Porcelain veneers are thin shells bonded over the front surfaces of teeth and are ideal when relatively small changes of tooth shape and colour are required. They are made from either a composite material (the same material that white fillings are made from) or a ceramic. Ceramic veneers tend to last much longer, keeping their original shape and lustre. The advantage of porcelain veneers over crowns is that a relatively small amount of tooth structure needs to be removed. This in turn means a better long-term prognosis for the tooth and the veneer itself.
How Porcelain Veneers are made
The tooth must be trimmed to a shape that allows the fitting of a veneer, but this involves mainly only the front surface. Because the amount of tooth tissue that needs to be removed is relatively small this procedure can often be done without a local anaesthetic.
Following tooth preparation, a silicone impression or mould is taken of the prepared tooth. The impression taken of the prepared tooth is sent to the dental laboratory where dental technicians will use it to manufacture the definitive veneers. Until the next appointment a temporary (provisional) veneer is made and placed to protect the prepared tooth.
At the next appointment, the temporary veneers are removed, and the definitive veneers tried on. Usually some small adjustments are required at this stage and most of the time can be done during this appointment. Once both patient and dentist are satisfied with the appearance and fit of the veneers, they are bonded onto the teeth using strong cement.
How Long do Porcelain Veneers Last?
Being a thin porcelain shell, a veneer could chip or fracture. As well, with the passage of time, your own teeth adjacent to the veneer could change their shape and colour so the veneers no longer matched the natural teeth. In such cases the veneer would have to be removed and replaced with either a new veneer or a crown. The average lifespan of a ceramic veneer is about 8-10 years.
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