Dentists Explain Exactly What Happens to Your Teeth When You Get Veneers

Getty Images | skynesher
Getty Images | skynesher

Here's what I do know about veneers — they're placed on top of your natural teeth and they tend to be very expensive. As far as how they're put on your smile, I'm lost, so I reached out to two dentists for the lowdown on exactly what getting veneers entails.

The Consultation

According to Dr. Sutera, DMD, FAGD, a board-certified dental anesthesiologist and aesthetic smile specialist, the consultation and planning period of getting veneers is the "most critical time."

It's a time where your dentist learns what you want for your smile and why you're considering the treatment. During the consultation, your dentist will share their professional suggestions — like if they recommend you even get the procedure done.

"During the consultation, the dentist determines if the patient is a good candidate for dental veneers and aligns the patient's expectations to an achievable result," Dr. Sutera says.

For example, Dr. Sutera explains that good candidates are adults with good oral health, have no issues of TMJ disorder, and aren't making the decision in haste. Your dentist can also help you determine if underlying issues can be addressed in order to make you a great candidate.

"From there, the dentist will create models or digital imaging to present a proposed result," Dr. Sutera says. "The proposal will be based on ideals of smile aesthetics and any special requests of the patient. When the proposal is reviewed with the patient, it allows for further discussion."

How many teeth get veneers placed on them really depends on the person, Dr. Marc Lowenberg, DDS, a cosmetic dentist at Lowenberg, Lituchy, and Kantor in New York City, says. While Dr. Lowenberg explains that many get their top 10 and eight bottom teeth, sometimes it's possible to do just two, four, or even six teeth to correct the issue. However, when you do less than 10 teeth, Dr. Lowenberg says you cannot change the color of your teeth "because there will be a differentiation between the veneer and the tooth color."

Getting veneers is also a pricey process — while cost might vary depending on your provider and your specific case, Dr. Lowenberg says it typically ranges between $2,000-$4,000 per tooth.

The Procedure

So, after you've established a plan with your dentist, you head into your first appointment — yep, there's more than one session to complete your veneered smile.

"In the first visit, the teeth are reshaped and reduced," Dr. Sutera says. "The goal is to create space for the veneers to be placed over the teeth. This prevents the teeth from looking bulky. The secondary purpose is to adjust or reinforce any weak areas of the teeth by building up the substructure, if needed." This appointment takes about two to four hours.

Dr. Sutera explains that after the teeth are reshaped, impressions are taken, and temporary veneers are put on the teeth.

"The temporary veneers are more than they seem. They serve as a dress rehearsal for the permanent veneers. The temporaries are a similar shape and size to the proposed permanent veneers. If the patient is having cosmetic or functional concerns with the temporaries, it allows for working out those changes before finalizing the permanent veneers," Dr. Sutera says.

Your permanent veneers are then made in a custom dental lab — they're put on the teeth approximately two weeks later at what's called the delivery appointment, which takes about two hours.

"If the fit is acceptable and the cosmetics are approved, the veneers are cemented and become seamless with the teeth underneath," Dr. Sutera says.

These coverings are made of porcelain, and Dr. Lowenberg says that there are different types of porcelain can be used — some denser than others. "We use a translucent porcelain called feldspathic porcelain. This type of porcelain mimics the qualities of natural teeth and prevents them from looking 'fake.'"

The After Care

At Dr. Lowenberg's practice, once the permanent veneers are placed on the teeth, the patient comes back a week later to adjust the bite or occlusion of the new teeth.

According to Dr. Lowenberg, one misconception of veneers is that a great amount of the tooth structure is removed in this first step, but, in reality, it's typically less than 15 percent of the tooth structure that is removed. That being said, the change is permanent, meaning you can never go back to your original teeth. While they are a permanent procedure, Dr. Lowenberg says the veneer itself lasts for 10-20 years.

In terms of side effects, Dr. Sutera says the most common is sensitivity to cold, but it usually subsides in a few weeks. Hygiene is similar to that of natural teeth, too.

"The veneers are susceptible to decay and periodontal disease like that of natural teeth. It is recommended to brush at least twice per day with fluoride toothpaste, floss at least once per day, and see a dentist every six months for professional maintenance." That means don't skip your cleanings!

While this should get you up to speed on the process of veneers, it's important to speak openly with your own dentist about how they approach the procedure so you know exactly what to expect.

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