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Porcelain vs Composite Veneers: Which Are Better for You?

Ever find yourself hiding your smile because of discolored, chipped, or crooked teeth? Veneers can hide an array of dental imperfections and might provide the confidence boost you need to put your smile in full view. But what type of veneer is a good fit for you: porcelain or composite? Though your dentist can advise on the best cosmetic treatment for your situation, educate yourself on veneers before booking your appointment.

What Are Veneers?

Veneers are custom-fit, wafer-thin shells that your dentist permanently bonds to the fronts of your teeth to improve the appearance of your smile. These veneers can hide stained, chipped, crooked, or gapped teeth. Placing a veneer requires retaining more of your natural tooth than a dental crown, commonly used to strengthen heavily decayed or broken-down teeth. However, dental insurance usually does not cover veneers because they are considered a cosmetic procedure. Still, they might be worth the expense for a movie-star smile.

What Are Porcelain Veneers?

Porcelain veneers are thin pieces of porcelain shaped to fit over the front side of your tooth. The material matches the shape and color of your permanent teeth for a look so natural that it's difficult to tell them apart from your other teeth. Choosing porcelain veneers comes with several advantages, including:

  • Strength. If you want your veneers to last, porcelain provides unparalleled strength. When well-maintained, these veneers can last for 10-20 years.
  • Appearance. With its translucent quality, porcelain most closely matches the look of a natural tooth. It's also resistant to both stains and chips.
  • Versatility. Porcelain veneers provide a viable treatment option for almost all cosmetic concerns — even the most severe discoloration or spacing issues when composite resin might not work.

If you are considering porcelain veneers, also keep in mind the following:

  • The procedure requires the dentist to remove some of your tooth's enamel, making it irreversible — so be sure before you commit!
  • An outside lab typically fabricates porcelain veneers, so it will take multiple appointments and a longer treatment time to complete.
  • Repairs to porcelain veneers can be more difficult, more time-consuming, and more expensive.
  • According to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, cost estimates range from $925 to $2,500 per tooth, which can quickly add up out-of-pocket costs.

Porcelain Veneer Application Procedure

If you choose porcelain veneers, you'll need to visit your dentist two or three times to complete the procedure.

  • Step 1: Schedule an initial consultation with your cosmetic dentist to determine your desired improvements. The dentist may create a cosmetic imaging mock-up, allowing you to preview your new and improved smile.
  • Step 2: Once you've agreed on a plan, your dentist will remove a small amount of enamel from the fronts and sides of the teeth that will receive veneers.
  • Step 3: Impressions of your teeth will be taken and their correct shade determined.
  • Step 4: Your teeth impressions and shade color go off to a lab that will make your veneers within one to two weeks. You might receive temporary veneers on your teeth until the permanent ones arrive.
  • Step 5: When the lab sends back the veneers, you and your dentist will confirm the shape, fit, and color are perfect. Then, your dentist will bond the finished veneers to your teeth with a light-sensitive resin.

What Are Composite Veneers?

Composite veneers use a tooth-colored resin to improve the appearance of teeth. Unlike porcelain veneers, the dentist applies the resin directly to the tooth and then sculpts and shapes it to achieve the desired aesthetic. You might choose composite veneers for several reasons, including:

  • Price. Composite resin is a less expensive material, making these veneers more affordable. The Consumer Guide to Dentistry estimates the cost between $250 and $1,500 per tooth.
  • Same-day treatment. Because composite veneers do not need to be sent to an outside lab, you can usually walk out with a new smile in one appointment.
  • Reversibility. Composite veneers require minimal prep work on your natural tooth so that composite material can be more easily removed, replaced, and repaired.

However, you should also know the disadvantages of composite veneers:

  • Compared to its porcelain counterpart, composite resin veneers wear down quicker, resulting in a shorter lifespan of five to seven years.
  • The composite tends to be more porous and susceptible to staining. It also needs polishing to look more like your natural teeth.
  • If you have severe issues — like significant gaps or extreme discoloration — composite veneers might not be a viable solution.

Single-Visit Composite Veneer Application Procedure

  • Step 1: Your dentist, with your consultation, will choose a shade and then sculpt the material directly on your teeth to build the veneer that fits your smile.
  • Step 2: A high-intensity light hardens the composite.
  • Step 3: The dentist smooths and polishes the composite resin until it attains a natural appearance.

How to Take Care of Your Veneers

Whether you choose composite veneers or porcelain veneers, make sure you take care of them so they can last as long as possible. You'll want to treat them like natural teeth — and maybe even better. Follow these tips:

  • Keep a healthy oral hygiene routine. Continue brushing your teeth twice a day and cleaning between teeth daily with floss or another interdental device. Both tooth decay and gum disease can put your veneers and overall oral health at risk. Ask your dental professional to show you the best way to brush and floss with your new veneers.
  • Use the right toothpaste and toothbrush. When brushing your veneers, use a soft toothbrush and nonabrasive toothpaste. This means avoiding ingredients like hydrogen peroxide, sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda that can eat away at your veneers' surface. Your dental professional can recommend the best products to use.
  • Don't bite into hard things. You'll want to be careful around harder foods like raw fruits and vegetables, chips, or meat with bones. You'll also need to eliminate bad habits like chewing on ice or using your teeth to open things.
  • Protect your new smile. If you tend to clench or grind your teeth, your dentist might recommend a nightguard to protect your veneers from damage while you sleep. Similarly, if you play any contact sports, you will want to wear a mouthguard to cushion those pearly whites from any accidental blows to the face.

Veneers are a big commitment that can make a significant impact on your smile, so make sure you are fully informed about your options before deciding what material is best for you. By working closely with your dentist, you can determine if you're a good candidate for veneers and get ready to show off your new smile to the world.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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