How do veneers work? Types, process, pros, and cons

Peter Dégallier

Written by Peter Dégallier RDH, Matthew Stewart DDS, Nichole McKenna DDS, Eric Moryoussef DDS, Namrita Harchandani DMD

Veneers are small pieces of lining placed on top of natural, shaved-down teeth. This process is almost always irreversible. Once you decide veneers are the way to go, there is no going back.

The tooth underneath does remain alive and healthy. But a significant part of it does have to be filed down. And for the two most common types of veneers, composite and porcelain, this is a lot.

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Types of veneers

Generally, permanent veneers can be composite (made of resin) or porcelain. You can also consider Lumineers or clip-in veneers.

Some materials are more durable than others. For many patients, it is the appearance that is most important. There are different options, depending on what you are looking for.

Resin veneers

Composite veneers

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Composite veneers can be built directly on your tooth or (indirectly) in a lab. The latter takes longer to install in your mouth.

Jason Chong

Jason Chong, DDS

Indirect veneers can be both temporary and definitive. In most cases, chairside veneers are just composite "fillings" that are mostly cosmetic in nature, lower in cost, and used as a cheaper alternative to porcelain.

In comparison with porcelain veneers, resin looks less natural and is less durable. This material stains similarly to your natural teeth and can’t be whitened. If they become discolored you either have to deal with it or pay for new ones.

The good news is that you can fix resin veneers easily and affordably if they were to crack or chip. They can last from 5 to 7 years, though with proper care this could be even longer.

What’s more, composite veneers can be made very thin. This means removing less of your natural enamel and putting less strain on the teeth.

Porcelain veneers

Porcelain veneers

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Lumineers veneers

Lumineers veneers

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Lumineers are the only type that is reversible. This kind is the thinnest (about 0.2mm) type of veneers out there, so your teeth don’t have to be reduced so much. Designed to resist wear and tear for up to 20 years, Lumineers are comparable in durability to porcelain veneers.

What’s more, they are stain-resistant. You can choose the shade you like, and won’t have to pay for whitening. The translucent quality works great to mimic enamel.

Eric Moryoussef

Eric Moryoussef, DDS

Because porcelain veneers and lumineers are custom-made in a laboratory using expensive porcelain, they are associated with a higher cost of materials.

Snap-on veneers

Clip-on veneers

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If you don’t want a costly permanent solution, you can consider clip-on veneers.

One arch only covers the front eight teeth. The material is different than in the more expensive, permanent options.

The downside is that this is a solution for a couple of years at most, and you will have to replace them at some point.

The clip-on veneers are available online, so you don’t have to make multiple appointments with the dentist. This saves a lot of greet-meet-and-sit time. It’s still a good idea to have a consultation beforehand, though.

How are veneers put on teeth?

The veneers process can turn out lengthier than you’d expect. It can take up to 4 weeks for the dentist to get them back from the lab alone. If you strategically plan out your visits with your dentist however, the whole process can be done in 2 appointments. There is no healing, as the procedure is non-surgical.

This overview may give you a general idea. Your dentist might decide that some extra steps need to be taken or that some stages have to be stretched out over several appointments.

During this visit, the dentist will check the overall condition of your mouth. He or she will judge whether you are a good candidate for veneers.

About half a millimeter of your tooth will be shaved down. An impression will be taken and sent off to the lab if you are going with porcelain. You will have to wear temporaries before the next visit. Resin veneers can sometimes be placed during this visit.

Once the veneers return from the lab your teeth will be cleaned and roughened, to make attachment easier. A special cement will be placed on your teeth. Ultraviolet light will help it harden quickly.

You might have another visit with your dentist a couple of weeks later. He or she will check if the veneers are fixed to your teeth properly and whether there are no other problems.

Veneers teeth pros and cons

Comprehensive dental exam

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Nichole McKenna

Nichole McKenna, DDS

Over time, the gums can recede and make the margin (where the veneer meets the natural tooth) visible. This is often aesthetically unacceptable and will require replacement of the veneers.

And lastly, not everyone is a candidate. Your dentist may refuse to place them if you have a history of gum disease or particularly fragile teeth.

  • More affordable than other cosmetic solutions such as crowns or implants

  • Great aesthetics

  • Can be done with as little as 2 appointments

  • Fix a wide variety of cosmetic issues

  • Care is similar to that of natural teeth

  • Irreversible

  • May make your teeth more sensitive

  • Nightguard might be needed

  • Not a good choice for everyone

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FAQ

No. This process is non-surgical and there is no healing period. It may be uncomfortable, but patients are almost always numbed for any unpleasant stages.

Veneers, unlike implants, for example, are not designed to be a life-long fix free of maintenance. You can expect porcelain veneers to last around 20 years, while composite ones stay in the mouth for roughly 7.

This is true, of course, provided that you take proper care of them. Veneers are prone to damage, as are the living teeth underneath. It is important to visit the dentist regularly after having them installed.

The veneers process does in fact cause some damage. In order to place them, the dentist has to remove a part of your tooth. You can never get it back. Veneers may have to be replaced at some point.

Generally, you should keep up good overall oral hygiene, address teeth-grinding, if that is an issue, and wear oral protection during sports and similar activities. As with natural teeth, do not use teeth as tools, for example, to open letters or cans.

When it comes to your diet, resin veneers require you to steer clear of coffee, wine, or tea, as well as tobacco. Porcelain ones are not as restrictive, as they are stain-resistant.

Veneers can’t be whitened. There are some home treatments described online such as rubbing them with baking soda, but that can cause damage to your dental work.

The good news is that porcelain veneers are stain-resistant. If you know you are going to be drinking wine, tea, coffee, or smoking tobacco, you should invest in this more expensive material.

Bonding is the most common and cheap alternative. It involves adding composite to your teeth. This can make them look more even and straight. It’s also a good fix for broken or cracked teeth.

If you are looking at orthodontic issues, you may also consider braces. They can deal with even the most complex issues such as gapped teeth, complete misalignment, or teeth sticking out above the arch. Veneers can fix irregular, crooked, or misaligned teeth. The condition is that the problems have to be slight. Some patients who are thinking of veneers end up with a dental crown. But no dentist will fit a crown over a healthy tooth. There must be some damage or the tooth has to be missing for you to be a candidate. In the case of the latter, you’ll also need a dental implant. Veneers are a much better option if the changes you want are cosmetic.