Veneers are sometimes called “Hollywood teeth.” But if you’re wondering what the film industry has to do with a dental procedure, the answer is not that much. Veneers remain a practical cosmetic dentistry choice alongside professional whitening that grants patients a bright and comfortable smile. But there’s a process involved, and there’s a lot that might be worth knowing before considering them. Read on to find out!
Parts of Your Tooth
There’s more to your tooth than meets the eye. To understand what parts of your teeth a veneer impacts, you just need to know the basics of tooth anatomy. But if you’re familiar with the word veneer, your guess “the outside” is correct.
The roots of your teeth house blood vessels and nerves coming up into your pulp chamber (the heart of the tooth). The pulp chamber is surrounded by dentin, a brittle, semi-porous material that’s usually a light yellow colour. On the tooth’s surface, above the gum line, there’s the enamel, a hard, typically off-white, and highly mineralized armour for your tooth. Enamel is the outer surface of the tooth.
What Are Veneers?
Veneers are very thin, customized shells of porcelain (or resin) made to resemble enamel. They cover the front side of your teeth. To apply a veneer, your dentist will file down a half-millimetre of your enamel to make space. Then the shells are bonded (cemented on) to the forward-facing surfaces. They can take any shape, colour, size, or length you need.
Why Get Veneers?
Veneers mostly fall under the category of cosmetic dentistry. That’s to say that we mostly recommend veneers for patients who have functioning, healthy teeth. That’s our primary focus. We look out for healthy teeth from the roots out to the enamel.
When Will Veneers be the Wrong Choice?
If there’s decay, trauma, or deeper problems, we might recommend a root canal or other restorative work instead of veneers.
If the decay doesn’t reach that far down but still penetrates the tooth, we might recommend at least a dental filling, or at most, a dental crown. A crown can help you get your bite into an unstressed position for your jaw. If you lack a proper bite after you get restorative work done, you risk the effects of malocclusion, meaning bad bite.
Your jaw is a living, changing thing, so if your teeth biting down causes stress in your jaw, you can run into problems with its joints and muscles. If you need one false tooth in between two functional teeth (with artificial crowns), we might recommend a bridge on implants, also to prevent malocclusion.
Whenever you get a crown on a particular tooth, a veneer won’t be needed there, as the crown is already coloured and shaped for a healthy, natural, aesthetic look.
When Are Veneers the Best Choice?
First and foremost, we recommend veneers when tooth discolouration becomes a problem. There are two kinds of tooth discoloration that veneers can handle: intrinsic and extrinsic staining.
Extrinsic staining is the kind of staining that we see most often. It involves pigments (colouring) from food infiltrating your enamel and leaving a stain there. Coffee, tea (predominantly black), red wine, types of berries, tomato sauce, and hard candies all contain pigmented food particles that can leave a mark. Tobacco also contains pigments, whether smoked or chewed.
Teeth whitening can remove most extrinsic stains, over-the-counter if they’re light, or professional if there’s heavy staining. So, in that case, veneers might not be best. But sometimes, stains from these pigments can work past the enamel and turn into an intrinsic stain.
Intrinsic staining affects the colour of the dentin underneath the enamel. Because your enamel is translucent, partially letting the dentin’s colour through, tooth discolouration at the dentin level can get quite noticeable. There are a few reasons your dentin might be discoloured:
Black Teeth: this discolouration implies that nerves and blood vessels in your pulp chamber has died, which might have been caused by physical trauma.
Grey Teeth: this type of discolouration can come from genetics.
Green Teeth: antibiotics like tetracycline and liquid amoxicillin or fluoride exposure as a child can sometimes discolour your teeth green.
Yellow Teeth: genetics is a factor since some people have brighter or more transparent enamel than others.
Brown Teeth: your age can impact your dentin as well, naturally darkening with years.
For Some Chips & Cracks
Veneers are placed on the front-facing surfaces of your teeth to cover your natural teeth and their colour or any chips interfering with your bite. Ensuring a working occlusion (bite) is the first order of business. But because they’re placed on the outside, it’s relatively easy.
For some patients, we recommend veneers as an alternative to restorative dental care on tooth chips, depending on the surface affected and whether bonding, whitening, or crowns aren’t better choices in their case.
Things to Prepare for Your Veneers
It really is a case-by-case recommendation. We’ll discuss why it’s the best choice for you, how many you’ll want, and what needs to be done beforehand. Some patients need braces before a dentist can bond your veneers.
Some conditions or treatments may disqualify you as a candidate for veneers, unfortunately. If you have severe tooth decay, gum disease, or abscessed teeth requiring root canals, you might not be suited to them. If you are cleared, your dentist will need a mold and x-rays to prepare the shells individually. You’ll also get some enamel shaved off so your dentist can properly size your veneers.
On the Day You get your Veneers
Your dentist will do a final check on the fit, shape, and colouration of the veneers to ensure a great fit. Your dentist will then do a thorough polish to sanitize the bonding site on each tooth getting a veneer. You might get a local anesthetic if there’s a risk of severe pain.
Following that, they’ll create a rougher texture on each tooth for a better bonding grip. Then, you’ll get cement on each forward-facing tooth, and the veneer gets bonded on and sealed with an ultraviolet-emitting tool to dry the cement. Once they’re all bonded, you’ve got a new smile!
Life with Veneers
Your veneers should last a long time if you treat them well, up to 15 years in case they’re porcelain. But to make them last, you should be ready to form some crucial habits for preserving their condition.
- Don’t chew hard objects.
- Don’t use your teeth as tools to open packaging.
- Avoid chewing with your front teeth.
- Use a splint or retainer for grinding teeth to protect your veneers.
- For sports, wear a mouthguard.
Ask Your Dentist
Because it’s such a case-by-case issue, you’ll need your dentist’s advice in opting for veneers. It takes a professional not only to perform the procedure but also to offer that second opinion on what shade suits you. Please let us know if you’re considering this smile-enhancing option!