Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Getting Veneers, Answered by Dentists
Veneers can be life-changing for people, and now, social media platforms (such as TikTok, where #veneers has over 984 million views), are shining a light on this smile-reversing dental procedure. "The pandemic totally shifted the cosmetic market. People are at home, spending more time on their phone on various social platforms—instead of dining out and traveling—and working remotely on Zoom or other meeting platforms," explains Dr. Sharon Huang, cosmetic dentist and founder of Les Belles NYC. "Most people are seeing their face and teeth on the big screen all day and noticing all their teeth imperfections, and people exploring cosmetic improvements are on social platforms discovering what's possible."
There has been a spike in cosmetic procedures (face and teeth) during the pandemic, especially since folks have a lot more time and money to invest in cosmetic procedures, rather than spending their cash on dining out or traveling. Additionally, the sheer volume of people on these platforms means information on cosmetic procedures, such as veneers, can travel fast.
"Social platforms and social media influencers have been extremely effective at increasing awareness of cosmetic procedures as well as the importance of a healthy and attractive smile," explains Dr. Matt Nejad, a cosmetic dentist based in Beverly Hills. "These platforms have a strong effect on reinforcing and encouraging elective cosmetic procedures—information travels faster than ever and these platforms have really had a big impact on veneers as well as other cosmetic procedures."
So, what are veneers?
Veneers are ultra-thin porcelain/plastic shells that are bonded to your teeth and can change their shape, color, size, length, or function. Veneers can be as thin as a contact lens and will help improve a person's smile, lip support, and potentially reduce fine lines around the mouth.
There are two types of veneers: composite veneers and porcelain veneers:
Porcelain veneers are made of porcelain, while composite veneers are made from resin (plastic). According to Dr. Huang, there is a wide range of porcelain veneers currently on the market. "The process of making these thin porcelain masterpieces is the key difference in the result and cost difference between dentists," she explains. "Conventional veneers may be made by a machine, where they are milled or 3D printed (the lowest cost), made by a dental technician (with varying skill level, and are mid-market cost), or made by a master ceramist (the highest cost)."
Handmade veneers are made by a master ceramist with the highest level of training, and they specialize in the design and artistry of recreating textures and characteristics that mimic nature. The majority of veneers on the market are made by a machine or by dental technicians, according to Dr. Huang.
Who is the best candidate for veneers?
According to Dr. Nejad, there is a wide range of candidates for veneers, considering they can treat a variety of conditions conservatively. "When [veneers] are done with a biomimetic approach (mimicking the properties of natural teeth), they can actually make teeth stronger instead of weakening them—this makes them ideally suited for a lot of patient conditions. They can effectively treat:
- Worn and chipped teeth.
- Discoloration and staining that can not resolve with whitening.
- The size, shape, and contour of natural teeth.
- Teeth that are not of optimal size for the patient.
- Gaps and spaces.
- Genetic conditions affecting enamel condition.
- Crowding and rotations—but this is optimally treated with orthodontics (Invisalign, braces, etc.).
What to expect when getting veneers?
The process will vary widely among providers, but below is the general idea of what you should expect when getting veneers for the first time:
- Records and planning: The first step is to collect records including photos, impressions, digital scans, etc., so that the treatment can be planned precisely.
- Mockup: Once the initial plan is formed, the next step in the process is to show you the final outcome in your mouth with a preview called the mockup. "The mockup is something that is formed over your teeth during a short appointment so that you can preview and evaluate the design," explains Dr. Nejad. "It looks surprisingly realistic most of the time, and you can use this to review any desired changes. The design can be adjusted until there is an approved design, assuming no limitations in achieving the desired change."
- Preparation: From there, the treatment proceeds with minimal tooth preparation and a temporary, which is worn until the cementation visit (which is around two weeks).
- Cementation: During the cementation visits, the veneers are tried in to confirm their shade and design and then cemented. The ideal cementation method takes more time to get the best seal, long-term durability, and prevent stains, leakage, and odors. Each veneer should be cemented individually, one at a time.
