Veneers are restorations added to the front surface of the tooth in order to correct discolouration, minor misalignment, chips or cracks. They are also used to reduce gaps between teeth and build up worn teeth to restore a natural-looking smile.

What are veneers?

There are two types of veneers – porcelain and composite resin. Porcelain veneers look a little like fake fingernails and are designed to be bonded to the front of the tooth. Each veneer is custom-made to a particular tooth and they look and feel very natural.

Composite resin veneers are applied one layer at a time to slowly cover the existing tooth. Each layer is shaped and cured by your dentist until the final result is achieved.

How are veneers applied?

The dentist prepares the tooth, which may require some buffing of the enamel surface, to allow for the thickness of the veneer to sit flush on the tooth’s surface. Occasionally, a local anaesthetic is used during this part of the process.

Porcelain veneers are custom-made to fit the tooth and these are placed in position to check shape and colour. After ensuring everything is correct, the tooth is cleaned with chemicals and the veneer is cemented into place.

Composite resin veneers are sculpted onto the tooth by your dentist and cured with light to harden each layer. When the final shape and colour is achieved, the surface is polished to give the veneer a natural look.

After your veneers are applied

It can take a little time to get used to the new shape and size of your teeth. However, you will soon adjust to your new veneers and your teeth will feel completely natural. Simply brush and floss your teeth as normal. Two weeks after the veneers are fitted, another appointment with the dentist is highly recommended.

Can I get veneers?

Most people are suitable candidates for dental veneers but it must be remembered that it’s a cosmetic process, not an orthodontic solution. Veneers will not correct badly misaligned teeth, overbites or underbites.

Veneers also need healthy teeth on which to attach. Any decay or gum disease must be treated prior to the attachment of veneers.

If you suffer from teeth grinding, called bruxism, then veneers are not a suitable option. Persistent teeth grinding can cause veneers to chip, break or even detach completely from the tooth.

Veneers can be the cosmetic solution for:

gaps between teeth
broken, chipped or cracked teeth
badly stained or coloured teeth
crooked or irregularly shaped teeth
obvious, aesthetically-displeasing fillings.

An appointment with your dentist is required to check your suitability and to discuss treatment options.

Porcelain or composite resin?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of veneers.

Porcelain veneers are very durable and they look very life-like and natural, and are resistant to staining. However if they crack or chip, the whole veneer must be replaced.

Porcelain veneers also need to be manufactured off-site and can take a few weeks to complete. Composite resin veneers can be added to your existing teeth in one visit. Any chips or cracks to composite resin veneers can be repaired and are cheaper than porcelain veneers.

How long do veneers last?

Veneers will last about 10 years and possibly much longer. It’s all about maintaining consistent and effective oral hygiene. A visit to the dentist for a check-up and clean must be scheduled at least twice a year. Most importantly, only use your teeth for eating food – don’t chew pens, crunch ice or rip open plastic bags with them!

Have a realistic expectation

While veneers are a dramatic improvement to a number of dental problems, it’s important to remember that they are not natural teeth. Small imperfections, discolourations and variations can happen to all veneers over time, but this is not something to obsess about. In fact, it’s these small faults that can make your veneers look even more natural and give you a life-like smile.