Dentistry
Cosmetic
Product Reviews
Updated on September 29, 2022

What Are Veneers?

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What are Dental Veneers & How Do They Work?

Veneers are custom-made shells that fit over teeth to improve their appearance and create a beautiful smile. Because of this, they are sometimes known as a "smile makeover."

While veneers can change a tooth’s length, size, color, shape, and function, they’re ultimately considered cosmetic dental procedures. They’re elective rather than medically necessary.

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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."

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

Veneers are most commonly placed over front teeth rather than back molars. The procedure is relatively quick and only requires limited enamel removal. Veneers are available in many shades, depending on your tooth color and desired outcome.

5 Types of Veneers

Most types of veneers are permanent, so they cannot be removed after placement. If you have cavities or gum disease, seek restorative dental treatment rather than veneers.

Common types of veneers include:

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1. Porcelain Veneers

Porcelain is the most common material used for veneers. Porcelain veneers are tooth-colored, versatile, completely custom, and can last 10 to 15 years. They are made of ceramic materials and resist stains better than composite veneers.

Another advantage of porcelain veneers is that they are relatively conservative and minimally invasive (when compared to alternatives such as crowns). 

They are also biocompatible, which means the gum tissue and other soft tissues of the mouth usually are not negatively affected by them. 

Procedure

Minimal preparation of the teeth is needed for successful veneer placement. This is not the case for full restorative procedures like dental crowns. However, like crowns, the procedure for veneer placement is irreversible.

To prepare a tooth for a porcelain veneer, a dentist will first select the tooth shade that best matches the neighboring teeth. Then they will reshape the tooth to accommodate the veneer and take an impression for a dental laboratory to make the veneer.

A temporary veneer may be placed during the first appointment. At the second appointment, the dentist will remove the temporary veneer. Then, the dentist will clean the underlying tooth and etch it with an acidic material to roughen the tooth surface. This allows the veneer to bond to the tooth better.

The dentist will apply a special cement that allows the veneer to stay on the tooth. The cement is hardened with a blue light. The final step is removing excess cement from the tooth and checking the bite. A follow-up visit may be necessary after a few weeks to adjust the bite.

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2. 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 used to make these veneers is the same as 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. When composite chips, the chipped area can be repaired. When porcelain chips, the entire veneer must be replaced.

Procedure

Composite veneers only take one appointment (same-day option). They are sculpted directly onto the teeth rather than in a dental laboratory. Porcelain veneers require more than one appointment.

Like porcelain veneers, composite veneers require tooth recontouring before placement and can be placed directly on uncut enamel.

Composite veneers may cost just $300, whereas porcelain veneers cost upwards of $1,000. However, composite veneers typically last 5 to 7 years versus up to 15 years for porcelain veneers.

3. Palatal Veneers (Palatal Onlays)

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

Erosion can be caused by chronic vomiting and severe acid reflux. Palatal onlays are a great solution to restore only the compromised part of the tooth, leaving the rest untouched.

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 do not require tooth reduction.

However, while removable veneers are convenient, they do not look quite as natural as permanent veneers. They are also more prone to plaque build-up and may harm your gum tissue over time with frequent wear.

Dentists always recommend permanent veneers over temporary alternatives. 

Instant vs. Custom-Made Removable Veneers

There are two removable veneers: instant veneers and custom-made clip-on veneers.

Instant veneers are cheap cosmetic teeth. You fit them into your mouth by placing them in hot water and pressing your teeth into the soft-fitting material. They are not recommended for daily use or as a long-term dental solution.

Custom snap-on veneers are high-quality removable veneers. A dentist takes impressions of your teeth. Then the impression is sent to a dental lab, and the dental lab technicians create a custom-fit set of veneers for you.

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. These include:

  • 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.)

In cases of root canals, crowns or 3/4 crowns are recommended to protect the teeth from fracture. Veneers for anterior root canal-treated teeth are not routinely performed. They are also rarely placed on premolars and never on molars.

How are Veneers Placed on Teeth?

In general, veneer placement consists of the following steps:

  1. You and your dentist will decide on a veneer shade that best matches your smile, so the veneer looks natural.
  2. Your dentist will remove some enamel from the front and sides of your teeth to make room for the veneer. The dentist will skip this step if you are getting lumineers or temporary veneers.
  3. Your dentist then makes an impression (a mold) of the prepared tooth structure.
  4. Your dentist will send the tooth impression to a dental lab that custom-makes the veneer to fit just right. This step can take several weeks, and your dentist may cover the teeth with temporary veneers to wear in the meantime.
  5. At your next visit, your dentist will remove the temporary veneers and place the permanent veneers on your teeth to confirm the proper fit and appearance. Your dentist will also clean your teeth before bonding the veneer.

