What are porcelain veneers?
Porcelain veneers, also termed dental veneers or dental porcelain laminates, are one of cosmetic dentistry’s more recent developments. Veneers are wafer-thin shells of porcelain that can be bonded onto the front side of teeth to make a cosmetic improvement in the teeth’s appearance. Porcelain veneers are routinely used to idealize teeth that are:
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For decades dentists have had available to them materials that can create a durable bond to tooth enamel. These bonding materials are used to securely attach a thin sheet of porcelain (the porcelain veneer) to a tooth. Although porcelain is inherently brittle, when it is firmly bonded to a sturdy substructure (a tooth) it becomes very strong and durable.
Porcelain veneers are gaining immense popularity due to the ease with which they can be applied, and also the long-lasting benefits they have in enhancing your appearance.
One property of the teeth’s enamel is that it is translucent. This means that when light strikes a tooth’s surface it is not immediately reflected off, but instead penetrates into the thickness of the enamel. This property is an important part of what gives teeth their characteristic appearance. Historically, the cosmetic dental bonding materials dentists have had available to them were only semi-translucent, which didn’t give a realistic appearance, since the light striking the tooth did not penetrate into the bonding layer but instead was reflected off the bonding’s outer surface. Although, the bonding improved the teeth, the sense of depth projection did not give the teeth its characteristic translucency.
Porcelain veneers are glass-like, which have a great advantage over other types of cosmetic dental bonding by the fact that they are translucent. When they are bonded onto a tooth’s surface they mimic the light-handling characteristics of enamel. This translucency effect provides a sense of depth, and thus a very life-like appearance.
In the past, cosmetic dental bonding materials were susceptible to staining and discoloring. This was especially a problem for those people whose teeth had excessive exposure to tea, coffee, red wine, or cigarette smoking. A significant advantage of porcelain veneers is related to the fact that a porcelain veneer’s surface is just that, porcelain. Since porcelain is a ceramic, and therefore glass-like, its surface is extremely smooth and impervious. This means that the surface of a porcelain veneer will not pick up permanent stains.
Seeing a Dentist
If you choose to follow through, the next step is to make a consultation appointment with your dentist. Only an examination by your dentist can determine if porcelain veneers are an appropriate method to make the changes you desire.
During the examination you will need to convey to your dentist the types of changes you are interested in obtaining. Your dentist in turn will help you understand to what extent the changes you desire are possible. As a part of this examination your dentist may need to take x-rays as well as photographs; dental impressions (dental molds) may also be needed to make a plaster cast of your mouth. Even if you find that porcelain veneers are not appropriate for your circumstances, your dentist will be able to suggest other treatment options that are suitable.
There are no hard and fast rules about how long porcelain veneers will last. While you can certainly expect your veneers to last many years, it is unrealistic to expect them to last forever. With good home care and by exercising good judgment, it seems likely that a porcelain veneer could last well in excess of ten years. Tips for maximizing the lifespan of your porcelain veneers include:
- Practice good oral home care
- Avoid exposing your porcelain veneers to excessive forces
- Minimize staining influences