What a dentist wants you to know about veneers

Jessica Harris
·5-min read
Photo credit: Agata Pospieszynska
Photo credit: Agata Pospieszynska

From Harper's BAZAAR

While we may not have had much to smile about in recent months, that hasn’t stopped the dental industry from booming. According to a recent study, there was a 12 per cent increase in cosmetic dentistry in 2020, and the global market is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 5 per cent - increasing its value to an estimated £21 billion by 2026. The most requested procedure is currently veneers.

There has been much discussion around how the ‘Zoom boom’ has prompted a rise in skincare purchases, cosmetic ‘tweakments’ and more invasive procedures. This, combined with the dental industry’s quick pivot to online consultations, as well as an increase in disposable income due to cancelled holidays and events, has facilitated a sharp rise in the popularity of veneers.

One dentist that has seen a spike in appointments is Dr. Nina Bal. “I've seen a big influx of clients wanting dental work this year,” she explains. “Most of us have been spending so much time on virtual calls, constantly looking at our faces and teeth, making us more aware of our imperfections.”

Like lip fillers and Botox, getting veneers is a relatively low-risk treatment that makes a big aesthetic difference, making the procedure especially popular with celebrities and influencers. But the quest for a perfect smile pre-dates both the global pandemic and the rise of social media: pioneering aesthetic dentist Charles Pincus was the first to create temporary veneers for Hollywood actors back in 1928. Although the method is now very different and a lot more permanent, the desire for a straight white smile remains.

Luckily, we now have new technology such as CAD/CAM systems and sophisticated 3D imaging software to thank for a cosmetic dental boom. With less risk and more permanent solutions, it's easy to achieve a flattering, entirely natural-looking result.

What are veneers?

A veneer is a wafer-thin piece of porcelain that is bonded to a tooth to create a mask over discolouration, gaps, cracks or a crooked position. You don't have to commit to a full set if you don't want to: you can opt for a single veneer if you have one tooth out of line, or treat a couple to create a more uniform smile. There is also the option to have a partial veneer that only covers a section of a tooth – perfect if you have a small chip, for example.

Each veneer is entirely custom-made, created according to the individual’s face and dimensions to make sure everything is in proportion. So, unlike when you visit your hairdresser, there's no point bringing in magazine cut-outs of celebrity smiles.

What's the difference between porcelain veneers and composite veneers?

Porcelain and composite veneers are different procedures, and the choice is largely dependent on your preferences and budget.

Composite veneers (also referred to as composite bonding) are made from engineered resin, rather than porcelain. “They require less tooth preparation so are more conservative,” explains Dr. Bal. “They're 50 per cent less expensive than porcelain, but much more prone to staining and chipping,” she adds. “They are also less biologically compatible, so more likely to create inflammation of the gums and do not last as long.” However, as composite veneers don’t require any filing of the original tooth, they are reversible, unlike porcelain treatments.

Whereas composite veneers can be thought of as a ‘top coat’ for your original teeth, porcelain veneers are a much more in-depth procedure, involving filing the surface of the natural tooth (although this can often be as little as 0.5mm).

“Porcelain veneers are more resistant, which is why they last twice as long,” adds Dr. Bal. “They stain a lot less than composite and give a much better aesthetic: they look more natural because they have better translucency, meaning they mimic the properties of a genuine tooth. As a result, they are more expensive, but in the long run are a much better investment.”

What is the process of having porcelain veneers?

There’s no need to let a fear of the dentist hold you back from having veneers – Dr. Bal confirms the process is simple, and relatively pain-free. “The procedure involves a consultation to begin with, to talk over the issues the patient wants rectified, any concerns they may have and how I can help them. The procedure itself then begins with preparation of the tooth with some filing,” she explains. “You will be under local anaesthetic so it’s virtually painless, apart from the initial injection itself.”

"The superficial layer of the enamel is removed by filing the tooth to prepare the space for the veneer. Then, impressions are taken and sent to the dental laboratory, which will create the veneers based on the moulds received. This ensures a precise fit and look. Once created by the dental technician, they are sent back to the dentist who will fit the moulds and show the patient a virtual mock-up of what their smile will look like. We can then make the necessary tweaks and, once the client is happy with the result, bond them permanently to the teeth. This happens over the course of a few appointments – it's a big decision and the patient has to have adequate time to consider all of the information.”

Although up to half of patients experience tooth sensitivity after the procedure, it will wear off over time and can be eased with ibuprofen. There may also be an adjustment period afterwards, where your daily habits such as chewing may feel odd.

How long do veneers last?

The longevity of your veneers will depend on whether you have chosen composite or porcelain and, of course, how well you care for them.

With good dental hygiene including daily brushing and flossing, composite veneers will last around three to five years. Porcelain veneers, however, will last between 15 and 20 years.

How much do veneers cost?

Although costs may vary from dentist to dentist, you can typically expect to pay anything from £250+ per tooth for composite veneers, and between £700 to £1500 per tooth for porcelain veneers.

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