What are porcelain veneers?
Dental problems such as crowding or miss-aligned teeth can change the way you think about your appearance, and the first thought that springs to mind for most adults is usually ‘I don’t want braces’. Fortunately for patients who don’t want to undergo lengthy orthodontic treatment, there is another option; porcelain veneers. These wafer-thin synthetic shells are fixed over the front of the natural teeth to make them look straighter and more evenly distributed. The veneers won’t last forever, but they are very durable and natural-looking, and with good care they should reach the decade mark without any problems, some have been known to last fifteen years or more! Because the process is so fast and the results are so dramatic, porcelain veneers are often referred to as ‘instant orthodontics’.
I’ve got crooked teeth, can porcelain veneers help me?
Most patients with crooked teeth will be happy to know that porcelain veneers can help. However, severe cases will have to be aligned to some extent first; otherwise the shells won’t fit over the teeth comfortably. If you have mild miss-alignment, talk to one of the team at the Pearl Dental Clinic, they can advise you on your options and book appointments for you, if you decide porcelain veneers are the way to go. Remember, ask your dentist to explain the procedure to you fully, and take a look at some of their previous patients before signing up for treatment, you don’t want an undesirable outcome that’s difficult to reverse.
There are other dental problems that veneers can help with too;
Damaged teeth – Whether your teeth are worn down from grinding, or they are badly chipped, you can get them fixed with porcelain veneers. Small chips can be repaired with composite bonding, but if several teeth are affected, it might be worth considering a new set.
Stained teeth – Brushing can’t keep our teeth shiny and white forever, especially if we’re genetically predisposed to dark enamel. Porcelain veneers are great for covering badly stained teeth, and protecting them from further damage, but continuing to smoke and consuming food and drink with strong colorants in will have the same staining effects on synthetic teeth, so be prepared to make some lifestyle changes.
How are porcelain veneers different to composite veneers?
Generally speaking, porcelain veneers are vastly superior to composite veneers – although the latter still have their uses. Porcelain is highly durable and more natural-looking than composite bonding, so it will last longer, whilst still looking great. Composite is a cheaper material than porcelain, and the price of the veneers reflects this, also they are not measured and manufactured in a laboratory, so they aren’t specifically tailored to the patient’s needs. Creating a realistic, well-proportioned set of composite veneers takes a significant amount of artistry and skill from the dentist in question; it’s not always easy to find a surgeon who has such a steady hand. Porcelain veneers, are shaped using a computer, so that they fit effortlessly over the natural teeth, with very little need for adjustments.
Although porcelain veneers come with a higher price tag, they will look and feel more natural, as well as lasting longer than their composite counterpart.
Do my teeth have to be reshaped before the veneers are fitted?
To some degree, yes, your teeth will need to be remodelled so that the porcelain shells can fit over the top of them without looking too bulky or unnatural. More re-shaping will be necessary if you have crooked or overly large teeth. The dentist will first numb your mouth with anaesthetic, then he or she will use specially designed tools to prepare the surface of the teeth. This involves shaving away certain portions and etching the enamel so it has a rough texture for the dental cement to bond to. This normally takes place in the first appointment, then a mould has to be taken and sent away to the laboratory, so that the technicians can manufacture the veneers to your exact specifications. This process can take several weeks, during which time your dentist may fit you with a temporary veneer, to allow you to function normally with your remodelled teeth. Take note that not all surgeries offer a temporary veneer, particularly if there was only a small amount of re-shaping required.
What happens when I return to the surgery for fitting?
When you are called back to the clinic, it means it’s time to fix your new teeth in place. Your temporary veneer will be removed and your mouth given a thorough clean to get rid of all traces of dental glue or food debris. Then your dentist will attach the veneers temporarily, just so you can see what they look like, and so they can trim any excess away to get the desired shape. When you are both pleased with the appearance, the cementing can begin. Dental cement will be used to stick the porcelain shells to the enamel of your natural teeth and exposed to a curing light, which reacts with the ingredients in the cement to make a strong bond between the two. Not all clinics will use a curing light, it depends on the type of cement being used to fix the teeth, and also on the personal preference of the dentist. After a few minutes, the cement should be sufficiently dry to make any further adjustments to the porcelain veneers. Finally, your dentist will trim away any excess cement and give the new teeth a good polish.
Some surgeries may use an in-house production method to create the veneers, allowing them to re-shape the teeth and fit the shells on the same day. This is often the more expensive route, but it does allow the patient to complete their treatment in just one sitting. Again, this is left to the personal preference of the dentist and the patient, some people prefer to take their time and wait before having the veneers fitted, whilst others like to see instant results.