your bones and gums healthy. The crown and abutment often last 20–30 years. Keep in mind that your oral hygiene will have a major impact on how long your implant lasts. Poor oral hygiene, grinding and clenching, smoking, and medical conditions diabetes and osteoporosis can all decrease their lifespan.
Which Is Right for You?
In truth, there shouldn’t be a toss-up here — based on the condition of your teeth, there should be a clear, definitive winner between veneers and dental implants. Even when there is some overlap, they usually treat very different conditions, so you shouldn’t need to choose between the two.
Choose Dental Veneers If…
- You are looking to make aesthetic changes to your smile.
- There are structural issues to address, but they are strictly on the front surfaces of your teeth.
- The tooth you want to cover has most of its structure intact.
Choose Dental Implants If…
- You need to restore function and health to your smile.
- You need to replace at least one missing tooth.
- You have a tooth still in place, but it’s too damaged for a crown.
Alternative Treatment Options
Sometimes, neither veneers nor dental implants are the right fit. If this describes your situation, know that you still have options. There are numerous alternatives to both treatments, and we’ve listed a few you might find compelling.
An alternative to veneers and dental implants.
Snap-on veneers are a removable dental appliance that covers the teeth, hiding many issues behind the appearance of a perfect smile. Unlike traditional veneers, they are not bonded to the teeth and they can cover a whole arch rather than a single tooth. They are also significantly more affordable, even if you replace them more frequently. This option can also replace dental implants by covering up missing teeth, though they can’t match the function.
An alternative to veneers and dental implants.
You can think of crowns as the bridge between veneers and dental implants. They step in when a tooth is too damaged for veneers, letting you avoid getting it pulled. Depending on the material, they can be just as aesthetic as veneers while offering the function you’d get from a dental implant.
An alternative to veneers.
If you are looking to hide tooth gaps, crooked teeth, or other misalignment, you might find that correcting it is better. Clear aligners offer a discreet way to correct a wide range of dental concerns.
An alternative to veneers.
Veneers are a great way to hide tooth stains, but you also have the option of eliminating them through teeth whitening. At-home whitening kits are better than ever before and great at addressing yellow stains. If you have more severe staining or your discoloration is brown or purple, an in-office whitening treatment might work better. While these are more expensive than at-home kits, they’re still much more affordable than veneers.
An alternative to dental implants.
If dental implants are outside your budget or you just aren’t ready for the surgery and healing time, dentures are an alternative to consider. There are many different types, giving you the freedom to choose the best fit for you. If you eventually decide that implants are better for you, you can easily make the switch.
Veneers and dental implants are two very different options that rarely work for the same issues, and when they do, they treat very different severities. You won’t ever be in a position where veneers and dental implants are both a choice for the same tooth. Still, it is good to understand how they compare, as well as alternative treatments that can bridge the gap between them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why aren’t veneers and dental implants interchangeable treatments?
There simply isn’t any overlap between the conditions they treat. Even when they can both help with an issue — for example, a chipped tooth — they are on two different ends of the spectrum, with veneers covering very small chips and dental implants hiding much larger ones.
How much of the tooth needs to remain for me to get veneers?
This varies between materials, but usually, you can’t have more than 0.5 millimeters of tooth missing in any given spot, since that’s the thickest veneers can be.
Which veneers are the best to get?
All types of veneers have their benefits and drawbacks. With that said, most people find no-prep porcelain veneers the most ideal. They don’t damage the teeth but still offer the durability and appearance of porcelain.
Are veneers reversible?
No-prep veneers are reversible since they don’t require enamel removal. This includes Lumineers, Vivaneers, and even some direct composite veneers. However, if your veneers require enamel prep, they’re no longer reversible.
Is it true my body might reject dental implants?
While rare, sometimes the body does reject dental implants. You shouldn’t go into the procedure anticipating it, though. If it becomes an issue, your surgeon will provide alternatives that could work for you.
How long does it take to get dental implants?
The entire process lasts 3–9 months. The speed of your procedure will depend on how quickly your jawbone heals around the roots. While there are places that advertise dental implants in a day, this is a bit misleading. You still wait months to get the permanent tooth attachments.
Are dental implants worth the investment?
This is highly personal. Some people think they’re worth every penny since they give them back their ability to chew and speak properly while boosting their confidence. Others find that they don’t feel much different than they did with dentures.
What are my options if I don’t like dental implants?
Dental implants can be removed, but it requires more surgery and can be painful, since the titanium roots have to be pulled from the jawbone. Go into surgery feeling confident in your decision, as reversing dental implants isn’t easy.
Why would someone choose dental implants instead of dentures?
They’re lower maintenance since you treat them like your natural teeth. They also look more realistic and mimic the function of actual teeth. With dentures, you have to avoid lots of foods, but this isn’t the case with implants.
Are snap-on veneers a good alternative for both traditional veneers and dental implants?
It varies between individuals, but they can be an excellent alternative if you are looking for a temporary or removable solution that works for most budgets.
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