A dental veneer is a layer of tooth-coloured material which is attached to and covers the surface of a tooth. They are usually made of porcelain or composite resin. Composite resin veneers can be built up directly on to the tooth, while porcelain veneers are made in the laboratory and are later glued (bonded) on to the tooth.
To fit a veneer, the tooth will need a very small amount of enamel removed from its surface. This is usually completely pain free. A mould (impression) will be made of the tooth and the dentist will also record the colour that the new veneer will need to be in order to match the neighbouring teeth. This information will be sent to a dental laboratory who will make the veneer.
Until the veneer has been made the tooth may be more sensitive to hot and cold. A temporary veneer is not usually necessary.
At a later appointment the veneer will be bonded to the teeth.
Veneers are used in a variety of situations:
- When there is tooth discoloration that cannot be cleaned away
- When there is an abnormal structure or texture, including chipping, fractures, or wear (erosion) of the tooth
- To aid closure of spaces between the front teeth
- To create the illusion of straight teeth with the desired colour and shape when the front teeth are slightly crowded
- To camouflage front teeth that have multiple, shallow and unsightly fillings
There are no strong reasons against veneering a tooth. However, certain factors increase their risk of failure, such as grinding of teeth, excessively worn teeth, very large fillings, unfavourable bite (occlusion), vomiting associated with bulimia and chronic alcoholism and acid regurgitation as in hiatus hernia. They may also be unsuitable if the teeth are very discoloured.
Veneers are best avoided in situations where the basic rules of dental hygiene are not observed.
Compared with a crown (cap), less of the tooth needs to be drilled away. Veneers are relatively quick and simple, although they require as much planning and attention to detail as any other treatment.