Veneers are one of a number of different cosmetic dentistry options available to improve the look of your teeth.
A very versatile option, veneers not only allow for the shape, size and colour of your teeth to be changed but also mask the cracks, chips and imperfections in your teeth.
In this guide, I cover all you need to know about the topic of veneers, from understanding what they are, who they are for, what the process is to get them, what the costs are and ultimately whether they are right for you.
What are dental veneers?
Veneers are wafer-thin laminates or shells of tooth-coloured material (which can be either porcelain, ceramic or composite bonding material). They are bonded to the front surface of teeth to improve their cosmetic appearance. – British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
The principle is much the same as a false fingernail or nail extension.
Veneers are made to fit over the front surface of the tooth and then stuck in place to offer up a new artificial, yet natural looking layer.
These man-made products are designed to improve the look of teeth. They do not repair or strengthen the tooth, like a crown might.
A cosmetic product, they are custom made in such a way a patient can dictate the colour, the look, and the material used.
Veneers can be attached to a single tooth or a number of teeth. Most commonly veneers are used on the front teeth to get the smile that you desire.
Veneers are capable of lasting 5-20 years, depending on the material used. Once fitted you can live life normally, with the benefit of a new and improved smile.
When are they used or why would I want them?
Veneers are one of the most effective cosmetic dentistry treatments, when it comes to improving the look of your smile, as it is a solution that offers quite a bit of flexibility.
Where a cosmetic whitening process can only adjust the tooth colour, veneers can change the tooth colour, look, shape and size, essentially offering an all in one solution for those who want to alter their smile. When veneers have been placed they can help make your teeth appear straighter from the front.
Some of the reasons you might decide on veneers are because they:
- Change the tooth colour
- Improve alignment
- Close small gaps in the teeth
- Change the tooth shape
- Repair chipped and damaged teeth
- Improve worn teeth
- Improve the damage done by bruxism
- Are a less intrusive option than crowns
Further explanation of each reason is provided below.
- Change tooth colour
Whilst cosmetic tooth whitening may well work for some, it is not the solution for all.
Tooth whitening makes your teeth whiter in colour, but will not change the appearance of fillings – white or metal. And depending on the treatment approaches selected, tooth whitening may reverse or not last for all that long. This is particularly the case if your diet and lifestyle contain choices that are known to stain the teeth; smoking, tea, coffee and red wine being just a few examples.
Exposure to certain medical treatments and antibiotics is known to cause tooth discolouration. Sometimes this discolouration cannot be fully removed, even with whitening treatments.
Sensitivity in the teeth may mean that traditional whitening techniques are not suitable for you.
With the right veneers, you can achieve a brighter and whiter smile.
- Improve alignment
Wonky, crooked, angled, however you consider the teeth in your smile to be positioned, you may think that braces are the necessary solution.
For both children and even young adults, braces are a good long term option to change the position of your teeth. Thanks to advances it may not even need to be an all metal brace as you might have thought. There are even invisible looking braces available today.
Braces can be expensive and take a long time to work though. They also require a lifetime of wearing retainers to avoid the teeth moving again.
Instead, veneers can be used to make your smile appear more aligned, without physically moving the teeth. The dental veneers are moulded and positioned in the front of the tooth in such a way that post fitting you would never know that behind the veneer sits an angled or wonky tooth.
- Close small gaps between teeth
As veneers are shaped to your teeth, mouth and personal desires, if small gaps exist between teeth, the veneers can be designed and fitted in such a way that the gap is no longer present once fitted. The veneer can essentially act as a filling for a gap in your teeth. This may do away with the need for and orthodontic work, such as wearing braces which is a common option for closing a gap.
- Change the tooth shape
Veneers are shaped to your requirements. This means that if you have naturally short teeth but want longer teeth, then veneers give this exact option. The veneers can be shaped in such a way that the tooth has more curvature, length or a more fanged look to it if you desire.
- Repair chipped and damaged teeth
Life and the ageing process our bodies go through make the teeth susceptible to wear and damage.
If a tooth has been chipped, whilst it remains functional, it may affect your smile and your confidence to smile. You may have had a number of fillings to repair the tooth, but they keep coming out.
Veneers can be used to repair the chipped tooth and give the look almost identical to that of the tooth prior to being chipped.
- Improve worn teeth
Over time the natural tooth enamel can become worn through brushing too hard, or a high acid intake.
This wear may cause you to have a “hole” in your tooth, or to flatten the appearance of the tooth. It may also reveal the dentine layer which is more yellow in appearance and can even cause sensitivity.
Veneers are a great way of covering up this wear whilst helping retain the natural tooth too.
- Improve the damage done by bruxism
Bruxism is a condition whereby the teeth are worn by the grinding of upper and lower teeth.
Over time, the condition affects the way teeth look whilst often inducing extra sensitivity because the protective enamel layer is damaged and the underlying dentine layer is exposed.
Veneers restore the natural look of worn teeth. Veneers also protects the enamel by acting as a barrier and reducing the sensitivity that might have once been felt.
- Less intrusive option
Compared to crowns or braces, the use of veneers is a less intrusive option according to the British Dental Health Foundation.
