Updated on February 12, 2024
8 min read

What Are Veneers?

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Veneers are custom-made shells that fit over the front surfaces of your teeth to improve your appearance and create a beautiful smile. They’re sometimes known as a “smile makeover.”

Because veneers can change a tooth’s length, size, color, shape, and function, experts consider them the ultimate cosmetic dental procedure. Getting them is elective rather than medically necessary.

3d render of lower jaw with dental veneers

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, “Dental veneers are an excellent way to mask discolored, crooked, or damaged teeth. But it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages before getting them.”

Why Do People Get Veneers?

Veneers make up about 26 percent of cosmetic procedures performed by dentists. There are a few reasons why dental veneers may be chosen over other procedures. 

People get veneers due to the following reasons:

  • To change the length, color, shape, and size of teeth
  • To fix chipped, cracked, or broken teeth (from injuries, nail-biting, etc.)
  • To fix white spots/streaks on teeth (typically caused by excessive fluoride use)
  • To cover up teeth stains and discoloration (from dark-colored foods, certain drugs, natural aging, etc.)

Most dentists recommend crowns or 3/4 crowns to protect the teeth from fractures in root canals. Veneers aren’t usually put on anterior teeth with root canals. 

Dentists don’t usually place veneers on premolars, either, and never on molars.

How Do Dental Veneers Work?

Dentists typically place veneers over a person’s front teeth rather than the molars. The procedure is relatively quick and only requires a small amount of enamel removal.

Most patients opt for veneers to improve their appearance, but they can also change the bite and help with function. They’re a great option for patients who have tooth gaps, chips, or deep stains.

Five Types of Dental Veneers

Most types of veneers are permanent, so they’re non-removable after placement. If you have cavities or gum disease, seek restorative dental treatment rather than veneers.

Common types of veneers include:

1. Porcelain Veneers

veneer NewMouth

Porcelain is the most common material for veneers. Porcelain veneers are the same color as teeth.

They’re versatile, completely customized, and can last 10 to 15 years. They’re made of ceramic materials and resist stains better than composite veneers.

Another advantage of porcelain veneers is that they’re relatively conservative and minimally invasive (in comparison to alternatives like crowns). 

They are also biocompatible, which means they don’t negatively affect the mouth’s gum tissue and other soft tissues.

Procedure

Minimal preparation of the teeth is necessary for successful veneer placement. This isn’t the case for full restorative procedures like dental crowns. However, like crowns, the procedure for veneer placement is irreversible.

First Appointment

At the initial appointment, to prepare a tooth for a porcelain veneer, a dentist will:

  1. Select the tooth shade that best matches the neighboring teeth
  2. Reshape the tooth to accommodate the veneer
  3. Make an impression for a dental laboratory to make the veneer

Often, but not always, the dentist will place a temporary veneer.

Second Appointment

At the second appointment, the dentist does the following:

  1. Removes the temporary veneer
  2. Cleans the underlying tooth
  3. Etches the tooth with an acidic material to roughen the tooth surface, allowing the veneer to bond to the tooth better
  4. Applies a special cement that allows the veneer to stay on the tooth
  5. Hardens the cement with a blue light
  6. Removes excess cement from the tooth and checks the bite

A follow-up visit may be necessary after a few weeks to further adjust the bite.

2. Composite Veneers

3d render of jaw with teethand upper composite veneers

Composite veneers are an alternative to porcelain veneers. They are made of composite resin, a mixture of inorganic and organic materials.

The bonding material that makes up these veneers is like tooth-colored dental fillings. While strong, composite veneers are not as durable as porcelain. They can also stain more readily over time.

On the other hand, composite is also more conservative than porcelain. With composite chips, the chipped area can be repaired. With porcelain chips, you must replace the entire veneer.

Procedure

Composite veneers only take one appointment (same-day option). They’re sculpted directly onto the teeth instead of being made in a dental laboratory.

Like porcelain veneers, composite veneers typically require tooth recontouring before placement. However, a dentist can also place them directly on uncut enamel.

Composite veneers may cost just $300 each, whereas porcelain veneers cost upwards of $1,000 each. However, composite veneers typically last five to seven years versus up to 15 years for porcelain veneers.

3. Palatal Veneers (Palatal Onlays)

Dentists typically use onlays to restore posterior (back) teeth. However, palatal veneers are a special onlay that dentists use to restore anterior (front) teeth. Causes of palatal damage to anterior teeth include deep bite, bruxism, and dental erosion.

Chronic vomiting and severe acid reflux can cause erosion. Palatal onlays are a great solution for restoring only the part of the tooth with damage and not touching the rest of the intact tooth.

4. Lumineers

Lumineers are an ultra-thin (0.2 mm) and translucent brand of veneers. They replicate the shape and color of natural tooth enamel, even more so than traditional porcelain veneers.

