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16 July 2021

Are porcelain veneers going to damage my teeth?

If your teeth are chipped, crooked, or just won’t stay white no matter how many at-home teeth whitening products you try and slap across ’em, you might be interested in finding out more about veneers. Porcelain veneers are thin wafers of porcelain permanently and individually bonded to the tooth. The idea behind them is like adding a fake nail to your normal fingernail; except they are very strong and last a lot longer! But a concern some have about porcelain veneers is whether they will damage their teeth.

You can do a lot with veneers. You can change the shape of the tooth, make it bigger or smaller, or change the colour. You can get a veneer for just one tooth (let’s say you tripped and fell when you were little and now it has a gray cast to it) or multiple teeth. You also have the option to get either partial (they don’t cover your entire tooth) or full (they cover the entire front of your tooth) veneers—it really just depends on your needs and budget.

Veneers are a multi-step process that’s often spread out over a few appointments, but the results are definitely worth the extra time. It starts with a cosmetic consultation with your cosmetic dentist Dr Shawn Rama (me). Once you commit to your veneer plan and figure out how many you need, more molds, X-rays, and photographs are taken. Then, you come back for preparation of your teeth for the veneers (prep stage).

Prepping your teeth for porcelain veneers

It’s the veneers prep stage that may worry people. The teeth might need to be shaved down during the prep stage, but it really just depends on your specific situation. I would say ninety-nine percent of the time, I don’t need to shave away more than 0.2 to 0.5 millimetres to gain all of these ‘before-and-after’s’ you see, (In case you’re now reaching for a ruler, 0.5 millimetres is about the thickness of your fingernail.)

The whole crux of what makes the teeth I do different than most is that I’m designing the final smile before I even start. That allows me to be super minimal when it comes to what I have to do to prep the teeth. For example, if you come in with large, grey-looking, crooked teeth, that’s when we’d really have to shave the teeth down to get the look you might want. But if you have short teeth and gaps in between your teeth, we won’t have to do as much prep or shaving.

I also have the added benefit of a very skilled ceramist under the same roof. I am confident that given a very small reduction of tooth, she knows how to create a beautiful look with just a minimal amount of space.

If you’ve done your fair share of Googling, you might have stumbled across a no-prep version called Lumineers and wondered what the deal is. Lumineers is a specific type of semi-permanent veneer. It is a potentially more affordable option—because these don’t last as long as traditional porcelain veneers. Lumineers don’t require prep (there’s no shaving down of the teeth first), but not everyone is a candidate. Also, not every dentist offers this product, so you’ll want to check with your specific dentist, first.

How long do porcelain veneers last?

Porcelain veneers are permanent, but they’re not forever. Veneers that are well done could last for about 15 to 20 years, at which point they’ll need to be replaced.

To replace veneers, you drill off the old veneer, and start the new process over. Don’t worry, you don’t lose more of your natural tooth when they take the old ones off. Dentists typically wear microscopic glasses to make sure they’re not drilling into the natural tooth.

Veneers (whether they fully or partially cover the teeth) are not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of procedure. Not only can you get cavities where the veneer isn’t covering the tooth, but you can also get cavities underneath them. So you’ll need to really take care of them to ensure they last as long as possible.

How can I fix my teeth without veneers?

Depending on what it is you’re trying to address, alternate options are orthodontics (braces or Invisalign) or teeth whitening. For a more affordable type of veneer, you could also try composite instead of porcelain, also called resin bonding.

For the resin bonding procedure, the dentist uses the same material as a dental filling (aka composite) to reshape your teeth. However, the final result of composite veneers relies even more heavily on the skill of the dentist. This type of veneer is more prone to discoloration, and aesthetically speaking, they aren’t as good as porcelain veneers.

As is the case before any irreversible treatment, talk things over first during a professional consultation. Your dentist can go over the pros and cons of getting veneers so you can fully understand what you’re getting yourself into.

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