This is because the veneer materials can be used in a really thin section, unlike traditional crown materials. Because veneers are often placed only on the front teeth, and on those teeth only of the front and biting surface, only those surfaces need any preparation. In some cases, the teeth may not need any drilling at all.
Like many dental and cosmetic treatments, there are circumstances that might mean that you are not an ideal candidate for particular treatments and veneers do need certain conditions to be met before they can be offered.
There is some variance in these requirements based on the types of veneers you may well be looking at, but as a general rule you must have:
- Specific goals that can only be achieved through cosmetic treatment.
- Realistic expectations.
- Good dental health with no signs of dental decay or gum disease.
- Be committed to proper oral care and hygiene.
- A sufficient layer of enamel on the tooth.
What makes an ideal candidate for veneers?
To answer this question I reached out to Esther Hathorn of Visage Dental Spa:
“If a patient has already had white fillings and they are failing.
If the patient does not want to go through teeth straightening and if they are looking for a quick result”
Esther Hathorn – Visage Dental Spa – GDC Number: 5711
When it comes to considering veneers, Esther advises that as a patient you must be aware that you will lose tooth surface, and that the veneers do not last forever. She also says that when choosing a dentist capable of offering veneers, look for someone who has case studies to show you their work and look for recommendations.
History of veneers
Many people say they want that ‘Hollywood Smile’ which often invokes the image of perfectly aligned bright white teeth.
Well, it was the film industry, centred around Hollywood, that did indeed pave the way for the desires of the public today.
In 1928, a dentist by the name Dr Charles Pincus came up with veneers as a way to enhance the smile of the on screen actors during this era.
At the time, they were temporary solutions that were stuck to the natural teeth of the actors. The look soon became a trademark of Hollywood.
At the time technology had not yet come up with a way of making them anything more than a temporary solution and they simply did not stay attached.
In 1937, Pincus fabricated acrylic veneers that were glued with denture adhesive. Again these were temporary too, as there was little adhesion.
Things changed in the 1960s when Dr Michael Bunocore discovered a process called ‘etching. This is the use of a mild acidic solution to roughen the surface of the tooth and remove debris often not seen by the naked eye. This makes for a stronger surface onto which dentists can bond or stick things down.
Initially, this was applicable only to other dental procedures such as sealing and restorations. However, in 1982 J.R. Calamia and R.J. Simonsen applied Dr Bunocore’s techniques to the application of porcelain veneers. Using hydrofluoric acid the adhesion of porcelain veneers was achieved.
Since then the popularity of veneers has increased and much more research has been completed.
Modern bonding agents (glues) can help keep veneers in place for up to 30 years.
Types of veneer
For a long time veneers have been made from composites or porcelain.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages and generally speaking, porcelain is the go to option as it provides the best cosmetic results.
Thanks to further advances in technology, there are newer types of veneer now available which offer different benefits and may well be better suited to some patients.
The choices you have are:
- Composite veneers
- Porcelain veneers
- Minimal-prep (ultra-thin) veneers
- No prep veneers
- Snap-on/removable veneers
- Instant veneers
Of the different types of veneers, what would you generally recommend and why?
There are many types of veneers and there is no one size fits all. I would recommend a particular type of veneer depending on the patients individual circumstances is cosmetic demand, the way they bite their teeth together, long term goals etc
Dr Chhaya Chauhan – In-house dentist – GDC Number: 83940
Composite veneers are most often used to fix small cosmetic issues such as a chip or cracked teeth. Composite is the material used by dentists for regular white fillings, however different brands can have a more natural look.
Composite veneers are made by the dentist whilst you are in the chair.
It requires a careful crafting process on the dentists part. The dentist builds up layers of the composite material and cures it with a special light, in order to harden the composite. The dentist is able to polish and shape these veneers whilst you are in the chair to produce a quality finish that can restore a more natural look and feel to the tooth.
It is an instant/while-you-wait solution where the dentist is making the veneer on the spot and not having to send off for a specialist technician to make the restoration for you.
Whilst composite veneers can be used to form a much larger smile makeover, helping to alter crooked teeth and cover up a gap, it is porcelain veneers that tend to be best suited to these larger smile alterations. Composites work well for smaller alterations.
Composite veneers do not normally require the surface layer of enamel on the tooth to be worn down for fitting, which does mean there are no issues with tooth sensitivity.
A big downside is that these veneers will stain more easily. Good oral hygiene and regular polishing can help. But the average life for a composite veneer will usually be 5 years or so.
- Cheaper – Although more time is spent in the dentist’s chair whilst they are created, the material is more cost-effective and the whole process cheaper.
- Speed – Can be made quickly, whilst you are in the dentist’s chair and does not require you to come back for a fitting appointment.
- Enamel removal not necessary – If the intention is to make a tooth longer or repair a chip, it may not be necessary to have the external layer of enamel removed.
- Reversible – If the outer layer of enamel has not been removed, a composite veneer is removable and the whole process reversible.
- Less sensitivity – As there is no removal of enamel, you are less likely to have sensitivity after the appointment.
- Easy to adjust – The dentist has the materials available to them whenever you are there, so they can easily make additions or changes whenever you want.
- Less damage to other teeth – The composite material is softer than porcelain. If you grind your teeth you will not wear through the teeth in the opposite arch (e.g. lower teeth if you veneer the upper teeth).