Lumineers are so thin that they do not require tooth reduction or recontouring. They’re also reversible.

Although convenient, they have a greater chance of chipping than traditional veneers, which may shorten their lifespan. However, when taken care of, lumineers may last as long or longer than traditional porcelain veneers.

5. Removable Veneers (Non-Permanent)

Removable veneers are less invasive, non-permanent, and cost less than traditional veneers.

Permanent veneers are irreversible because dentists must remove part of the tooth’s enamel. Removable veneers don’t require tooth reduction.

However, while removable veneers are convenient, they look less natural than permanent veneers. They are also more prone to plaque build-up and may harm your gum tissue over time. 

Dentists always recommend permanent veneers over temporary veneers. 

Instant Versus Custom-Made Removable Veneers

There are two removable veneers: 

  • Instant veneers ⁠— Cheap cosmetic teeth fitted into your mouth by placing them in hot water and pressing your teeth into the soft-fitting material
  • Custom-made clip-on veneers ⁠—  High-quality removable veneers created by a dentist and dental lab

Dentists don’t recommend instant veneers for daily use or as a long-term dental solution.

How Much Do Veneers Cost?

The cost of veneers depends on the type and how many you get:

  • Porcelain veneers — $500-$2,500 (per tooth)
  • Composite veneers — $250-$1,500 (per tooth)
  • Removable veneers — $300 or more (per arch)
  • Lumineers — $700-$2,000 (per tooth)
  • Palatal onlays — $650-$1,200 (per tooth)

Insurance doesn’t cover the cost of veneers because they are considered cosmetic (not medically necessary). 

Side Effects and Risks of Veneers

Traditional veneers, such as porcelain and composite, are great options for those looking to improve their smile quickly, safely, and effectively.

As with any dental procedure, there are risks. The risks are not life-threatening; you can avoid them with proper care.

Common conditions and side effects of veneers may include:

Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is common during the first three weeks after veneer placement.

If sensitivity lasts longer than three months, there is an underlying issue. For example, a tooth’s nerve may have been irreversibly inflamed during the procedure. 

Contact your dentist for treatment options.

Tooth Damage

There is also a risk of dentin damage after veneer placement, but it’s less common. The dentin may suffer damage during the enamel removal process.

A poorly-fitted veneer can also change the alignment of a patient’s bite, resulting in tooth sensitivity, bruxism, or jaw pain.

Future Veneer Replacement

People with untreated dental conditions before veneer placement, such as enamel erosion from acid reflux or eating disorders, are more at risk of veneer failure. 

Dentists may recommend alternative restorations, including crowns or cosmetic bonding, to replace failed veneers.

Veneers Versus Other Dental Treatments

How do dental veneers compare to other dental treatments?

Veneers Versus Dental Crowns

A dental veneer bonds to the front surface of a tooth. It is less invasive, thinner, and brittle than a crown, which means it has a higher fracture risk or dislodgement. It improves a patient’s appearance by changing the shape and color of the tooth. 

A crown covers the entire tooth. It is thicker than a dental veneer and requires more tooth structure removal before placement. Unlike veneers, crowns are used for restorative purposes, such as fixing severely decayed or broken teeth.

Veneers Versus Orthodontic Treatment

When patients have large gaps between teeth or overcrowding, veneers resolve the issues within a few office visits.

Orthodontic treatment — such as braces or clear aligners — can take up to 18 months to complete, while aligners take about 20 weeks. You must also visit the office more often while receiving orthodontic treatment.

While orthodontic treatment takes longer, it’s sometimes the best option for patients, especially children. This is because braces reposition the teeth and correct the bite without irreversible enamel removal.

Orthodontic treatment is more cost-effective than veneers, averaging about half the cost.

Summary

  • Veneers are custom-made shells that fit over the front of your teeth
  • Veneers are a cosmetic procedure and can change a tooth’s length, size, color, shape, and function
  • Most types of veneers are permanent
  • The side effects and risks include tooth sensitivity and damage; you can avoid them with proper dental hygiene
  • The cost of veneers averages between $500 and $2,500 per tooth

Last updated on February 12, 2024
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 12, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  2. Hollins, C. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.
  3. Borges et al. “Study of Lumineers’ Interfaces by Means of Optical Coherence Tomography.” Biophotonics South America, 2015.
  4. Ivankova, M.V., and Krikheli,  N.I. “Analysis of Results of Treatment of Patients with Discolored Teeth Using Different Types of Lumineers and Composite Veneers.” Medical Alphabet, 2020.
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  7. Dental Veneers: What Are Veneers, How Much Do They Cost, and Do I Need Them?” GuardianDirect.com.
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