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Health Story: The Dentist Who Changed My Life

After a long history of unpleasant experiences, Jonathan finally found the right dentist. Read his story.
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Dental Veneers

By

Megan Freedman

What are dental veneers?

Dental veneers are thin coverings applied to teeth to improve the appearance of chipped, cracked, discolored, gapped or misshapen teeth. Your dentist bonds tooth-colored dental veneers to your teeth with cement. Dental veneers are made of composite or porcelain (ceramic) materials and are often applied without an anesthetic.

Dental veneers can last from five to 15 years depending on the type of material used. They are typically used on the front teeth, which experience less wear and tear and biting forces than teeth farther back in the mouth, such as molars.

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A dental veneer procedure is generally very safe, but it does have risks and potential complications. It is only one method used to improve the appearance of teeth. Discuss all of your options with your dentist to understand which options are right for you.  

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Why is a dental veneer procedure performed?

Your dentist may recommend dental veneers to improve the appearance of your teeth. Not everyone is a candidate for veneers, such as people with poor oral hygiene or those who grind their teeth. Ask your dentist if you are a good candidate for dental veneers.

Dentists apply dental veneers to improve the esthetics or cosmetic look of the following conditions:

  • Cracked or chipped teeth that do not require more extensive procedures to repair, such as a root canal and dental crown

  • Discolored teeth that appear yellow, brown or gray

  • Misshapen or misaligned teeth including teeth with gaps between them, teeth that are too short, gums that have receded away from the teeth, or teeth that are crooked

Who performs a dental veneer procedure?

A general dentist or pediatric dentist performs dental veneer procedures. General dentists prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and conditions of the teeth, gums, mouth, and associated structures of the jaw and face. Pediatric dentists specialize in caring for the dental needs of children and teens.

How is a dental veneer procedure performed?

Your dental veneer procedure will be performed in a dental office or clinic. The procedure generally includes these steps:

  1. You will sit in a reclining position in the dentist chair. You may wear a clear shield over your eyes. The shield protects your eyes from spraying liquids and dental instruments.
  2. Some dental veneer procedures involve anesthetic and some do not. If you need pain control, your dentist will inject a local anesthetic into the gums near your teeth. The anesthetic numbs the pain during the procedure. Your dentist may also apply a painless topical anesthetic to numb the gums partially before the injection.
  3. Your dentist will reduce tooth thickness by filing down some of the natural tooth structure.
  4. Your dentist will etch the surface of your teeth. This helps attach the veneer securely to your tooth.
  5. If you are receiving porcelain (ceramic) veneers, your dentist will make a mold (impression) of your teeth. Your dentist or a lab will use the impression of your teeth to make veneers that fit correctly. This typically takes one to two weeks. The dentist may place temporary veneers on your teeth to cover them while you wait for the final veneers to be created. 
  6. If you are receiving composite veneers, you will not need a mold or a lab to make your veneers. They should be ready for placement the same day.
  7. Your dentist will apply the veneers to your teeth and attach them using special cement. 
  8. Your dentist will hold a device that makes a special blue light beam over your teeth to harden and set the cement and veneers.

Will I feel pain?

Your comfort and relaxation are important to you and your care team. You may feel brief sharp pinches if your dentist injects your gums with local anesthetic. Ask your dentist if your gums can be partially numbed with a painless topical anesthetic before the injections.

Take a few long, deep breaths to help yourself relax. Tell your dentist if any discomfort does not pass quickly. 

What are the risks and potential complications of dental veneers?  

Complications of dental veneers are uncommon, but any dental procedure involves risks and potential complications that may become serious in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or your recovery. 

Risks and potential complications of dental veneers include:

  • Allergic reaction to local anesthetic if used
  • Breakage, cracking or loss of veneers
  • Possible increase in tooth sensitivity because some of the enamel is taken off the tooth
  • Tooth infection
  • Tooth staining

The color of your veneers cannot be changed once the veneers are in place. For this reason, all whitening or other restorative work should be completed first and the veneer tooth color should be matched to that. Talk to your dentist about all the dental work you need in order to get the best color results.

