If you’ve done any research about ways to improve the appearance of your smile, then odds are you’ve heard of veneers. But maybe you’ve wondered, Are they right for me?
That’s a tough question to answer…especially on the internet. Ultimately, your dentist will be able to help you determine if veneers are right for you.
But research can help you narrow down your search (and have an efficient conversation with your dentist), and that’s where this guide comes in. We’ll cover all the essentials to what veneers are, and more importantly, the pros and cons to them. By the end, you’ll probably have a better picture of whether they’re right for you or not.
What are Veneers?
Veneers are a type of treatment offered by cosmetic dentists to improve the aesthetics of your smile. Technically, they’re wafer-thin, tooth-colored shells that are attached to the front of your real teeth. With a good set of veneers, you can transform your smile from dull, chipped, and crooked to bright, whole, and perfectly aligned in a few short sessions—and only your dentist.
Veneers aren’t quite the same as crowns and implants, though. Crowns are used to cover entire teeth, and implants effectively replace whole teeth; veneers, however, cover up the fronts of the teeth. They’re a great option for correcting minor stains and ships, or for making misshapen teeth look ordinary.
Veneers also come in lots of different varieties, too. Porcelain veneers are the most commonly used because they are the most durable and best resemble natural teeth.
They do tend to be more expensive, though. That’s partly due to the materials and the fact that it takes multiple sessions to apply them. Your teeth are prepared for veneers (shaved down a touch to make room), and then your dentist takes impressions of your prepped teeth. A dental lab uses those impressions to create your veneers. Then your dentist applies them.
Another common go-to is a composite resin veneer, which is made of the same material that dentists use to fill cavities since it’s tooth-colored. These veneers are a little more affordable than porcelain ones, but they’re more likely to stain and a little less durable. But on the plus side, most dentists can shape the resin veneers in-house and finish them in one day.
Lumineers are one of the cheapest types of veneers; they’re a specific brand of thinner veneers that don’t require your teeth to be shaved at all. As a result, they’re less durable, but they only take one session to apply. Meanwhile, temporary veneers are the most affordable but least durable. Many people find they don’t look as natural, either.
Advantages of Veneers
1.) Major cosmetic improvement
One of the top reasons people want veneers is because they’re self-conscious about the appearance of their smile. Maybe they have a stained tooth that won’t respond to whitening treatments, or a few teeth are slightly off-kilter, or a front tooth chipped in a sports accident several years back. All of those problems are easily solved with veneers.
A good veneer blends in with the rest of your teeth in size, shape, and color. The result: a natural-looking smile. For example, let’s say that you have a substantial chip in both of your front teeth, and they’re spaced apart. Using two veneers, your dentist could not only cover up that chip but also make it look like there’s no more gap.
In theory, you can get veneers for almost all of your teeth, but many people opt to get veneers for twelve to sixteen of their teeth. In most smiles, the top and bottom six to eight teeth are the ones that show when they talk or smile. The molars aren’t really as visible, so it’s not usually worth your while to purchase veneers for them. But no matter how many veneers you choose to get, you’ll see substantial improvements in your grin.
2.) Near-instant results
Maybe you’ve looked into some form of orthodontic treatment like clear aligners or braces, but your orthodontist told you it would take 6 months…or even longer. And if you don’t want to wait that long, we totally understand. If you need a quick fix, then veneers are one of your best bets: they can cover up stains and gaps very quickly.
With most types of veneers, you’ll actually require two appointments to apply them: one to prepare your teeth and pick the shape, size, and shade of veneers you’ll use (and take an impression of your teeth to use to fit the veneers), and another appointment to actually apply the veneers. If your veneers require two appointments to complete, your dentist will finish up your appointment by applying temporary veneers. Other types of veneers only require one appointment. But regardless of which type you have, you’ll get an instant improvement to your smile.
3.) Long-lasting results
If you’re going to make a substantial investment in your smile, you want it to last forever, right? Thankfully, veneers usually last a long time. Of course, exactly how long they last varies because of several factors: what type of veneers you get, how well you care for them, whether you grind your teeth or not, and more.
In general, porcelain veneers are the most durable variety, with composite resin ones following close behind and Lumineers needing replacement or repair the most often. For most people, porcelain veneers last for about 10 to 15 years, but with proper care, it’s not unheard of for good veneers to last 20 years.
When you get your veneers, we recommend chatting with your dentist to learn how you can best protect your new teeth. They’ll discuss proper hygiene techniques, wearing a mouthguard if you grind your teeth in your sleep, and so on. Follow those instructions, and you’ll make your new smile last as long as possible.
4.) Protect your enamel (somewhat)
Enamel is the strongest substance in the entire human body, but it’s not indestructible. Many people get veneers because they’ve damaged their enamel somehow—their tooth cracked or chipped, they had to get a substantial filling, or something similar. Once your enamel is gone, it’s gone for good. It never grows back. And it’s always susceptible to ongoing wear and tear.
Veneers aren’t as strong as your enamel, but they do get applied to what remains of your enamel, acting as a protective shell. They also add a little extra structure to any teeth that have been cracked or chipped. You shouldn’t rely on veneers alone to protect your teeth, but it does give you an extra layer of protection. And that’s a nice little perk.
