Coming soon.It still surprises me that after almost 30 years of existence, dental “veneers” are not a commonly known procedure by your average person. Many people have heard of teeth bleaching to get their smile whiter. And even more know that crowns are like a cap that sits snugly on a tooth. However, veneers are not as well known, even though they are seen daily gracing the cover of fashion magazines and movie screens, as well as on the smiles of everyday people. Today I wanted to focus on veneers, as they play such a vital role in cosmetic dentistry. Smile makeover, yes. But they have as much function as they have form.
First Stop Manicurist, Second Stop, Cosmetic Dentist
For those familiar with fingernail manicures, veneers most closely resembles an acrylic nail, where the nail is first lightly “roughened” to better accept the material placed on it. Then for nails, the acrylic is placed and shaped. For teeth, a thin layer of either laboratory-created porcelain or hand-shaped composite material is placed on the tooth, then adhered or cured with an ultra-violet light.
But that’s about where the similarities end. Of course there is a tremendous difference in the strength of the tooth compared with the nail. People who have had acrylic nails tell me although the acrylic adds thickness to the overall nail, they need to treat their nails gingerly. For example, they are told by the manicurist to press elevator buttons with their knuckles, dial phones with the eraser side of a pencil, and not to drum their fingernails on the counter! If they are careful with their nails, they can minimize “lifting” of the nail. On the other hand, patients with dental veneers are still able to bite into apples, corn-on-the-cob, or anything they were able to eat before. One study verified that the porcelain adhered to your natural teeth actually strengthened the natural tooth. Unlike acrylic nails which may tend to “lift” and needs maintenance every two to three weeks, the tooth veneer is completely sealed up against the natural tooth and lasts for years and years. So go ahead. Take that BIG bite!
Problem Solver AND Beautiful Smile
Whereas bleaching may have limitations, veneers have the ability to solve a wider spectrum of problems. Teeth bleaching can be effective for people with relatively straight teeth, with no fillings or crowns in the front, with staining or yellowing generally due to dark beverages, and with no contra-indicating factors such as gum disease. Bleaching is limited to lightening teeth, and can do nothing to change the shape, size, or position of teeth. Veneers, on the other hand, are the next level of advanced treatment by permanently whitening teeth that can’t be successfully bleached. Although each person’s smile must be evaluated individually, overall veneers can correct unsightly gaps or “straighten” crooked teeth, lengthen too short or square teeth, or modify too large or disproportioned teeth. Veneers let you to have a smile that’s brighter and proportionate to your face shape and lips.
Veneers do more than just make your teeth look pretty. They may allow better biting “function”, which means your teeth bite together or “occlude” in a more effective way. Poor function means not only an inability to bite or chew, but also may lead to discomfort and pain with the jaw joint muscle or temporo-mandibular joint disorder. In addition, when veneers fill the gaps between teeth or straighten overlapping teeth, this makes it easier to floss. Moreover, for those situations where it’s possible, veneers help to accomplish the goal of straightened teeth in only a few appointments compared to wearing braces for three years or more. This is a well-received benefit for many patients who feel they need to have a more professional, confident smile right now.
Finally, veneers allow you to keep most of your natural tooth. Often you may here the word “conservative” to describe a veneer. This does not refer to its political slant, but rather to the advantage that a considerably less amount of natural tooth needs to be removed for a veneer. Years ago, dentists would place crowns only instead of veneers to achieve the same result. However, the crown requires the natural tooth needs to be whittled down to a little “nub” or “stump”. It is always ideal to preserve as much of the natural tooth a possible. The custom fit veneer is able to cover just the front and biting surface of the tooth, leaving the back surfaces untouched. The crown preparation requires all five surfaces of the tooth to be carved down. Although the applications of veneers are quite remarkable, there are instances where a dentist must choose a crown or other procedure over a veneer. For example, if the tooth has extensive decay or breakdown and needs additional reinforcement or build-up, then a veneer may not be able to be placed.
You Need to Keep Your Teeth Healthy if You Want Veneers
A quick reminder for those people who do have veneer restorations, other restorations, as well as everyone else: it’s important remember that the status of your natural teeth, restorations and oral health is directly related to the daily home care you provide and timely professional care you receive.
As dental technology advances, cosmetic dentists are able to continue to introduce new materials and procedures to patients that encourage minimal natural tooth removal and extend the longevity of the restoration. Veneers are an ideal example of the blending of health, function and beauty from a conservative restoration.
Dr. Wynn Okuda is an award winning international leader in cosmetic dentistry. He is one of only 280 dentists in the world to be accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Okuda turned the dental profession on it’s head nearly a decade ago , replacing pain, fear, & discomfort with the Dental Day Spa system. His offices for cosmetic, restorative and implant dentistry are located in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Dr. Okuda has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, American Spa, Shape Magazine, Better Homes & Garden, Health & Fitness Sports Magazine, New Woman, and dozens more!
Dr. Okuda is the founder of “Give Back a Smile”, a charitable foundation of the A.A.C.D. which helps survivors of domestic violence throughout the nation to restore their smiles and lives. He has assembled nearly 1,000 cosmetic dentists nationwide to help fight against domestic violence.