- Look – The final look or aesthetic appearance can be less convincing than porcelain.
- Durability – Expect composite veneers to need replacing within about 5 years as the material starts to wear, chip away and stain.
- Suitability – Work well for a chipped tooth or 2, but less ideal for larger smile makeovers.
- Time – You may have to lie back in the chair for a long time whilst the dentist carefully applies the layers of composite and then polishes them at the end. In some “no prep” veneer options you will spend less time in the chair.
The gold standard in veneers for many years, porcelain has been found to offer the best equivalent to the sheen, look and feel of natural teeth.
Versatile in their application, they offer one of the best options for improving the colour, shape and look of the teeth and can result in some impressive changes to your smile, including dealing with crooked or gap filled smiles.
Crafted in a dental lab by specialist lab technicians, your perfect smile is created and can be perfected before fitting.
At 0.5mm in thickness, porcelain veneers do require for a thin layer of enamel on the teeth to be removed in order to fit them. Some people will suffer with sensitivity as a result of having their teeth ground down, but the results can be worth it.
Once you opt for these veneers, you have to have them for life. A veneer with good maintenance can last 10-15 or even as long as 20 years, but subject to your age you may require a few new veneers over your lifetime.
It is not possible to go without replacements as the natural enamel on the tooth has been worn away.
- Look and feel – Porcelain has the most natural look and feel of the materials available.
- Durability – They can last 10-20 years and do not stain.
- Strength – Less likely to break and can even give extra rigidity to teeth that may have slight damage, but do not require a crown.
- Cost – Most expensive option and usually double that of composite material option.
- Enamel removal – Necessary to have enamel removed from the tooth surface for the veneers to be stuck to.
- Veneers for life – Once you have porcelain veneers made this decision is something you have to stick with for the rest of your life. You cannot go back to your natural teeth. Therefore you incur the costs that come with them too.
- Wear opposite teeth – If you grind your teeth there is a risk that the very hard porcelain will wear through the teeth in the opposing arch.
Minimal prep (ultra-thin) veneers – Lumineers
A more recent innovation that will grow in popularity are minimal prep or ultra-thin veneers.
At just 0.2mm thick they are less than half the thickness of traditional porcelain veneers that measure 0.5mm. This means that in most cases removal of enamel from the existing natural tooth surface is not required.
Using a special type of porcelain, the veneers are still made specifically for each patient and share the same strength and properties of the better known porcelain veneers.
Lumineers are considered one of the leading brands to offer these ultra thin options, but Vivaneers and DURAthin are 2 other brand choices.
No enamel removal makes the process for you and the dentist easier and quicker. There are no sensitivity issues and the whole process is reversible.
The treatment process typically takes two visits to the dentist.
- Look – The porcelain sheen and translucency gives a result that best mimics the natural teeth compared to composite.
- No enamel removal – In most cases, the enamel on the natural surface of the tooth does not need to be removed for fitting.
- Thinness – Lumineers are just 0.2mm thin (half that of traditional veneers) but are still made of medical-grade porcelain for a great look.
- Longevity – Can last for up to 20 years.
- Fully reversible – Because in most instances, no enamel was removed for fitting, they can be removed or changed at a later date if required.
- Cost – Despite being a newer and more technically advanced approach the costs are equivalent to or slightly higher than traditional porcelain veneers.
No prep veneers – CEREC
Thanks to the very latest in computer technology it is now possible to have veneers designed and installed in just one visit to the dental practice.
Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramic (CEREC) is also known as same day or single day dentistry.
State of the art digital scanners take pictures of the inside of your mouth and load them straight to the computer. CAD/CAM technology is then used to design veneers for your teeth on the computer.
Based on what it is you need or want, computer technology is used by the dentist to design the veneers to your exact specification.
This is then sent to a specialist machine installed in the dentist’s office.
A sort of cross between a 3D printer and milling machine, porcelain is precision crafted in a matter of minutes, ready to fit.
As a result, the process is quick and there is no need for a second visit.
In theory, this does reduce the cost as there are no lab fees to have the veneers created, but such equipment does not come cheap and needs to be paid for.
You get the same great benefits as standard porcelain veneers, but a word of caution here.
Although dentists in their own right are highly skilled, it takes a whole new skill to actually craft a veneer. It is like an art, you need to have an eye for producing veneers with an excellent cosmetic finish. This is something specialist dental technicians train long and hard for, particularly with more complex veneers.
You may wish to see examples of transformations completed on other patients. With CEREC technology, colour manipulation is particularly difficult to master, but dentists can perfect the veneer as it is fitted.
- Speed – The veneer can be designed, made and fitted the same day.
- Look and feel – Made of porcelain they give an excellent look and feel.
- Durability – They can last 10-15 years and do not stain.
- No enamel removal – In many cases, there is no need for the enamel to be removed before fitting.
- Cost – Although quick, the expensive equipment required influences the costs of the veneers.
- Suitability – Better suited to those who need 1-4 veneers only.
- Look – Best results might not be achieved unless the dentist is very skilled, particularly if going for more of a whole smile makeover.
Snap-on or removable veneers as they are known are another relatively new option, but perhaps not one that dentists would go to as their main recommendation for most patients.
They are made from a dental resin that is strong and hard wearing, and as the name suggests they can be removed and replaced as and when you see fit.
