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Dental veneers - a guide

Woman smiling

Dental veneers are essentially the equivalent of false nails for your teeth. They are a wafer thin shell or laminate that is cemented to the surface of your teeth to improve their appearance in terms of colour, shape or alignment. Dental veneers are classed as cosmetic dentistry as they are generally provided because of demand, rather than out of any medical need.

This article on dental veneers is by Kathryn Senior, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites. 

What problems can dental veneers help with? 

Dental veneers can cover up a wide range of oral problems quickly and easily, where other treatments have failed or would take much longer. These include:

  • Stained teeth: Where standard tooth whitening procedures have been ineffective, dental veneers can be used to cover the stained tooth and match the colour to the teeth around it.

  • Damaged teeth: Where a tooth is chipped or broken in an accident, a dental veneer can be used to patch the gap. Unlike a crown or implant, a dental veneer will preserve much more of what remains of the original tooth.

  • Gaps and crooked teeth: Dental veneers are very effective for bridging gaps between teeth to provide a more even spacing. In just a few weeks, veneers can achieve a look that could take a year or more of orthodontic work.

  • Eroded teeth: In cases such as bulimia, where repeated vomiting has caused acid erosion of the teeth, dental veneers can restore the teeth to a fuller, more natural appearance. They can also be used to repair damaged caused in people who habitually grind their teeth.

What types of dental veneers are available?

There are several different types, each with advantages and disadvantages.

  • Porcelain dental veneers – these are the most natural looking veneers as they have a translucent appearance similar to tooth enamel. They are strong, stain resistant and last between five and ten years. The downside is that they are also the most expensive.

  • Composite dental veneers – these are the cheapest, but they are more prone to staining and have a relatively short life of between 12 and 18 months. Composite dental veneers are preferred for small chips as they preserve more of the remaining tooth.

  • Ceramic dental veneers – some specialist clinics now have in-house technology that can produce ceramic dental veneers while you wait. This makes the treatment far quicker and less traumatic.

What do dental veneers cost?

As with most cosmetic treatments, the price of dental veneers varies widely depending on the experience and reputation of the clinic, the complexity of the procedure and the local marketplace. You can pay anything from £500 per tooth to several thousand pounds. In general, you get what you pay for. At the cheaper end of the market, you risk getting veneers that are a poor fit. You can also face cost cutting measures such as low quality temporary dental veneers (or worse still, no temporary veneers at all) while your own are being manufactured.

Many overseas treatment options are available online, from all-inclusive week long stays in Budapest, to dental treatment at the beachside in Phuket. While treatment abroad may seen cheaper, bear in mind that if you have any problems afterwards, it is a long way to go back to have them put right.

How are dental veneers fitted?

Dental veneers are not high technology. They are simply a new surface layer that is cemented to the surface of your teeth. To make room for this, the top layer of your tooth will need to be ground away using a dental drill or file to the same thickness as the dental veneer. If your veneers are to correct protruding or misaligned teeth, then more of the tooth may need to be removed to create a straight alignment.

A mould is then taken and you will be fitted with temporary dental veneers while your bespoke set is manufactured. Before fitting, the surface of the tooth is acid treated to create a rough surface to help the cement to attach firmly.

You will need to care for dental veneers in the same way as you would natural teeth, including regular checkups at your dentist. The time varies depending on what material they were made from, but your veneers will need replacing at some point.

The pros and cons of dental veneers

Dental veneers offer a simple solution to a wide range of dental problems, leaving you with an even, white, well-aligned smile and, as such, they are rising in popularity all the time. If they are fitted by an experienced, competent dentist, using quality materials and equipment, then there should be few or no problems with the procedure.

However, it is worth considering the nature of the procedure of fitting dental veneers. Since the natural surface of your teeth is filed away and acid treated, you will be committed to wearing veneers for the rest of your life, and to replacing them on a regular basis. You should carefully consider not only the initial cost, but also the ongoing cost of replacing your dental veneers in the future.

Kathryn Senior

Profile of the author

Dr Kathryn Senior is an acclaimed medical journalist who has written over 500 feature articles for leading international journals within The Lancet group. As Senior Writer at Freelance Copy she produces high quality scientific and medical content for websites and printed publications for companies and organisations in the health, medical and pharmaceutical sectors.

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