Porcelain veneers, alternatively termed dental veneers or dental porcelain laminates, are wafer-thin shells of porcelain that are bonded onto the front side of teeth so to create a cosmetic improvement for a tooth. Porcelain veneers are routinely used by dentists as a way to make cosmetic changes for teeth that are discolored, worn, chipped, or misaligned.
Procedure and Methods
The procedure itself involves several steps. These are: diagnosis and treatment planning, preparation, and bonding. It is important to note that one tooth or many teeth can simultaneously undergo the veneering process described below.
Diagnosis and treatment planning. This first step involves active participation between you and your dentist. Explain to your dentist the result that you are trying to achieve. During this appointment your dentist will examine your teeth to make sure dental veneers are appropriate for you and discuss what the procedure will involve and some of its limitations. He or she also may take x-rays and possibly make impressions of your mouth and teeth.
Preparation. To prepare a tooth for a veneer, your dentist will remove about millimeter of enamel from the tooth surface, which is an amount nearly equal to the thickness of the veneer to be added to the tooth surface. Before trimming off the enamel, you and your dentist will decide the need for a local anesthetic to numb the area. Next, your dentist will make a model or impression of your tooth. This model is sent out to a dental laboratory, which in turn constructs your veneer.
Bonding. Before the dental veneer is permanently cemented to your tooth, your dentist will temporarily place it on your tooth to examine its fit and color. He or she will repeatedly remove and trim the veneer as needed to achieve the proper fit; the veneer color can be adjusted with the shade of cement to be used. Next, to prepare your tooth to receive the veneer, your tooth will be cleaned and polished. A special cement is applied to the veneer and the veneer is then placed on your tooth. Once properly position on the tooth, your dentist will apply a special light beam to the dental veneer, which activates chemicals in the cement causing it to harden or cure very quickly. The final steps involve removing any excess cement, evaluating your bite and making any final adjustments in the veneer as necessary.
The Advantages of Porcelain Veneers
Two of the greatest advantages of porcelain veneers over other types of cosmetic dental bonding are:
Porcelain veneers create a very life-like tooth appearance.
You might be surprised to learn that while a large portion of every tooth is composed of dental enamel, teeth are not solid enamel. The enamel component of a tooth is actually just an outer encasement. The hard tooth tissue that lies underneath a tooth's enamel layer is termed "dentin."
One property of tooth enamel is that it's translucent. This means that when light strikes a tooth's surface it is not immediately reflected off, but instead penetrates into its enamel layer. Once the light has passed through the full thickness of the enamel it reflects off the opaque (non-translucent) tooth dentin that lies underneath, and then on back out of the tooth. This manner of handling light, the translucency effect of a tooth's enamel, is an important aspect of what give teeth their characteristic lustrous appearance.
In the past the only cosmetic dental bonding materials that dentists had available to them were just semi-translucent. This meant that most of the light that struck a repaired tooth would not penetrate into the bonding but instead be reflected off its outer surface. The net result was that while the bonding did give the tooth an improved appearance, there was no sense of translucency (luster).
Since porcelain veneers are glass-like in nature (ceramic) they have a great advantage over other cosmetic bonding techniques by way of the fact that they are translucent. When a porcelain veneer is bonded onto a tooth's surface it will closely mimic the light handling characteristics of dental enamel.
When light strikes the surface of a veneered tooth it can penetrate on into the veneer's porcelain, just like it does with dental enamel. Once it has traversed the full thickness of the porcelain the light will reflect off the opaque cement and tooth dentin that lies underneath the veneer, and then on back out of the tooth. This translucency effect of the porcelain creates a lustrous appearance for the tooth that very closely resembles the appearance of enamel.
Porcelain veneers resist staining.
As a group, cosmetic dental bonding materials have the shortcoming of being susceptible to staining and discoloring. This is especially true when they are used in conjunction with individuals whose consumption habits include the use of tea, coffee, red wine, and tobacco products. A significant advantage of placing porcelain veneers as opposed to cosmetic dental bonding is that a porcelain veneer's surface is just that, porcelain. Since porcelain is a ceramic, and therefore glass-like, a veneer's porcelain surface will be extremely stain resistant.
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