Although different, you might consider it a bit like a removable denture. When in the mouth, it has the look you want, when out, you have your natural teeth on show.
With a snap-on veneer, you can eat and drink as you would normally. You just remove it to clean the veneer each day.
No alterations are needed to your existing teeth.
The dentist will take an impression of your existing teeth to create moulds. As with all other veneers, you will discuss the shade and style you want.
In a short period of time, the snap-on veneers come back from the dental lab where they were made ready for you to use.
They are a great way to quickly correct simpler cosmetic dental problems, but few dentists would advise them as a long term option.
They are certainly a more cost-effective option for those wanting some form of cosmetic treatment, but cannot afford more extensive procedures. They can also be an option for those who are thinking about traditional veneers but want to try their new look before committing to the more permanent option.
- Price – Much cheaper than traditional veneers.
- Removable – You can have that perfect smile as and when you want it, not all the time.
- Trial run – A good option for those wishing to get an idea of what their new look teeth might be like, before committing.
- Durable – Made from resin that is hard wearing and should last a fair amount of time.
- Cleaning – Need removing and to be cleaned regularly.
- Not permanent – They are not a long term solution as they are designed to be removed.
- Look – Whilst they do the job, they do not have the same look and feel as higher quality porcelain veneers.
Somewhat of a crossover between porcelain and composite veneers, instant veneers are pre-made rather than completely custom to you.
The dentist has a range of styles and shades available that can be combined to get the best look based on your teeth.
It is much cheaper as the process can be completed relatively quickly in just one visit.
Capable of improving the look of your smile, they may not provide the absolute best result as they are not custom made, but the benefit is far less expense to achieve the results.
- Price – Much cheaper as less time required of the professionals.
- Speed – Fewer visits required to obtain the treatment and get the work completed as it uses off the shelf parts.
- Look – They tend not to look as good as the custom made veneers.
- Flexibility – Dentists are limited in the flexibility they have to make the smile you want as they have to work with the options that they have.
Advantages and disadvantages of veneers
Having considered the different types of materials and veneer options that you have, it is worth looking at the positives and negatives associated with veneers in general.
- Veneers can provide your teeth and smile with a very natural look and appearance (filling gaps, wonky or damaged teeth), despite being artificial.
- Retains more of the natural tooth than crowns do, although porcelain veneers, in particular, require a layer of enamel to be removed.
- You have the choice of how many veneers you have, what they do and how white they are.
- Most veneers are stain resistant.
- Gum tissues tolerate porcelain well.
- Options for all budgets.
- Veneers can be decided upon, designed and fitted within a few weeks.
- The process for the most popular porcelain veneers is not reversible as enamel is worn down. You need to have veneers for the rest of your life.
- Depending on the veneers, they can last 5 years (composite) up to 15-20 years (porcelain).
- For those who have enamel worn down, there may well be extra sensitivity in the teeth with hot and cold food and drink.
- For those who grind their teeth, the hard porcelain may wear down teeth in the opposing arch.
- You still need to brush and floss regularly along with dental checkups.
- Whilst there are veneers for all budgets, the best are expensive and cannot normally be repaired if chipped or damaged.
- Depending on the number of teeth and colour opted for it can be difficult to get a perfect match with natural teeth.
- Although unlikely, unusual pressure on the veneers may break them.
- Natural teeth under the veneer is still susceptible to decay.
- If not cleaned properly, bacteria can get trapped around the top of the veneer causing gum disease.
Are veneers worth it/should I get veneers?
Veneers can transform a smile for the better, giving you the look you may desire, but they are not an essential treatment.
This is ultimately a personal decision based on your reasons for wanting to alter your smile.
You should get the opinion of at least 1 dental professional, preferably 2, so that you really understand what is involved and what is right for you.
Getting a professionals opinion helps ensure you can make an informed decision.
Price should be considered and whether it is affordable for you.
Traditional porcelain veneers are for life and you need to be committed aesthetically and financially to this.
Be sure to take time before coming to a decision. Wait a good few weeks or months to really decide if it is for you.
With very few exceptions, veneers are worth it if they deliver the results you want.
Getting veneers – the process
If you have read the earlier sections within this article, you will have learnt a little already about the process involved in getting veneers.
The steps taken and what the dentist will do as part of getting a veneer will differ depending on the final result you wish to achieve.
Fitting veneers with the primary aim of giving the appearance of whiter teeth is quite different to that of someone wanting veneers to fix chipped teeth, to change the look of the whole smile, to close a gap and be whiter too. The more complex the final result is to achieve, the longer it will take and the more cost it will usually add.
Although there are now some off the shelf options, the best options remain those that are custom made to your teeth and design.
There are 3 main stages:
Assuming you have done a bit of research yourself, spoken to friends and family and are thinking quite seriously about veneers then the next step is to get in contact with your dental office to have a consultation.
Different dental practices may have slightly different procedures. You might be able to see a dentist in your normal practice, or in many cases other specialists in the practice talk with you about the possible treatment options.
You will be explaining what it is you want to achieve. The colour, look and shape of your teeth will be spoken about.
The team will often take x-rays and carry out an oral examination to determine suitability.
From this, the dentist and supporting team can advise on the best course of action based on your needs and wants and give their professional opinion.
