Do your teeth drive you crazy every time you look in the mirror? Do you feel like fixing your smile would help you get to that next level in your career or personal life? Are you afraid you’ll end up with toilet-bowl white chiclet teeth? Then this comprehensive guide on dental veneers is for you!
What are dental veneers?
Dental veneers are thin pieces of porcelain that are bonded (permanently dental glued) to your teeth. They can be used to change the size, shape, color, and position of your teeth. Whether it is 1 dental veneer, or 20, each dental veneer is custom made to fit exactly onto your tooth/teeth.
How much do dental veneers cost?
The cost of dental veneers range from $1000 to $4000 per tooth.
Why such a big difference?
Well, it is similar to the difference between a Chevrolet Spark and a Lamborghini Aventador, where both cars will get you from point A to point B, but one has superior craftmanship and will make you feel a lot more stylish and confident. Likewise, the $1000 per tooth veneer will change appearance of your teeth, but you will be making an esthetic compromise. Dental veneers have subtleties that make them appear natural and lifelike – they are, in fact, pieces of art in your mouth – and it takes a highly trained dentist, along with a highly trained dental lab counterpart, to produce natural and lifelike dental veneers. More on this in Part II – The Nitty Gritty, so stay tuned!
Will dental insurance cover dental veneers?
If you broke a tooth or have a cavity, then your dental insurance may cover a portion of the cost of a veneer. Otherwise, veneers are considered cosmetic procedures and are not generally covered by dental insurances.
How many dental veneers do I need?
The number of veneers that you need depends on how drastic of a change you’re looking for, what issues you’re looking to correct, and how many teeth you show when you smile. If you’re looking to fix a single chipped tooth, you could get just 1 veneer. If you’re looking to freshen up your smile, you may be looking at 8-10 veneers (the number of top teeth that are normally visible in a big smile). If you’re desiring the glamorous Beverly Hills smile, then we could be talking about all the visible teeth in your mouth (in a big smile).
Can I get dental veneers on the front 4 teeth only, and then get more if I’m dissatisfied with the result?
The short answer is ‘yes’, but will you have a compromised esthetic result? Probably. If your esthetic goal is to have a glamorous Beverly Hills smile, then you should plan out all the veneers that will get you to your esthetic goal and then have them done in stages in order to make them financially feasible. You will get the best result if you have all the veneers done at the same time, but a good Cosmetic Dentist will be able to help you achieve a fantastic result even if it needs to be staged.
Do I have to whiten my teeth if I have dental veneers?
The teeth that are veneered will not need to be whitened, as porcelain doesn’t stain. However, any natural teeth that are visible in your smile will need to be whitened periodically to keep the veneered and natural teeth matching. This is something to keep in mind when deciding how many teeth you want veneered – are the veneers similar in color to your natural teeth? If not, there will be a visible discrepancy between your veneered and natural teeth.
Do I still need to wear my nightguard or retainers after I get dental veneers?
Yes, and yes. If you were prescribed a nightguard by your dentist, that probably means they suspected you clench and grind your teeth. Clenching and grinding are involuntary habits that are damaging to your teeth, and can cause teeth to chip and fracture over time. Likewise, clenching and grinding your veneered teeth will also cause them to chip and fracture, so you will need to have a new nightguard made to fit over your new veneers to protect them.
If you find it difficult to sleep comfortably while wearing a nightguard, you can ask your dentist about using Botox (botulinum toxin) in your jaw muscles (masseters) to reduce their strength. The jaw muscles of people who clench or grind their teeth are enlarged and stronger than normal, as if you work them out every night in your sleep. The goal of Botox is to return the masseters to a normal size and strength, so that you will be able to eat normally, and the damage caused by clenching or grinding is reduced.
If you previously had orthodontic treatment (metal braces or Invisalign clear braces), you will want to have a new set of retainers made after you get the veneers. Dental veneers won’t prevent your teeth from shifting out of place, so you will need to wear the retainers as prescribed by your dentist or orthodontist.
Do dental veneers last forever?
Simply put, no, dental veneers will not last forever. The lifespan of your dental veneers is dependent on how well you take care of your teeth. For example, the following will increase the lifespan of your dental veneers:
- Getting regular professional cleanings, at least 3x per year
- Daily home care, including brushing and flossing
- Wearing a nightguard, to protect your teeth from involuntary clenching or grinding during sleep
- Cutting up larger pieces of food and chewing them with your back teeth, as opposed to biting off chunks with your front teeth
Habits that will decrease the lifespan of your dental veneers:
- Using your teeth as a tool, e.g., as a bottle opener, holding a pen in your teeth
- Clenching or grinding your teeth
- Having a ‘bad bite’ – If your natural front teeth were chipped or had edges that were ground flat, then your veneers will be affected in the same way unless your bite is changed or protected
With that said, the average lifespan of dental veneers are 7-15 years, but can last +20 years in patients that take very good care of their teeth.
Why do dental veneers need to be replaced?
Over time, dental veneers will need to be replaced if:
- A cavity forms on the tooth underneath the dental veneer
- The dental veneer fractures
- Esthetic trends change
How many appointments will it take to get dental veneers?
The whole process of getting dental veneers generally takes 3 or 4 appointments:
- Consultation: At the consultation appointment, you will tell your dentist why you are thinking about getting dental veneers, and what specific problems you would like to see corrected with the dental veneers. The dentist will tell you an estimate of how many veneers you will need to achieve your goal.
- Mock-Up: The goal of the mock-up appointment is to give you an idea of what the veneers will look like in your mouth – because there is no drilling involved, there are limitations to what can be done (e.g., long teeth cannot be shortened, buck teeth cannot be pushed back). These mock-ups will be used to guide the final veneer design, so you want to work with your dentist to make them as close to your final esthetic goal as possible. Depending on your dentist’s methods, the mock-up may be done at the consultation appointment.
- Prep: At the prep appointment, the teeth are shaved down to make room for the porcelain veneers. Modern veneers can be fabricated to be less than 0.5 mm thick, so the shaving will be minimal, unless you’re correcting a buck tooth. One of the final steps of this appointment will be to make temporary veneers, the appearance of which will have been based off the results of the mock-up appointment. While temporary veneer material does not have the lifelike appearance of porcelain, you will work with your dentist to modify the size, shape, and position of the temporary veneers to meet your esthetic goal. A mould will be taken of the temporary veneers to serve as a blueprint for the final porcelain veneers.
- Cement: At the cementation appointment, the temporary veneers will be removed, and the final veneers will be tried-in and cemented. It is not uncommon to have to send veneers back to the lab, if the color match to your natural teeth isn’t spot on.
Will it hurt?
Your dentist will give you anesthetic to numb you, so you will be comfortable during the prep and cementation appointments. It is normal to feel sensitive for up to 2 months afterwards, especially if your teeth are normally sensitive.
Stay tuned for part II, where I will give you tools and lingo to communicate with your dentist to achieve the smile you want and part III, where we go under the hood and discuss the nitty gritty details!