Considering creating and cementing veneers is a specialized craft, it's important to do your homework before choosing a dentist for your new veneers. "Every dentist has their unique style, design, and creative vision, and it is very important to find a cosmetic dentist who makes you feel safe and comfortable and is passionate about their art," says Dr. Huang. "Look at the dentists' portfolio and social media, and ask yourself if these are the teeth you'd like in your mouth."
How much do veneers usually cost?
Depending on the dentist and where and how the veneers are made (i.e. machine-made vs. made in a commercial lab by a technician vs. made in a specialty lab by a master ceramist), the price of veneers can range from $800-6,000 per tooth. "The cost of a smile makeover depends on the skill level of the dentist (the artist) and the ceramist, who has the unique skills to bring a design to life," explains Dr. Huang. "Like all things in life, we get what we pay for."
Another important thing to note is that, even if you choose the cheaper option, it might cause problems long-term. "The cheaper options are routinely problematic and end up costing more in the long run with retreatment, complications, and failures," explains Dr. Nejad.
How long do veneers last?
The longevity of veneers is dependent on the skillset of the dentist, the quality of the porcelain, and, once in the patient's mouth, by the patient. "Veneers are very technique sensitive—every drop of water and moisture matters, and every interference in someone's biting force matters," says Dr. Huang. "Once the veneers are cemented in a patient's mouth, the longevity depends on how well the patient takes care of their veneers. Someone who has meticulous oral hygiene's veneers will last much longer than a patient with poor oral hygiene and is opening canned bottles with their teeth. The time range of veneers can be anywhere from 5-30 years." The average lifespan of veneers is less than 10 years, but when they are done well, they can last a lot longer than that.
How should you take care of veneers?
You should take care of your veneers the same way you take care of your natural teeth. According to Dr. Huang, you should be flossing daily, brushing two times a day, using a quality mouth rinse, and getting a professional cleaning every six months. Also, always be mindful of what you bite into with your front teeth.
What are the disadvantages of veneers?
When it comes to veneers, there are a few disadvantages you should consider before getting them placed. First off, there's no room for error in veneers. "When veneers are chipped, they may not be repaired, but will need to be replaced instead," explains Dr. Huang. "Not all veneers are created equal, and there is a huge range of veneer qualities on the market—it is critical to find a highly skilled cosmetic dentist that is meticulous with their design process and will use the best products on you."
Secondly, once you have veneers, you will never be able to go without them or remove them. "You will need to commit to veneers for life and you should plan and budget to re-do them every 10-20 years," explains Dr. Nejad. "Even if they don't end up needing replacement, this would still be recommended to avoid any financial surprises." Also, if veneers are not done well, their longevity can be significantly lower because they will have an increased chance of cavities, stains, chipping, fractures, and even debonding (coming off).
Are veneers painful?
Most of the time, the in-office process of getting veneers should be 100% pain-free, but you may experience discomfort for a few days after the procedure, which should settle over time.
Additionally, if the teeth are overly prepared (shaved), or when the veneer cementation does not properly achieve a strong seal, the teeth can be sensitive or painful. "When it is done with optimal precision and quality, the chance of sensitivity and pain is extremely low," explains Dr. Nejad.
Veneers vs. bonding: What's the difference?
Bonding is a composite resin material which is applied directly on the tooth and shaped. "It can look beautiful if it is done with several layers and sculpted to form a realistic shape of a tooth," says Dr. Nejad. "Oftentimes, they are very bulky and unnatural in color because of the skill of the provider." Plus, composite bondings are not as hard and durable as ceramic, and it's more likely that they'll wear down and lose their shine over time, typically requiring more maintenance.
Bondings are beneficial when treating one to several teeth, but for four or more teeth, veneers made of ceramic will have less maintenance and a better long-term appearance if they are done well. "Many people opt for bonding because they are afraid of shaving or preparing their teeth for veneers, which is a great reason to be cautious," says Dr. Nejad. "However, a skilled provider that is experienced in minimal veneer preparations can provide the optimal outcome with the minimal preparation and make for the best combination."
Can you whiten veneers?
Porcelain or plastic veneers will not change color after it's cemented in the mouth and they may not be whitened. "Veneers will maintain their color very well and may need to be polished occasionally, depending on the material and the patient, but they do not need to be whitened usually," explains Dr. Nejad.