Impressions may well be taken at this stage too. But you may also need to come back on another day for preparation and impressions.
Many practices now use state of the art computer technology to show you exactly what your smile will look like based on what you asked for. 3D images give you a realistic view of your new smile.
Other practices will use mockups using wax.
Ultimately either will allow you and the dentist to get a better final impression of the final results so that you can give the final sign off. It is important to be honest if you are not 100% happy. The dentist will not take it personally and would rather have a happy patient at the end.
A cost for the treatment will be provided along with a thorough explanation of the process to ensure you understand what is involved, prior to committing to any cosmetic treatment.
All of this should allow you to make your final decision.
Once decided upon (you do not need to make an immediate decision), the next stage of the process can be booked in.
The following describes most accurately a typical procedure for getting the more popular porcelain dental veneers, which takes place normally over 2 visits to the dentist’s office.
The preparation process – 1st visit
Once you have committed to getting your porcelain veneers the first stage of the process is to prepare the teeth.
With your consent to proceed, the dentist will begin to remove a thin layer of enamel from the teeth to which veneers will be attached. The local anaesthetic is not always required as only a small amount of drilling is required. However, if you would prefer to be numb, explain this to your dentist.
About 0.5mm of the outermost surface of the teeth is removed.
The idea is that the enamel removed will be replaced by the veneer and that once the treatment is complete, the final result should be no thicker than it was prior to having enamel removed.
Thinning the enamel helps create space for the new veneer to go without looking too bulky, and to look as natural as possible. Preparation of the tooth removes the outer layer which is very smooth and does not make for the best surface to stick to. This improves the bond strength between the tooth and the veneer in the final stage.
Although a layer or enamel will have been removed, it should not affect sensitivity and the way you live life too much before the veneers are fitted. Although a small number do find their teeth to be more sensitive.
As mentioned before, the procedure can be done without a local anaesthetic. There are no nerves in the tooth enamel so it should not be painful or cause any real discomfort.
However, subject to the number of teeth being prepared and your condition in the dental chair, local anaesthetic may be offered or used as a precaution.
Some veneers, such as ultra-thin and snap on’s do not require enamel removal.
Once this is complete, a few more checks may well be done by the dentist, checking the colour size and fit that you want, before the veneers are made.
An impression will be taken to give the technician a template to work on. This imprint is used to ensure the veneers are a perfect fit.
You will then be sent home to return within a couple of weeks time to get the veneers fitted.
During that time the veneers are being made in a specialist lab, specifically for you.
In a few instances, temporary veneers are offered, but this is not commonplace.
If you are opting for a whiter smile, it might well be necessary, to undertake a process of tooth whitening for those natural teeth not being fitted with veneers. This will allow the natural teeth to be matched to the veneers. The last thing you want is for the other teeth to look discoloured against the veneer.
If a composite veneer is being created, perhaps to deal with a chipped tooth, this can normally be completed in just 1 visit.
The composite starts life as a paste that is applied to the tooth and sticks to the bonding agent applied to the tooth. The dentist shapes the material over many layers to build up the desired shape and look to the tooth. It is hardened using a special light source that cures the material to a hard and tough finish.
Once the dentist is happy with the result, you will get to give it the approval before it is then polished to give it the natural look and feel.
The fitting process – 2nd visit
Once your dental office has your veneers back, you can have them fitted.
They will be attached to the teeth that were prepared in the last visit.
Just before this happens though, the dentist will usually hold the veneer in place to check the fit.
The dentist will be looking to see if the veneer affects your bite or causes any other alignment issues. If such is spotted, it may well be possible for small alterations to be made immediately before fitting.
A check of the colour will be made too. Veneers need to match perfectly against the natural tooth. Thankfully dentists can alter the appearance by choosing different shades of the bonding material (glue).
With the dentist happy to proceed, it is necessary to get your confirmation to go ahead.
When all are happy, the teeth will be thoroughly cleaned to ensure no contaminants are on the teeth in order for a good and secure fit to be achieved.
The dentist will often use what is known as a dental dam as this isolates the tooth and allows the surface to remain free of contaminants whilst the veneer is fitted.
Each tooth getting a veneer must have an acid gel applied.
Known as ‘etching’ it helps roughen the tooth surface, at a microscopic level that will make for a better surface for the bonding agent to stick to.
Cementing then gets applied to the back of the veneer and is stuck to the appropriate tooth. Once aligned, a curing light is used to harden the cement and form the ultimate bond that will keep the veneer in place for many years to come.
Once all the veneers are fitted, that is the job complete.
The gums may be a little tender after the veneer is fitted, especially if they have had to be lifted to fit the veneers. Your dentist may get you to come back in another week or so for a final checkup to make sure everything looks and feels as it should.
Veneers before and after
Results can be subtle for some but significant for others, depending on the need and wants of the patient as well as the appearance before the treatment.
Thankfully the fitting of veneers has little to no recovery time associated with it.
In most instances, anaesthetic is not used, so this is not a consideration when it comes to recovery. If you do have local anaesthetic you will feel numb for a little while after, but usually, within a few hours this subsides and the feeling is restored to the teeth, gums and mouth.
The veneers are firmly stuck on and are functional from the moment you leave, so biting into a big juicy apple as you leave the dental surgery is fine.
