For people who are seeking a fast smile makeover, veneers are a premier choice. Often capable of providing the classic “Hollywood Smile,” veneers were previously a treatment seen as inaccessible to the general public. Luckily, this is no longer true. Through payment plans and new financing programs, veneers have become a realistic option for most people.
However, veneers are by no means the right fit for everyone. In this guide, we’ll discuss what the process of getting veneers involves, the major pros and cons of veneers, and some alternate treatment options in case veneers aren’t the right fit for your teeth.
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What Are Veneers?
Veneers are super thin, custom-made shells that are bonded to the teeth to create a “makeover effect.” There are different options for the material the shell is made of and for the amount of prep work involved (we’ll explain this below). Your dentist will evaluate your teeth and help you decide which material and amount of prep is right for you.
Types of Veneers
Veneers can be made with either porcelain or composite material. However, porcelain veneers are much more likely to be recommended. Porcelain veneers have a more natural quality and can match the color of tooth enamel very closely. Composite material is also more likely to stain, while porcelain veneers are generally stain-resistant.
Porcelain veneers also take the top spot in terms of durability. While composite veneers typically last about 4 – 8 years, porcelain veneers can last up to 15 years before needing to be restored or replaced. Still, this added durability comes at a price. Composite veneers cost about $300 – $1,000 per tooth, while porcelain veneers cost a whopping $1,000 – $2,500 per tooth.
Whether you receive composite or porcelain veneers, your teeth will still need to be “prepped” during one of the first steps of treatment. The prepping process involves a dentist shaving down a thin layer of enamel on your teeth to make room for the veneers to fit over the top. This process is permanent. So, it’s important to be very sure of your decision before getting veneers.
To mitigate the loss of tooth enamel, dentists offer minimal or low-prep options as well. These options require less shaving than typical veneer prep and are the more favorable option among dentists.
Pros and Cons of Veneers
Because they’re such a permanent treatment option, you should take some time to weigh the pros and cons before seriously considering veneers. Porcelain veneers are one of the most transformative yet priciest treatment options currently available. So, it’s essential to make sure they will be the right choice for you before making any financial commitments.
- Instant gratification: you can achieve a “Hollywood Smile” and correct most issues (crowding, spacing, discoloration, etc.) with one procedure.
- No special upkeep required: unlike some alternative treatments, like braces, with veneers you’ll be able to brush and floss like normal.
- Completely customizable: your dentist will completely customize the color, shape and fit of your veneers to match your smile. Your veneers also don’t have to be the same color as your teeth -- many patients opt for a brighter color to achieve a whitening effect.
- Stain-resistant: porcelain veneers typically stay bright and white for several years.
- Tooth decay/cavities can develop under veneers: because of this, veneers are not recommended for patients with a history of gum disease or poor oral hygiene.
- Prep process is irreversible: even with low-prep veneers, your teeth will be permanently shaved down as a part of treatment.
- Very expensive: if you opt for the more favorable porcelain veneers, the cost of treatment is very high and may be too pricey for some budgets.
- Not repairable: in most cases, veneers must be replaced for a brand new one if they are cracked or broken.
- Not permanent: porcelain veneers typically last about 10 - 15 years before they need to be replaced.
- Not suitable for many cases: severe misalignments can put pressure on the veneers and cause them to break or crack.
Who Are Veneers Right For?
Veneers are best for people who are seeking a customized, realistically “perfect” smile, without having to go through several different treatments. Veneers can treat both mild-to-moderate crowding and spacing. However, most people with a bite misalignment aren’t considered a good fit. More severe cases of misalignment or bite issues can put too much pressure on veneers, causing them to break or crack. Grinding will also put too much pressure on veneers. So, people who tend to grind their teeth are not considered a good candidate.
Veneers are also great for treating more cosmetic dental issues, like discoloration, chips, or staining. Wear and tear on our teeth is natural. However, it’s no longer something you have to deal with if your flaws are making you less confident in your smile.
Although they can treat a variety of cosmetic concerns, veneers do not treat any medical conditions like gum disease. Patients can still get cavities and infections under their veneers. So, regular brushing and flossing are essential. Because of this, people with poor oral hygiene are typically not a good fit for veneers. If you do decide to get veneers, you should have healthy teeth and gums before beginning treatment.
What Does The Process of Getting Veneers Involve?
The first step to receiving veneers is to have x-rays and impressions taken of your teeth. You’ll also have an in-depth consultation with your dentist to discuss your desired results. Your dentist will explain the differences between porcelain and composite veneers, as well as the difference between regular and low-prep veneers. They will likely make a recommendation for you based on your teeth and face shape.
Once impressions are taken, they are sent to a lab where the veneers are made and sent back to the dentist. Some dentists have labs in their own practice, significantly speeding up this process. Then, your teeth will be prepped by shaving down a small layer of enamel. Although there are some minimal-prep options, at least a small amount of prep is typically required.
Next, your dentist will temporarily place the veneers on your teeth, to examine their color and shape. If you’re happy with the outcome, your dentist will cement the veneers on your teeth, completing the treatment process.
How Long Do Veneers Last?
As we previously mentioned, the longest your veneers can last is about 10 -15 years. However, that timeline only applies to porcelain veneers. Composite veneers will only last about 4 -8 years. In each case, once the veneers are worn out or broken, they will need to be replaced. Veneers are rarely able to be fixed if they are damaged. So, you should be prepared to purchase brand new veneers every time they need to be restored.
Veneers are a hefty investment, and the cost of treatment does not stop after you receive your first set. Each time they’re replaced, you’ll need to pay for veneers all over again. If you don’t think you’re ready for such a long-term financial commitment, veneers may not be the perfect fit for you.
What Are My Other Options?
For minor cases of chipping or teeth spacing, dental bonding provides a much cheaper alternative to most orthodontic treatments. Dentists use a material, very similar to that used for treating fillings, to build up the teeth and close small gaps or fix minor chips. Treatment with dental bonding typically only takes one visit to the dentist and costs about $300 -$600 per tooth. Unfortunately, the material used for dental bonding is not very durable and will likely need to be replaced every few years.
If your dental concerns are limited to just one tooth, a dental crown may also be a viable alternative. Some major issues like severe cracks or tooth decay are even better suited for dental crowns than veneers. This is because crowns tend to be more effective at treating damaged teeth and are specifically made to protect the tooth against further injury or decay.
Finally, if your teeth are severely misaligned, veneers will likely not be a great fit for you. You may require a more extensive orthodontic treatment, like braces or Invisalign. Options like clear braces and lingual (behind the teeth) braces allow treatment to be more discreet, without sacrificing thoroughness. However, if you’d prefer completely “invisible” treatment, Invisalign or home teeth aligners are both great options.
Veneers can be a great option for anyone seeking a “makeover effect” or correction of multiple cosmetic issues at once. However, for more severe cases of misalignment, you’ll likely be a better fit for a different treatment. Veneers aren’t cheap, so it’s important to make sure you’re making the right decision.
Although the price is arguably well worth completely changing your smile, veneers still require a long-term financial commitment. If you’re interested in getting veneers, schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss your options and find out if they’re the right choice for your teeth and budget.