Houston Lifestyles & Homes February 2009
Houston Lifestyles & Homes February 2009
Go Ahead: Flash Your Pearly Whites

Dental veneers offer enhancement at its best

By Cheryl Alexander
A bright smile has transformative power. The physical effects of smiling induce a release of hormones that enhance mood, literally “happy” hormones. A sincere, heartfelt smile can also enhance the mood of others around you. Smiling can also change an otherwise ordinary face into a beautiful expression of self. Yet many people are ashamed of their smiles, so they hesitate to use this natural, God-given tool to its full power. A solution exists, however, that is closer than you think: dental veneers.
Dental veneers are custom-designed shells of tooth-like ceramic material that are applied over the surface of a tooth. Veneers can cover worn tooth enamel, uneven tooth alignment or spacing and chips or cracks. This dental procedure falls into the category of cosmetic dentistry because the result is aesthetic —a bright, white smile and perfectly aligned, shapely teeth. What’s even better, the translucent ceramic quality of today’s veneers provides a more natural look than what’s been available in the past.
Dental veneers can be made from porcelain or resin composite materials. Porcelain resists stains better than resin and better mimics the light reflecting properties of natural teeth. Resin is thinner and requires removal of less of the tooth surface before placement. Your dentist can advise you on the best choice for your particular case.
Regardless of what causes unattractive teeth, dental veneers may solve most or even all of your cosmetic dental issues.  Veneers can typically fix the following:
•Discolored teeth—from root canal treatment; stains from tetracycline or other drugs; excessive fluoride; or the presence of large resin fillings that have discolored the tooth
•Worn down teeth—from grinding or clenching
•Chipped or broken teeth
•Misaligned, uneven or irregularly shaped teeth—may have craters or bulges in them
•Gapped teeth
The Dental Veneer Procedure
The dental veneer procedure is usually completed in two comprehensive visits to your dentist over a 6-week period. Be prepared to spend several hours each visit. To make you more comfortable and relaxed during your stay, dental offices may offer amenities that include sedation dentistry, audio/visual distractions and even massages. The examination stage determines if there are any oral health concerns that must be addressed prior to treatment. Your dentist will also help you select the best tooth color for you from a special shade chart, and imaging technology will give you a projection of your results. Once the examination process is completed and the customized plan designed, treatment begins.
The procedure itself has several steps. First, your dentist will probably administer a local anesthetic so you will be comfortable. The tooth is then prepared by minimally reshaping it in order to provide the best fit.  Next, your dentist will make an impression of your teeth that will give him a mold of your mouth. This impression will most likely be sent to an outside dental lab so the veneers can be professionally fabricated. If this is the case, your dentist may give you temporary veneers at your first visit. At your second visit, the dentist will remove your temporaries, place your final veneers and evaluate and adjust them to ensure optimal fit and color.
However, some offices offer an in-house dental lab and technicians, where your veneers may be fabricated in a shorter period of time. In other cases, dentists have CAD/CAM technology in the office and may fabricate the veneer in one visit. This type of technology is often marketed by dentists as “chair-side” CAD/CAM. Chair-side CAD/CAM has the added benefit of allowing for the manufacture and placement of your veneers in the same day. Additionally, you are not required to wear temporaries, and you can complete the procedure in a single visit.
After Placement
The dental veneer procedure requires no recovery period, though some patients report sensitivity for a few days afterward. Following placement, your dentist will discuss proper maintenance designed to maximize longevity. Make sure to follow these guidelines as dental veneers do not offer a permanent cosmetic solution and must be replaced eventually. The life of your veneers depends on the expertise with which they are placed and how well you care for them.
What Are the Advantages of Dental
•Natural appearance.
•Well-tolerated by gum tissue
•Stain resistant
•Enhanced color
•Less invasive than crowns; stronger and more aesthetic than bonding
What Are the Disadvantages of Dental Veneers?
•More costly than composite resin bonding.
•Irreparable should they chip or crack
•Increased tooth sensitivity
•May not match exactly and cannot be whitened
•Can dislodge and fall off, though not likely
•Can still decay
•Require healthy teeth and hard enamel surface
•Not for those who clench or grind
Dental veneers can serve as a beautiful , though expensive, solution for worn tooth enamel, uneven tooth alignment, abnormal spacing, chips and cracks. Even though veneers can be pricey, people are, more often than not, happy with their results and feel the benefits far outweigh the cost. Cost can depend on many factors, including:
•Dental fees
•Skill of the ceramist making the veneers and the dentist who applies them
•Your insurance
•Material used
•Number of teeth involved
Porcelain veneers are more expensive than their composite resin counterparts. Traditional porcelain veneers may cost from $900 to $2,500 per tooth and can last 10 to 15 years. Composite veneers cost approximately $250 to $1,500 per tooth and are expected to last five to seven years.
Many dentists offer payment plans for cosmetic procedures. Be sure to ask  about financing options.
Are There Alternatives?
Bonding often serves as an inexpensive and effective restoration for small chips and cracks in the teeth. Such minor problems may be repaired, both functionally and cosmetically, with a composite “white filling.” A composite resin material is bonded to the tooth to fill in the chip or crack and better protect the surrounding tooth structure. But for more severe cases of dullness, wear, discoloration, mild chipping, cracking, spacing, or uneven teeth, dental veneers may be recommended as a more appropriate solution.
Teeth whitening may provide a white smile for mildly discolored teeth. Some people who are interested in veneers will find that their cosmetic dentist will steer them to the simpler alternative of whitening, perhaps combined with some simple orthodontic alignment. Since the placement of dental veneers requires the “shaping” or “prepping” of all teeth being fitted with the custom-designed shells, the teeth are permanently altered. This process is therefore not recommended if your natural teeth are functionally and aesthetically adequate.
If you have a severe case of dull or discolored teeth, you may want to opt for dental veneers. Veneers do have the added benefits of longevity and a proven ability to enhance the appearance of the mouth, smile and possibly other areas of an aged face that would be better supported by properly shaped teeth. Although veneers require a much larger commitment than teeth whitening, the results are typically well worth it.
Dental veneers can serve as a beautiful ... solution
for worn tooth enamel, uneven tooth alignment, abnormal spacing,
chips and cracks.
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