As part of the treatment, the gums will be pushed back slightly to give the best fit for veneers, so they may be a little sore and tender to the touch for a few days, but some may not notice this.
The discomfort of the gums having been pushed back rarely requires medication, but over the counter painkillers are certainly the best option should you wish for some relief.
Within a few days, the gums soon realign themselves and the tissue heals so you will feel normal again.
As there is no cutting or drilling involved to fit the veneers, for most the overwhelming satisfaction of the veneers masks any slight discomfort you may have.
Unless you have been required to have additional surgery, fitting veneers is not an excuse for a few days off work!
Taking care of your new smile
Although the veneers are artificial, they still require daily maintenance to keep them in the best condition, as hygienist Alison Edisbury explains:
Although the veneer itself is resistant to decay, veneers need to be maintained to protect the natural part of the tooth – brush 2x daily with a fluoride toothpaste, ensuring that you gently brush the gums as well, and use something to clean between the teeth
Alison Edisbury – Dental Hygienist -GDC Number: 170983
They are ultimately attached to your natural tooth, and around your gums. The tooth underneath is still susceptible to decay and your gums can succumb to gum disease, otherwise known as gingivitis.
So, whether it is porcelain or composite veneers, you should:
- Brush your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes
- Floss once a day
- Replace your toothbrush/brush head every 3 months
- Get regular dental checkups
If you are a smoker, you really should try to stop as continuing to do so will stain the veneers.
Tea, coffee and red wine drinkers, try to limit the amount you consume or wash down with water to reduce the chances of staining occurring to the veneer, in particular, the composite.
Good oral hygiene is a must, even more so if you have invested in a lovely set of veneers.
How much are veneers?
Veneers do not come cheap, particularly if you are looking for a complete smile makeover.
Although at some point the price will come into play as you will likely have a budget, you need to consider more than price alone.
As you might well expect, there are several factors that influence how much veneers cost.
The results you want, the material used, the dentist performing the procedure and the location of the dentist’s office can all influence the final price.
A cosmetic dental specialist based on world-renowned Harley Street, London, with a list of celebrity clients is likely going to be more expensive to employ their services than the cosmetic dentist that lives in rural Wales.
Those requiring veneers to alter the look of the smile will need more work from the dentist and technicians than those looking for a veneer that simply whitens the teeth.
As a guide, a single composite tooth veneer will cost £100-400, whilst a porcelain veneer will cost £400-1000.
On average you are looking at £250 for a composite veneer and £700 for a single porcelain veneer.
If for example, you would like 10 veneers that is a cost of £2500 for composite and £7000 for porcelain, so it’s safe to say porcelain veneers cost more.
The more desirable porcelain is normally at least 50% more expensive but can last 10-20 years compared to the 5 years of the composite.
A porcelain veneer is also less likely to stain.
So, although composite is cheaper, when you consider the cost per veneer over their lifetime, the porcelain option usually wins out.
Of course, you have to opt for what you want and can afford at the time. A composite might be a temporary option until you can afford porcelain, or you may choose to wait a little longer until you can afford the better porcelain.
Veneers on the NHS
Veneers are not normally provided by the NHS.
The NHS offers and subsidies what would be considered necessary treatment. This includes fixing holes in the teeth, undertaking routines checkups and fitting dentures for those that have no teeth.
Veneers are considered a cosmetic treatment, meaning they are used to improve the look of your teeth and smile. They are not essential to daily life and are therefore not provided.
This means even if you currently receive dental treatment under the NHS, you will have to opt for private treatment for veneers.
Exceptions do exist, but these are few and far between. The veneers can be porcelain or composite, but will most likely be composite on the NHS due to the cost.
Crowns are more common, for example for a severely broken tooth that will not hold a filling.
If considered eligible, the treatment falls under Band 3 and at the time of writing has a cost of £269.30 (England), £199.10 (Wales), and with variable costs in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Going overseas for veneers
It is quite well documented that going overseas can be a more cost-effective route when it comes to dental treatment. Particularly so if you are not eligible for NHS treatment or you can’t get what you want on the NHS.
As a rough generalisation, you can save between 50-70% on the costs typically charged within the UK.
For the UK and European residents, countries like Hungary, Poland and Turkey are popular destinations. The economies in these countries allow for the same treatment and results to be offered at a lower cost even when you factor in the cost of travel and accommodation.
Many firms overseas specialise in dental tourism and treat you like a VIP from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave.
If for example you opt for porcelain veneers and are having 10 in total, this could cost around £7,000 in the UK.
At around £3,500 overseas, that is a fair chunk of money to be saved for what is the same treatment.
Just consider when going abroad, it is more difficult to make changes or get repairs completed. A UK dentist may not have the same materials available, and it may even cost you more than your original trip. Also, be wary about how the dental care is regulated abroad, and know where to go to if something goes wrong.
It will be up to you to weigh up the pros and cons of going overseas to complete such treatment, but if you decide it is the right choice for you, make sure you have done lots of research before coming to this conclusion.
Choosing a dentist
If you want veneers, you are going to need to find a dentist who offers private treatment.
Your existing NHS dentist may well offer private treatments that include veneers but do check as not all will.
