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Veneers, what are they how do they feel?
Posted on 1/23/2018 by Dan Laizure
dental veneers closeup before applied to tooth

Dental Veneers

For varying reasons not everyone has a perfectly straight, white smile. Sometimes our smiles are just the way our teeth came in, sometimes there is damage resulting from an accident or poor oral health. However, we have multiple tools to help you obtain that desired smile. Veneers are one of these options that correct tooth and smile deficiencies. So how do veneers work? First, it's important to know exactly what they are.

Until a few years ago a search for information about "veneers", "protective veneers"or "aesthetic veneers" would likely have taken you into a world of beautiful woods, stone and brick coverings to be placed over less strong or aesthetically pleasing materials. Furniture is the most common place wood veneers are used to accomplish aesthetic upgrades of less expensive woods. These veneers can range from exquisitely beautiful, strong and durable wood coverings to some of the cheapest junk imaginable. The use of wood veneers is also common for some musical instruments with spectacular results. Today, however, if the word "veneer" is used for an internet search 90% of the results are related to Dental Veneers and the results offer the same range of quality as the veneered furniture.
What is a dental veneer?

So first off, what is a dental veneer? In the wood working world, a veneer is "a thin decorative covering of fine wood applied to a coarser wood or other material." In the dental realm, a veneer is a thin aesthetic material that is applied to teeth to change their appearance (color, shape and position), restore their function (if broken, decayed or displace) and re-position teeth without the effort of moving them. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), veneers are custom-designed shells that cover the fronts of teeth. They're thin and colored to blend in. Veneers cover up imperfections such as chips, tooth decay, stains or crooked teeth. In most cases, they are irreversible because a small portion of existing tooth enamel is removed in order to place them.

As with the quality of wood veneer products there is a vast range to fit the needs and desires of the consumer/patient. I add the word and concept of patient to our discussion as some veneer products require physical changes to portions of one's body (teeth) that are irreversible. This really amounts to plastic surgery and should be treated as such when these changes are contemplated. On the other hand some of the less expensive products are not invasive at all and are analogous to wearing a mask on ones face rather than changing the anatomic structures with plastic surgery.

Recognizing the desires and needs of the consumer/patient are paramount let's explore the various characteristics of veneer products and their limitations and advantages as objectively as possible.

The "Mask"

These are usually the least expensive and the least invasive. They generally require no changes in the structure or shape of the original teeth of the consumer and like a mask they simply go over the teeth and "snap" on. Some brand names that fall into this class of veneer are "snap on smile", "snap on veneer" and similar consumer products. Despite the fact these products are dramatically less expensive, there seems to be a great deal of money involved ultimately as the companies are very protective of their registered trademarks and insist that only their specific product be called by a specific name.

In general these products are removable and provide less stability and function than more intimately attached veneers. From a purely mechanical view they tend to be much less aesthetically refined, however, if they meet the desires of the consumer there is no real harm if they are used as directed and removed for proper cleaning and maintenance. I have found them to be a way to provide an insight for a patient as to a final idea of what to expect and refer to them in this capacity as a "trial smile".


Bonding is a term that is often misapplied to all veneering techniques as bonding is how virtually all veneers are applied. The difference in technique we are discussing here refers to a "free hand" application using composite resins as the final and primary material for the restoration. This material is not as strong as the porcelains we will discuss later but in the correct application work very nicely, look very nice and can keep the cost down.

This technique and material may or may not require the modification of the initial tooth structure. It is quite useful in making small adjustments such as closing spaces between teeth and making minor changes in the shape of teeth. Because of the inherent limitations of the material it is not the best for restoring large spaces, damaged or decayed teeth. They just don't have the physical strength necessary for these larger jobs. Aesthetically these materials can do very well in the hands of a skilled and experienced operator.


Veneers are primarily made from composite resin or porcelain.

Porcelain Veneers

Porcelain usually takes longer to place than composite resin, according to the ADA. On more complicated cases a good deal of consultation, discussion and preparatory laboratory work need to be done prior to actually beginning the procedure. After removing a bit of enamel an impression or mold is taken of your teeth. That impression is sent out to a lab that designs the veneers under the direction your dentist . This can take several days and usually requires the patient to schedule a return visit. Porcelain veneers are strong and resilient once placed, they do not easily stain, they look natural and require less enamel removal than crowns or caps.

Composite Resin Veneers

On the other hand, composite resin veneers can be sculpted in the office once a dentist reshapes and prepares the damaged teeth. All veneers are then bonded to teeth with resin cement. Composite resin veneers usually require less tooth enamel removal than porcelain, cost less than their alternatives, can be applied in one office visit and are easily fixable if damaged.

We don't all have a perfectly straight, sparkling white smile for varying reasons such as damage resulting from an accident or poor oral health, or just the way your teeth came in. However, there are multiple ways to help obtain that desired smile. Veneers are one option available to get the smile you want and deserve.

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