Disadvantages of Veneers
If you’re leery of commitment, you should steer clear of veneers—once you get them, there’s no going back. Unless you opt for Lumineers, your dentist will have to shave down your enamel a tiny bit to make room for the veneer. That enamel never comes back, and you will always have to wear a veneer after that to ensure that your teeth stay healthy and don’t incur any further damage.
Most people find that their veneers last a long time and that the fake “teeth” themselves don’t feel like much of anything, so this isn’t a huge issue. But before you get fitted for veneers, you should decide if you want something so permanent or a more permanent solution.
For example, if you’re considering veneers to correct your tooth gap, you should carefully evaluate whether you want permanently thinned enamel that looks good thanks to veneers or teeth with whole enamel that look good thanks to clear aligners or braces. You might decide that the instant solution of veneers isn’t worth the trade-off of reducing your enamel.
There isn’t necessarily a “right” answer to this question; veneers may be irreversible, but they are still safe. So you should chat with your dentist about your goals for your smile, your long-term oral health, and so on.
2.) Increased sensitivity
On the subject of thinned enamel: veneers put you at greater risk of tooth sensitivity over the long haul.
Everyone will probably experience tooth sensitivity at least once in their lives for a variety of reasons (whitening is one of the most common causes of sensitivity).
Here’s why sensitivity even occurs: enamel acts as a protective barrier for your teeth, but it can be penetrated by external stimuli like hot, cold, and pressure. Deep within your teeth, you have nerve endings and blood vessels, so if those stimuli penetrate deep enough, you’ll feel pain.
The thicker your enamel is, the less likely you are to experience sensitivity. So if you thin that enamel to place veneers, you’ll be more prone to sensitivity. Yes, the veneers do give a small barrier, but it’s not nearly as effective as your enamel was.
Many people report that they grow accustomed to the thinness of their enamel and stop being bothered by the sensitivity, but not everyone does. Again, we recommend chatting with your dentist about your unique smile; after all, your dentist knows more about your current enamel thickness than we do!
3.) Require replacement
Veneers last a long time (10-15 years on average for most people), but they don’t last forever. Replacing them someday down the road will become a fact of life. And with that comes a fair amount of hassle: appointments for new fittings, the premium cost for your dentist’s time, and of course, the cost of the veneer itself (more on this in a minute). Some people might not want to deal with that process every decade.
There are other cosmetic dentistry treatments that last longer, namely crowns and implants. Of course, these solutions aren’t right for everyone; you might not need a tooth removed, or your tooth might not require a top-to-bottom cover. It’s impossible for us to say what you’ll need.
The only thing we can say definitively is that if you opt for veneers, you should plan to replace them every ten years or so. And if you’re not willing to do that, you might want to consider other options.
4.) Multi-step application
Unless you opt for Lumineers, you should expect to visit your dentist at least twice before your veneers are completed. The first appointment will include everything you need to prepare your teeth for veneers. You’ll pick (with your dentist’s help) the shape and color veneers you want, and your dentist will shave off some enamel to make room for your veneers.
Then they’ll take impressions of your teeth so your veneers can be manufactured for a perfect fit. Before you leave, your dentist will apply temporary veneers to wear until your veneers are ready.
A third party manufacturer will then create your veneers based on your impressions, and they’ll ship them back to your dentist. Then you’ll re-visit your dentist for a second appointment, and you’ll get your permanent veneers.
It’s impossible to avoid this multi-step process with the vast majority of veneers. It’s not a huge problem for most people, but if you’ve got a packed calendar, it’s a definite drawback.
5.) Extremely expensive
Honestly, we’ve saved the biggest drawback for last. Other disadvantages like discomfort and appointments can all be worked around, but cost—there’s no dodging that. And veneers are very expensive.
There’s a lot of reasons for that. Applying veneers requires specialized equipment and training. The materials add up in price, too. Plus, veneers are charged on a tooth-by-tooth basis. And to make matters worse, dental insurance usually does not cover veneers because they are categorized as a cosmetic procedure.
No two veneers cost the exact same amount, but there are average expenses. Most porcelain veneers, which usually cost the most, have an average cost of about $1,000, but they can cost as much as $2,500. Composite resin veneers are a bit cheaper (but they don’t last as long), topping out at $1,500. And remember, that’s a per tooth expense. So if you’re paying for 6-8 veneers, you can easily expect to pay $12,000 to $15,000.
But in areas where the cost of living is higher—or if you opt for a complete set of veneers—it can cost upwards of $40,000 for a complete set…and that’s just for the first set. If you only have one or two teeth that need correcting, the $1,000-$3,000 range is a lot easier to manage. But the massive full-mouth option might be unattainable.
How Do I Know if Veneers Are Right for Me?
Honestly, we recommend asking your dentist this question. Your primary oral care provider knows the most about your teeth—your current enamel health, your history of gum disease and tooth decay, if your teeth should be fixed with veneers or orthodontics, and so much more. He or she will have a good idea of what treatments work best for you.
In general, veneers are most cost-effective and efficient when you only need a few teeth covered up, but they don’t require complete replacement. But your dentist will give you the best insight into your smile, so you should talk to them.
Veneers are a popular cosmetic dentistry treatment, but they’re not for everyone; there are advantages and disadvantages to veneers. While an article like this can’t give you a definitive answer as to whether veneers are right for you, we hope this guide has helped give you a better idea. We wish you the best as you pursue your dream smile!