What are the Types of Veneers?

The two most common materials used for dental veneers are:

Composite veneers are made directly (inside the mouth) at the time of your appointment with the dentist. Consequently, only the one visit is generally necessary. It can be quite a long appointment though depending on how many you are getting done.

Composite resin veneers or teeth bondings are a cheaper, quicker, less destructive way to restore and correct more minor cosmetic problems.

  • Porcelain

Porcelain veneers are made indirectly; prepared at your appointment but created outside your mouth by a dental technician. This type of veneer takes two to three visits.They have a superior appearance and are most appropriate for more severe cases of discolouration, chipping, fractures, crooked, spaced and uneven teeth.

Porcelain veneers resist stains from coffee, tea or smoking much better than composite veneers. They last longer and stay looking good for longer. Porcelain has the best light reflecting properties of any dental material currently available, giving your teeth a very natural and attractive appearance.

On the downside, they are considerably more expensive, more difficult to repair if something goes wrong and generally more destructive to your teeth underneath.

Are there any Less Permanent Options?

In the US, non-permanent dental veneers are available and I have heard them mentioned here in Australia but I don’t personally know any practices offering them but I am sure that there are one or two.

These removable veneers are made from a flexible resin material which is moulded to your teeth and can be taken in and out whenever you feel like an instant smile makeover.

I am not sure of the details of how they look and feel but I will investigate, and keep you posted!

Are there Different Types of Porcelain Veneers? What are Minimal prep/ No-prep Veneers?

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.

A word on the Marketing of Porcelain Veneers

You will see ‘minimal prep‘ and ‘no-prep’ veneers advertised all over the place. Why? Because they are trying to address veneers biggest downside- the drilling away bit of your natural tooth.

These types of veneers are advertised with the following benefits:

  • Minimal tooth reduction
  • Stain resistance
  • Natural-looking results
  • Durability long-lasting results
  • Convenient, two-visit placement
  • Reversibility
  • Reduced risk of tooth sensitivity and trauma
  • Virtually painless placement process

This makes me smile because all veneers have the potential for every one of those benefits, depending on the case of course. The only real advantage comes down to the first one… ‘more minimal tooth reduction’, which in turn will mean a virtually painless placement process (because you are still in enamel which has no nerve endings) and thus a reduced risk of sensitivity.

If you have read my ‘What influences the success of veneers?’, you will know that all veneers are best finished in enamel, as this provides the most predictable bond. So don’t let the fact that Vinci Veneers TM have been featured on hit reality shows such as Extreme Makeover and The Swan fool you into believing you are getting something completely different and utterly revolutionary.

It is just a type of veneer and ‘yes’ a very good one at that! Combine this with a highly skilled dentist, a suitable set of ‘gnashers’ and mix, then you have a recipe for a beautiful long lasting smile.

I laughed at this marketing statement; All veneers can last as long as 10 to 15 years, sometimes longer, and Da Vinci Veneers TM are no exception” … Yes, that is because they are veneers!!