What are Porcelain Veneers? Uses, Procedures, Treatments, and More

It only takes 7 seconds to make a first impression. For better or worse, your smile can say a lot about you. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry [PDF], 96% of American adults think that your smile can make you more appealing to potential partners. 74% think that an unattractive smile could hurt a person’s chances for career success. If you’re looking for a fast and cost-effective way to improve your smile, porcelain veneers could help you make a better first impression.

What are Porcelain Veneers?

Veneers are thin strips of dental-grade porcelain. When glued to the front surface of teeth, they correct cosmetic or minor structural problems. Also known as laminates, they work much the same way as laminated wood. They add a perfected surface to something less visually appealing.

The cosmetic dentistry field has seen many advancements. Older veneers were thick and required more preparation of the tooth’s surface to apply. However, newer veneers, like Lumineers, are thinner, more pliable, and less destructive to the tooth’s surface. These advancements also come with a cheaper price tag.

What Conditions Can Veneers Correct?

One of the most popular uses for veneers is, of course, for teeth whitening. Porcelain can be tinted and hand-shaped to mimic the look of natural teeth while providing a whiter, brighter surface. However, veneers can also correct the appearance of misshaped or misaligned teeth, whether the underlying issue is genetic or due to an accident or age.

Veneers can alter the shape, length, and color of teeth without having to grind them down or remove them, like with implants or crowns. Some of the most common reasons for getting veneers are:

  • Stained or discolored teeth
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Gapped teeth
  • Chipped or broken teeth
  • Tooth bulges
  • Cratered or pitted teeth

How Do You Get Veneers?

When you decide to get veneers, the first step is to schedule a consultation with a dentist that offers cosmetic care, like Union Square Dental. Your dentist will provide an overview of the treatment, including benefits and any possible drawbacks. They will also perform an examination to determine if your tooth structure is sound enough to support veneers. You may also have X-rays and impressions taken at this time.

If everything checks out, you will likely have two more visits. If your dentist sends your impressions to an outside lab, the length of time between consultation and treatment could vary. Some people choose to only have their front teeth treated. In that case, patients will have to undergo teeth whitening to make sure that their remaining, untreated teeth match their new laminates. The entire process can take 1-4 weeks total.

How are Veneers Applied?

Getting veneers is a non-invasive and relatively painless procedure that requires minimal preparation. Before cementing them into place, your dentist will adjust the shape and size to ensure the proper fit. You will then receive a thorough cleaning before the tooth surface is etched to ensure a solid bond. The etching creates a rough surface that allows the cement to take hold. This is done with phosphoric acid, which is safe and mild.

The next step is to apply the cement and place the veneer. A special lamp emits a beam of light that activates the cement and causes it to harden faster. Your dentist will then remove any excess cement and check to ensure that you can bite down and open and close your mouth without obstruction.

What About After Care?

With proper care, veneers last anywhere from 7-15 years. Porcelain veneers are a permanent treatment option, so your oral hygiene will still be important to retain their appearance. Because you still have your natural teeth underneath the laminate, you will still have to worry about cavities and tooth erosion. Schedule regular cleanings and exams with your dentist. You should also avoid foods that can cause stains, including tobacco, as well as foods that can cause breakage.

Porcelain veneers allow you to keep what nature gave you while improving your appearance. They are a permanent cosmetic solution that is affordable and accessible. To learn more about veneers and if they are a viable treatment option for you, schedule a consultation with your own dentist or a cosmetic dentistry practice near you.

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