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of certain complications by:

  • Avoiding or minimizing biting on hard objects to prevent veneer breakage or chipping
  • Informing your dentist if you are nursing or if there is any possibility of pregnancy
  • Notifying your dentist immediately of any concerns after the procedure such as pain, fever, and difficulty chewing 
  • Taking your medications exactly as directed
  • Telling all members of your care team if you have any allergies

How do I prepare for my dental veneer procedure? 

The steps you take before your procedure can improve your comfort and outcome. There is generally no special preparation needed before getting your dental veneers, but it is important to do the following before any procedure:

  • Answer all questions about your medical history and medications. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications and allergies at all times.
  • Take your medications exactly as directed.
  • Tell your dentist if there is any possibility of pregnancy.

Questions to ask your dentist

Having a dental veneer procedure can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a dentist’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. Contact your dentist with concerns and questions before your procedure and between appointments. 

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your appointment. Questions can include:

  • Am I a good candidate for veneers? 
  • What are the different types of veneers, and which is best for me?
  • How long will the procedure take? When will I go home?
  • What restrictions will I have after the procedure? When can I eat and drink after the dental veneer procedure?
  • How do I take my medications?
  • How will you treat my pain, if any?
  • How do I take care of my dental veneers?
  • When should I follow-up with you?
  • How should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.

What can I expect after my dental veneer procedure?

Knowing what to expect after a dental veneer procedure can help you get back to your everyday life as soon as possible.

How will I feel after the dental veneer procedure?

Your mouth, gums and tongue may feel numb for a few hours after your dental veneer procedure if you receive local anesthetic. This is because the local anesthetic will take time to wear off. You may have difficulty talking, chewing and drinking until the anesthetic wears off. You may also experience a tingly feeling in the area as feeling returns.

Your teeth may be extra sensitive to heat and cold for one to two weeks after your dentist places your veneers. Tell your dentist if symptoms worsen or continue past a couple weeks because they can be a sign of a complication.

When can I go home?

You will probably go home and resume your normal activities immediately after a dental veneer procedure. If you receive anesthetic, your dentist may instruct you not to eat or drink until your anesthetic has worn off and you can feel your mouth and tongue again. This will help prevent you from accidentally biting and injuring your mouth or tongue. 

When should I call my dentist?

It’s important to keep your follow-up appointments after a dental veneer procedure. Call your dentist if you have any concerns between appointments. Call your dentist right away if you have:

  • Bleeding 
  • Fever
  • Pain in your gums or teeth
  • Problems biting or chewing
  • Sharp edges on the bonded tooth

Seek immediate medical care if you have itching, hives, mouth or tongue swelling, or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, or wheezing. This may be due to a rare reaction to anesthetic if one was used.
How might dental veneers affect my everyday life?

Dental veneers enhance the appearance of your teeth and help you feel more satisfied and confident with your smile. 

Dental veneers require daily care just like normal teeth. You should continue to brush your teeth once a day and floss every day. Visit your dentist at least once or twice a year or as recommended for regular cleanings and checkups to ensure that your dental veneers are intact.

Dental veneers experience wear and tear over time and eventually need to be replaced. Composite veneers can last five years to seven years. Porcelain (ceramic) veneers can last 15 years or longer. 

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 11, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Are There Other Alternatives for Improving My Smile? Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center. http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Cosmetic-Dentistry/Bonding/Bonding-Basic...
  2. Cosmetic Dentistry. The American Society for Dental Aesthetics. http://www.asdatoday.com/cosmetic_dentistry.php
  3. Here comes the bride… American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/sections/scienceAndResearch/pdfs/patient_38.pdf.
  4. Veneers. Mouth Healthy by the American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/az-topics/v/veneers.aspx.
  5. What are veneers? Academy of General Dentistry. http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=V&iid=339&aid=1363.

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