Side Effects & 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, and they can be avoided with proper care. Common conditions and side effects of veneers may include:

Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is common during the first 3 weeks after veneer placement.

If sensitivity lasts longer than 3 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 is less common.

During the enamel removal process, the underlying dentin can get damaged. 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. Alternative restorations, including crowns or cosmetic bonding, may be recommended in the future to replace failed veneers.

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 does not cover the cost of veneers because they are considered cosmetic (not medically necessary). 

Veneers vs. Other Dental Treatments

How do veneers compare to other dental treatments?

Veneers vs. Dental Crowns

A veneer bonds to the front surface of a tooth. They are less invasive, thinner, and more brittle than crowns, which means they have a higher risk of fracture or dislodgement. They improve a patient’s appearance by changing the shape and color of teeth.

A crown covers the entire tooth. It is thicker than a 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 vs. Teeth Whitening

Veneers are long-lasting restorations, while at-home or professional teeth whitening is just a temporary treatment.

Since everyone has different diets, lifestyles, and habits, such as smoking, there is no way to predict how long whitening will last.

On the other hand, a veneer lasts between 5 and 15 years, depending on the type of veneer and how well you care for your teeth. Porcelain veneers resist staining from coffee, wine, and smoking.

Professional teeth whitening is a cheaper, less invasive option than veneers. Both veneers and whitening are safe, though both procedures may cause side effects. Veneers are permanent and cannot be removed after placement.

One reason people opt for teeth whitening is that there are a lot of affordable at-home teeth whitening options.

Veneers vs. Orthodontic Treatment

When patients have large gaps between their 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 fully 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 is sometimes the best option for patients, especially children. This is because braces reposition the teeth and correct the bite without irreversible enamel removal. In contrast, veneers are typically placed for cosmetic reasons.

Braces are generally less expensive than dental veneers. Most veneers are at least $1,000 per tooth, and people typically get six to 12 veneers. Invisalign ranges from $3,500 to $6,000, so treatment is less expensive than a full set of veneers.

Direct-to-consumer clear aligners allow you to straighten your teeth at home. These clear aligners cost less than Invisalign and can provide similar levels of bite correction.

Read more about Invisalign alternatives.

Veneers: Common Questions & Concerns

Does insurance cover veneers?

Since veneers are cosmetic, they are never covered by insurance. An exception may be if a veneer is needed because of an injury.

Are veneers permanent?

Yes, most types of veneers are permanent, including composite and porcelain veneers.

Before placement, your dentist has to shave down some of your natural tooth structure. Lumineers, however, do not require tooth reduction or recontouring because they are very thin. Lumineers are more prone to fractures and chips.

Are veneers safe?

As long as you take care of them, veneers are safe and not bad for your teeth. It is also rare for veneers to crack or break.

Do veneers hurt?

It is rare for veneers to cause pain and discomfort during and after the procedure is complete.

This is because the procedure is minimally invasive and only requires minor enamel removal.

Do veneers stain?

Just like natural teeth, some types of veneers can stain over time.

However, most veneers are made out of stain-resistant materials. So if you take care of them, they will stay white for many years. However, the natural tooth structure around veneers can stain.

How long do veneers last?

After they are placed, you should begin taking care of them like normal teeth. This includes practicing optimal oral health at home (brushing and flossing regularly) and visiting your dentist for teeth cleanings every 6 months. Your dentist may also suggest you wear a nightguard to protect your new veneers.

Can tooth enamel grow back?

No. Once your tooth enamel is removed, it cannot grow back. This is why veneers are considered permanent restorations.

7 Sources Cited
Last updated on September 29, 2022
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, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.
  3. Borges, Erica De Andrade, et al. “Study of Lumineers' Interfaces by Means of Optical Coherence Tomography.” Biophotonics South America, 2015.
  4. Ivankova, M. V., and N. I. Krikheli. “Analysis of Results of Treatment of Patients with Discolored Teeth Using Different Types of Lumineers and Composite Veneers.” Medical Alphabet, 2020.
  5. Krikheli, N. I., and M. V. Ivankova. “The Experience with the Application of Lumineers in the Clinical Practice.” Rossiiskaya Stomatologiya, 2015.
  6. Goldstein, Ronald E., et al. Ronald E. Esthetics in Dentistry. Wiley Blackwell, 2018.
  7. Dental Veneers: What Are Veneers, How Much Do They Cost, and Do I Need Them?” GuardianDirect.com.
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