General dentists can create and fit veneers as part of their day to day work and for the most part, there is no issue with this.
Even if your general dentist does, you need to think quite carefully about the right dentist for you and your veneers, this includes existing private practice patients.
A cosmetic dentist can also produce and fit veneers, but they may well take a slightly different view on the treatment given they specialise in the appearance of the veneer. Veneers are a cosmetic procedure and in few cases provide a functional role quite like a dental crown might, therefore seeking out the expertise of those who are specialists in the field of cosmetic dentistry is worthwhile.
Extra training and experience in creating the perfect smile for patients will allow you to get a result you can truly be happy with.
You want to ensure you get the best return for your money and a result you are happy with, cosmetic dentists will really consider the materials, fitting and results you desire. Most will to have large portfolios of clients with before and after photos, they can share.
It does not hurt to get a 2nd opinion, or maybe a 3rd to understand your choices and learn whether the dentist is right for you. Sadly the regulations and ability to perform cosmetic treatments are not as strict as they are in other specialist fields of dentistry.
It is important you trust them, that they have a good reputation and experience.
To find those dentists who offer veneers near to you, there are a number of options you have.
A good place to start is using the search tool, available here on the website of the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
Alternatively, to find veneers near you, do a web search for ‘Cosmetic dentist in xxxx’ or ‘Veneers in xxxx’ (replacing xxx with your location).
Do your research, check their qualifications and find out what previous patients have to say.
Ask for real patient stories, with before and after shots, do not settle for the stock before and after images.
For most who opt for veneers, it is quite common to have to replace 1 or all of the veneers at some point.
Depending on the material used and the age that you are when you have veneers fitted will have some bearing.
Composite veneers, for example, are designed to last only 5 years, therefore most will want or need to have these replaced.
Traditional porcelain veneers will last on average 10-15 years before they fail. Due to the process involved with fitting them, should a veneer break or come to the end of its life, you have to replace it. You have no few other options.
Some veneers, like the newer ultra thin veneers, require no modification to the natural teeth, so should you decide you no longer want them they can be removed.
A dentist is able to remove any veneers at any point. What they do after that depends on the teeth and what preparation, if any, had to be done previously.
Veneers, just like the natural tooth can chip and break. In these circumstances, you will need to replace that veneer if you want to bring back the same look to your smile.
There are costs involved with replacing veneers. The exact cost will depend on how many veneers need replacing. Expect it to be a similar fee per tooth as to when you had it fitted the first time.
There are alternatives to veneers, the options include composite fillings and crowns.
Braces may well be an option for those desiring better alignment of their teeth.
Veneers are somewhat of an intermediate option.
Crowns do a lot of damage to the natural tooth and are required where more extensive restoration is needed.
Bonding allows for very small changes to the teeth, whereas veneers sit somewhere in the middle allowing for more change than bonding, but not enough to need or justify a crown.
Veneers or whitening
If your goal is to just whiten the teeth, then cosmetic whitening treatments are more convenient and cost-effective.
That said veneers do not stain unless damage and last for a long time which can be an advantage.
Veneers often require shaping and preparation of the teeth to achieve results, doing away with perfectly healthy enamel.
Consult with a dentist to find what treatment is best for you.
Veneers vs. crowns
Veneers and crowns are two different types of solutions which in some respects achieve the same things, but there are subtle differences in each that makes one of these treatments more suitable than the other in many cases.
You should speak to your dentist for their professional opinion based on your individual circumstances.
However to guide you in the meantime, if you have cracked or severely damaged a tooth, then it is likely that a crown or cap as it is known is likely to be the best solution.
The artificial tooth is cemented to the natural tooth that sits underneath, but a large proportion of that natural tooth has to be ground away to allow the cap to be fitted.
Crowns are particularly suitable for those who have had root canal treatment as they protect the natural tooth underneath and give extra strength.
As has been learnt in this article, a veneer, for the most part, does not really add strength to the tooth and whilst a small proportion of enamel may need to be removed, it is a lot less than with a cap.
Veneers are a more cost-effective and better way of giving a new look to teeth and your smile if, for the most part, your natural teeth are in good shape, albeit not quite the shape you want of your smile.
If you no longer have your own teeth, implants are an option to fill the gap left behind. Implants are an expensive but the best option when it comes to artificial teeth and is an alternative to those who would normally be advised to get a denture.
Extra information is available in our guide to implants.
It is important that you get the results you desire, so never rush into a treatment, educate yourself and seek opinion to make informed decisions.
Can veneers be whitened?
The materials from which they are made will not react with the chemicals that would normally whiten teeth, therefore making it virtually impossible to whiten the veneer.
Generally speaking, veneers will not stain, so it will stay the same colour for the whole time it is fitted within your mouth.
However, diets, lifestyle and materials can be different and some may discolour. It is possible that the professional cleaning of the veneer will restore its natural colour.
If you are concerned about the colour of your veneers, speak to your dentist as they can advise based on your specific circumstances. It may well be the discolouration you are noticing is due to natural ageing and cosmetic whitening treatment, that changes the colour of the internal tooth structure, may be appropriate.
Additional work – Smile makeover
Veneers are just 1 of many cosmetic treatments that are available to improve the look of your smile.
However, many want or need more work than simply attaching veneers to get the smile they want.
