One of the major downsides of veneers (as we keep saying) is the need to file down the front surface of your natural tooth, making them an irreversible procedure. Because of this minimal prep or no preparation, veneers have emerged on the market to try and solve this problem.
The most common ones you may have heard mentioned are:
It is true, not all veneers are created equal. The translucence (the way light shines through the porcelain into the tooth) is very important and the ceramist’s ability to produce an natural appearance is key.
These new minimal or no prep veneers have become more popular in recent times due to cosmetic TV shows like ‘Extreme Makeover’ and the millions of dollars these companies spend on marketing. You will often see on the advertising a finger holding a contact lens and one holding a veneer- demonstrating how thin these veneers really are.
They are an alternative to the standard porcelain veneers or composite bonding but cases must be carefully selected and many situations will not lend themselves well to this type of veneer. Your dentist will advise you if you are suitable.
They are very thin and therefore take the colour of the underlying tooth somewhat, unless an opaque (masking cement) is used and then the way the light reflects will be slightly different.
Their main advantage (and hence why they were designed) is that the dentist doesn’t need to grind away any tooth or just a small amount compared to standard porcelain veneers. Because of this, the nerve in the tooth is less traumatized, you get less sensitivity and you may not need anaesthetic or even temporaries.
Sounds great… right? Well as I have said before, it is all about selecting suitable cases. If your teeth are quite crooked or discoloured then it would be very difficult to achieve a great result without transforming the preparation to a more traditional veneer.
Does this make them reversible? Well- it will make them more
reversible than traditional veneers by preserving the maximum amount of enamel but if one veneer fails, and you decide you want to take the rest off- that's not very realistic.
Veneers are put on to last (like any restoration that isn’t a temporary one) and so we use the strongest cements to attach them. If a veneer chips or fractures and part still remains on the tooth, it will most often have to be drilled away to remove it. Drilling off a veneer is not an exact science and invariably you will end up removing a little more tooth with the cement in the process. So you will end up, not back at square one, but in a slightly worse position than when you started. It's for this reason, that I would be very hesitant to use the word ‘reversible’ and consider it more marketing than reality.
The only truly reversible procedure is the ‘snap-on smile’ type veneers. Even bonding composite onto your teeth with no preparation is only fully reversible when all the bond fails and it falls off- otherwise you are back to having to cut it off again and risk taking away a little of the tooth underneath in the process.
Minimal prep veneer cases must be selected carefully and this type of treatment is not suitable for very crooked or heavily discoloured teeth.
Possible situations in which they may be used:
- Slightly stained or discoloured teeth
- Slightly crowded or misaligned teeth
- Peg shaped teeth (small malformed teeth – most commonly your lateral incisor) - these cases can work very well
- Diastomers (gaps between your teeth)
- Giving an attractive smile a bit of a wow factor (Hollywood style makeover)
- Minimally chipped of fractured teeth (but bonding with composite may be a more appropriate and cheaper option).
Your dentist will be able to advise/recommend the most suitable treatment for you- taking into account your particular teeth, oral health, desired outcome and financial situation.