What Are Veneers?

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A dentist holds up a row of veneers against a patient's mouth as the woman looks on in a mirror

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Veneers are thin, tooth-colored shells dentists place over the front side of teeth to correct various dental issues and improve a smile's overall appearance. Dental technicians custom-make veneers in a lab using a model of your teeth to ensure the veneers naturally fit your smile and mouth. 

Veneers are different from crowns, in that a crown is a cap that covers the entire tooth—not just the front, visible part that a veneer covers. 

Applying veneers is a common dental procedure. However, the procedure can be expensive—especially if you’re getting multiple veneers. The procedure is also irreversible once part of your enamel is removed, so it’s important to understand the process and determine whether it’s right for you.

Why Get Veneers?

Veneers can effectively conceal a wide range of dental issues and cosmetic imperfections, including:

Widely spaced teeth: While normal development of adult teeth can cause temporary widening, some people have widely spaced teeth due to injuries or conditions like gum disease. Veneers can help close the gaps.

Tooth discoloration: A number of things can cause a single tooth or several teeth to become discolored, such as high fluoride intake, poor oral care, or tooth nerve damage. Discoloration related to what you eat or drink or discoloration that is only surface-deep can likely be reversed with proper oral hygiene and teeth whitening procedures. Otherwise, your dentist can try to give you the shade you’re hoping for with veneers.

Abnormally-shaped teeth: Some diseases, like cerebral palsy and congenital syphilis, can result in abnormal tooth shape and growth. Veneers can correct abnormal tooth shape and tooth spacing. 

Crooked teeth: Orthodontic treatments like braces are a popular option for straightening teeth. But veneers can also be used to fix minor crookedness.

Fractured or worn tooth: Veneers can cover chipped teeth. Veneers can also cover teeth that have been slightly worn down.

Types of Veneers

There are three types of veneers: porcelain, resin composite, and no-prep. Your dentist will most likely recommend one that is best for you. Expected outcome and cost, as well as what needs to be done to your natural teeth ahead of the procedure, are factors that play a part in that decision.

Porcelain Veneers 

Dentists have used porcelain veneers for more than 30 years. The common option is usually made of a material called feldspar, which is a naturally occurring glass. 

Because the porcelain is so thin, the veneers tend to have a translucent look, giving a more natural appearance once the veneers are on. At the same time, the thinness can mean that major discoloration might be able to show through the veneer; another veneer type might be best in this situation. 

Porcelain veneers require minimal tooth preparation. This means the dentist doesn’t have to grind down as much of your teeth ahead of application, allowing you to keep more enamel. 

Your gum tissue will likely respond well to porcelain veneers. 

Porcelain veneers are considered to have a high aesthetic appeal and can last upwards of 10 to 12 years before needing to be replaced. 

Composite Veneers 

Now that their aesthetic and physical properties have improved over the years, composite veneers are another common option.

Composite veneers can be applied in a shorter amount of time. They also don’t require the removal of too much enamel, meaning you can keep more enamel for the veneer to adhere to. 

How good they look largely depends on how skilled the dentist is in the procedure. Even when they look good initially, composite veneers are more prone to discoloration and wear. 

Composite veneers tend to last about five years before needing replacement.

No-Prep/Minimally Invasive Veneers

No-prep/minimally invasive veneers are also made with porcelain, but these veneers don’t need aggressive tooth preparation. If they need it at all, enamel preparation will be minimal. This means your natural teeth can often stay intact.

No-prep/minimally invasive veneers are ultra-thin and long-lasting, and the process for putting them on is easy.

There are few clinical and comparative studies on no-prep/minimally invasive veneers, although some research have shown that they can last up to at least nine years, but it’s best to ask your dentist for their professional opinion.

How Much Are Veneers?

Dental insurance doesn’t typically cover cosmetic procedures, so be prepared to pay out of pocket. The total cost of your veneers will depend on a few factors, such as the material being used and the number of veneers you’re getting. 

In general, porcelain veneers cost between $925 and $2,500 per tooth, while composite veneers cost approximately $250 to $1,500 per tooth. If it’s helpful, ask your dentist if they offer a payment plan.

What Is It Like to Get Veneers?

Getting veneers is virtually pain-free. The entire process can take two to three visits over the course of six or so weeks.

Preparing for Veneers

In your preliminary consultation with your dentist, you’ll discuss everything from your reasons for wanting veneers to how the procedure works at that specific office. The dentist will examine your teeth, take X-rays, and determine whether you are a good candidate for veneers.

If veneers are decided upon, you will talk about which type is best for you and what tooth color will look most natural with your smile.

What to Expect When Getting Veneers

Chances are your dentist will first administer a local anesthetic so you won’t feel any pain. Next, they’ll use a small cutting device to whittle down and reshape the teeth that will be getting veneers. 

If you’re getting composite veneers, your dentist will apply the composite to your teeth, shape it, and harden it with light. After perfecting the shape and length of each composite, sometimes with additional layers, your dentist will polish your veneers. Then, you are good to leave.

If you’re getting porcelain veneers, your dentist will make an impression of your teeth to create a mold of your mouth. Then, either at their in-house lab or at an outside lab, your veneers will be designed using that mold. In the meantime, you may be given temporary veneers. Alternatively, digital impressions with intra-oral scanners can be used instead of traditional molds. 

When the custom-made porcelain veneers are ready, you’ll go back to the dentist to have your temporaries removed and permanents placed. If you like how they look, that’s all there is to it. If not, talk to your doctor about possible adjustments.

Living With Veneers

Your veneers will soon feel like natural teeth. The best thing to do to upkeep them is to maintain your oral health. This includes going to the dentist for regular cleanings and brushing and flossing your teeth. Make sure to use a non-abrasive toothpaste.

While staining is less likely with veneers, your dentist still might recommend brushing your teeth after eating foods or having drinks that may cause stains. This includes coffee, tea, and red wine. 

Because a chipped or fractured veneer cannot be fixed, your dentist might also recommend that you avoid biting or chewing hard food like nut shells and opening things like packages with your teeth.

Pros and Cons of Veneers

Veneers are popular for a reason: they work. Since the 1930s, veneers have been used to improve the appearance of teeth. They’ve been proven to last for years, and a more attractive smile can lead to increased self-esteem.

There are a few cons, too. One is the cost. Another downside is that once a veneer chips, it cannot be fixed, meaning you have to replace the veneer. That means more money at that later time. 

Veneers also need an existing tooth to go over. That means veneers are not an option for someone with missing teeth.

A Quick Review

Veneers are thin, tooth-colored shells typically made of porcelain or composite resin. Unlike a crown, which covers the entire tooth, a veneer covers only the front part. Getting veneers is a safe, effective, and common way to improve your smile and conceal imperfections, such as stained or crooked teeth.

If you’re interested in getting veneers, talk to your dentist about your teeth concerns, what you’re hoping to achieve with veneers, and how much the procedure will cost. Should you choose to move forward, you’ll likely only need a couple of visits from start to finish. Depending on which type of veneers you get, your new smile can last more than a decade before any replacement is needed.

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11 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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