Often referred to as a smile makeover, treatment plans that include the veneers and other services such as gum reshaping or recontouring are offered by cosmetic professionals to help achieve the desired result.
Veneers can offer subtle or more dramatic changes to your smile.
When you have a look to your smile that you are happy with it can radically improve your self-confidence and the quality of life that you lead.
If you wish to consider veneers or any other cosmetic dental treatment, speak to one or more professionals and get their opinion before making any decisions on treatment.
Be sure to research the treatment, understand the pros and cons as well as the cost.
Porcelain veneers are the gold standard, but newer ultra-thin veneers offer the same benefits without some of the major restrictions and disadvantages that come with the traditional approach.
Your comments and opinions
If you should have any questions, comments or opinions you would like to add to this guide, please do so, by commenting below.
Should you have or be going through the process of veneer yourself, why not share some feedback for others to take advantage of.
How do veneers work?
Veneers are an artificial tooth layer that is designed and stuck to the tooth.
A veneer acts as a mask to the natural tooth to which it is attached. The veneer can be used to change the shape, size and colour of the natural teeth.
Can you get veneers on the NHS?
No, not normally.
They are considered a cosmetic treatment. Therefore if you want them you have to get them privately.
Rare exceptions do exist, but you would be advised if they were appropriate or required.
Are veneers bad for your teeth?
The answer to this question depends a little on your perception of ‘bad’.
Whilst the veneers make the teeth look good, they do nothing for the teeth to improve their health.
Most veneers require a thin layer of enamel to be removed from the teeth so that they can be bonded to the teeth. Many would consider this bad as once removed, the enamel cannot be replaced.
Minimal and no-prep veneers are now available and suitable for some and do not require the removal of enamel in most cases, therefore doing away with what most consider to be bad about veneers.
However, the life of veneers is 5-20 years so they do require replacement several times throughout your life.
Are veneers painful?
There should be no pain associated with the fitting and wearing of veneers.
The enamel which is often worn away to fit the veneers is thinned generally by 0.2-0.5mm. Enamel itself has no nerves to report pain or sensitivity to the brain, in most cases, there will be the pressure/sensation of something happening to the teeth but no pain.
Risks are present and there is the potential that a small number of people getting veneers may experience sensitivity as a result.
How long do porcelain veneers last?
Porcelain veneers will last 10-15 years on average.
With good care, they could last 20 years or more.
Depending on your age, it is possible that you will have to purchase new veneers later in life to replace any you have or do have fitted.
How veneers are made?
The exact process of how a veneer is made depends slightly on the type of veneer you choose.
Most are man-made or in some instances, machines and modern milling equipment assist.
Porcelain veneers are often considered the best and are made by human hands in a dental lab by building up and shaping many thin layers to form the final veneer precision crafted for your teeth.
When are veneers medically necessary?
Veneers are generally considered as a cosmetic treatment and something that is not medically necessary by the NHS in the UK and many dental insurance providers worldwide.
There are exceptions to this rule, but it is a bit of a grey area and the justification of what is medically necessary will vary from one country to another as well as being different between different medical and insurance providers.
As a guide only, a veneer can be considered medically necessary, when used to replace a large filling the encompasses at least half the width of a tooth or following a root canal in order to prevent the tooth from fracturing.
Dental veneers are considered not medically necessary when placed in order to cover:
- Severely discoloured tooth/teeth;
- Worn down, misaligned, uneven or irregularly shaped tooth/teeth;
- Teeth with gaps between them to close the space between the teeth;
- Teeth in a patient with cracked tooth syndrome;
- A broken cusp in which the cusp has broken off at the tooth; or
- Severe tooth decay in which most of the original tooth has been destroyed.
Can veneers fall off?
Although not that common due to the very strong bonding agent used to hold the veneer in place they can fall off for a number of reasons.
Poor or improper application by the dentist is one reason, age and degrading of the bonding agent over many years is another.
Particular forces on the veneer may also cause it to come off. Whilst designed to resist most day to day pressures of chewing, eating, biting etc, impact or overly excessive force can cause the veneer to break off from the tooth to which it would normally be attached.
Can veneers fix crooked teeth?
Yes. Veneers can be used to make crooked teeth look straight as well as changing the tooth colour, improving alignment, closing gaps between teeth and the shape too.
Can veneers stain?
Generally speaking, veneers will not stain or discolour. The materials used are often resist staining.
However, whilst relatively rare, some veneers may discolour due to the diet and lifestyle of the wearer. They can alter from their original colour over very long periods of time, for example, if the veneer is worn past its average life. Those designed to last 5 years may discolour if worn for 7-10 years as an example.
Can veneers be removed and replaced?
Yes, they can. In fact, most have to be as the designed life is normally anywhere between 5-20 years meaning most people will need to replace them a couple of times during their lifetime.
Once you have had veneers where enamel has been removed to fit them, you have to continue to have veneers for the rest of your life.
- Levisons Textbook for Dental Nurses
- The Smile Clinic
- Timothy J Kitzmiller
- Bay Dental
- Oral Health Foundation
- British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
- The Smile Clinic
- Koch Aesthetic Dentistry
- Bow House Dental
- Australian Dental Clinics
- Oasis Dental Care
- Cosmetic Dentistry Guide