Dental veneers can dramatically improve the appearance of chipped, gapped, or discolored teeth. Long-lasting porcelain veneers produce a more natural-looking smile than crowns or bonding, and they are stain-resistant.
Veneers, also called porcelain overlays, are fingernail-thin shells which are fitted to the front of the teeth. Despite their thinness, the veneers become exceptionally strong once they are bonded to the teeth. They are often used to mask discolored teeth or fillings, fix chips or slight misalignments, and close gaps between the teeth.
Because of their translucence, dental veneers are a more natural-looking alternative to crowns or bonding materials. When light strikes the thin surface of a porcelain veneer, it passes through to the natural tooth enamel beneath. This produces a luster that is not present with opaque dental crowns.
The best candidate for porcelain veneers is someone whose teeth have minor cosmetic imperfections, but are otherwise strong and healthy. Diseased teeth, or teeth which are missing a lot of enamel, cannot be fitted with veneers. People who grind their teeth when they sleep might need to wear a plastic mouth guard at night for as long as they wear veneers.
If you and your dentist decide that veneers are right for you, an appointment will be scheduled to prepare your teeth and take impressions. The entire dental veneer process is typically done over the span of two visits, one to two weeks apart.
At the first visit, the dentist will numb your mouth to minimize discomfort. Then they will use a tiny rotating file to trim down the existing tooth enamel. Once this is finished, the dentist will take impressions of your teeth and send the cast off to the laboratory where your porcelain veneers will be crafted by hand. When the veneers are finished, they will be sent back to your dentist to be attached to your teeth.
Lumineers are a patented brand of porcelain veneers that are ultra-thin, about the thickness of a contact lens. They do not require the painful removal of sensitive tooth enamel. They can be placed over existing crowns or dental work. In some cases, they can be placed as a group rather than individually.
There are some factors to consider with porcelain veneers and Lumineers. Porcelain veneers are a permanent solution. Once they are in place, they cannot be removed. Lumineers can usually be removed or adjusted after placement. However, because of the minimal tooth preparation involved, they tend to make the teeth feel a little bulkier than usual and might detach from the tooth with no warning.
It is important to care for your veneers properly to prevent scratches, chips, or detachments. Brush and floss as usual, but avoid highly abrasive tooth pastes. Go to your regular dental appointments, and avoid biting anything hard like wood or metal. With proper care, veneers can last for up to 20 years.
Cost is something else to consider. Depending on the location and materials used, veneers can cost between $250 and $1,500 per tooth. Composite veneers tend to cost less, while Lumineers typically range from $750 to $1,500 per tooth.
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