What are Tooth Veneers?
At some point in your life, the chances are that you will be obliged to visit a dentist for some kind of treatment. Whilst there are not many treatments available that don’t involve some degree of pain, one of the more comfortable procedures is having a veneer fitted. If you’re wondering what exactly a veneer is, think of it like this:
it is like a false fingernail, except it is fitted to your tooth
More technically, a veneer is a thin layer of porcelain made to fit over the front surface of a tooth. Sometimes, a natural colour composite material is used. Veneers can be used for a variety of treatments, and can be a useful way of closing small gaps between teeth. The word veneer itself is of European origin, probably from the French fournir, to furnish. The word has always had connotations to cover, or furnish one kind of material with another.
Initially, and before it had connections to dentistry, its application usually referred to covering lesser material objects with a superior one, in many cases by fitting a wooden covering. This enhanced the look of the object, while at the same time concealing its less attractive properties.
With the creation and subsequent expansion of the dentist and his working surgeries, veneers, or tooth coverings, were adopted into part of its offered services. The main changes over the years have come through improved bonding agents, as companies knew by the late 1950s that porcelain would be the perfect material to be used as a veneer. Expect a modern dentist to involve the use of a light beam to harden the bonding agent between tooth and veneer, which has increased expectations with regards to longevity. It is interesting to discover where and how veneers were invented, so we will now take a look at its history.
History of Veneers
Veneers were first created by a dentist from California in 1928, by the name of Charles Pincus. They were invented specifically for a film shoot, to temporarily change the appearance of an actor’s teeth. Eleven years later, in 1937, he modified these by fabricating them using acrylic, and denture adhesive, which gave a limited bonding effect. Sporadic investigations were made into different materials and ways to bond veneers to the teeth over the years and by 1959 companies investigating veneers were now looking into bonding porcelain veneers onto etched enamel. It took until research conducted in 1982 suggested that porcelain could be etched with hydrofluoric acid, and the resultant bond strengths that could be achieved between composite materials and porcelain were predicted to be sufficiently strong enough to effectively hold the two together permanently.
Soon after, this was confirmed in an article describing a technique for the fabrication and placement of etched and bonded porcelain veneers, and using a platinum foil technique for the fabrication. Research on this technique over the years has suggested its reliability. Nowadays, since we have better bonding agents at our disposal, a typical veneer should last a minimum of ten years, through to a maximum of thirty years. Non permanent versions were also made available, by moulding a flexible resin to the tooth, after supplying a mould of the tooth to the technician. Porcelain remains the most effective choice, as it is more durable than most composite materials that are used in the process, and because porcelain also mimics the reflectivity properties of real enamel, it looks much more authentic.
How Do They Work?
Veneers are usually used in an aesthetic sense. They can be coloured to match the exact colour of the recipient’s teeth, and can be placed over a chipped tooth, to restore healthy looking teeth, and in the cases where braces are unsuitable, can be used to close small gaps. They can also be placed over crooked looking teeth, or worn down teeth, to restore an even look. There are a few stages to having a veneer fitted:
- Some of the shiny outer enamel, around half a millimetre may be removed so the veneer can be bonded permanently to the tooth. An anaesthetic may be used, but in many cases is not needed.
- The tooth will then be polished and etched, which roughens the surface, ready to attach the veneer.
- The veneer will be temporarily fixed into position on the tooth. The dentist should then spend some time adjusting and perfecting the fit.
- A type of glue cement is then applied to the veneer and placed into position. Once it is correctly placed, the dentist will apply a special light beam to the glue. This activates chemicals that harden the glue and fixes thee veneer permanently into place.
It takes at least two visits to complete the procedure, one for the dentist to match the shade and prepare the tooth, and the second visit to fit and adjust then bond the veneer into place. Usually, only a small layer of enamel is required to be removed, and whilst some pain relieving injections can be taken, it is often such a minor amount that, for many people, no injections are actually required. The tooth simply feels a bit rough to the touch by your tongue. The next visit will include the permanent fixing of the veneer, which can take the dentist a little time to get absolutely right. Often, the dentist will request a follow up appointment a couple of weeks later, to make sure the fitting is secure and comfortable. Properly fitted, modern veneers should last between ten and thirty years, but can of course chip and wear like normal teeth. A chipped or heavily worn veneer may be repaired, and in cases that merit it, replaced.
How Much Do Veneers Cost?
As with almost everything, the price varies considerably. A good, solid and enduring veneer fitted correctly can cost anywhere between 250-375 GBP. Cheaper versions can be found, but the same rules apply to veneers as to almost every other purchasable product. The more money you spend on it, the better quality product you get. In the United Kingdom, it is difficult to get veneer treatment on their National Health Service. Unless you can convince NHS staff that you have a genuine medical issue and only a veneer would correct it, the procedure is generally not funded by the NHS, as it is viewed as a cosmetic addition. In the very rare cases that the NHS does fund a veneer procedure, for example if a tooth is cracked, only around 195 GBP is made available, and, for this money, a cheaper end product may be presented.
The technician making the veneer can only use materials and time and therefore his skill to match the amount of funds available per veneer. Of course, if a certain dentist is perceived to be very skilled in his veneer work, an even higher sum of around 500 GBP per veneer can be expected, but this is a little excessive, as good quality veneers can be found for a fair amount less. However, the message would seem clear; if you require a veneer fitted, it is well worth paying a little bit extra for a better quality product.
Cosmetic Use of Veneers by Dentists
There is no doubt that veneers can aid in the contribution of a healthy looking mouth, and therefore boost self-confidence. Veneers are important tools for the cosmetic dentist, who offers a ‘Hollywood’ style set of teeth, for those who can afford and desire it. It has become fairly common nowadays to see people with sparkling, veneer capped white teeth. In Western Society, which of course values looks and material acquisition above almost everything else, the average person is willing to spend a considerable amount of money, as well as time, on achieving a personally perceived look or style. This usually involves a dazzlingly bright, full toothed white smile. The clever dentists who mould their practises toward the cosmetic, and self improving aspect of their work can achieve fabulous wealth, and in some cases, celebrity. Cosmetic body enhancement is a massive worldwide market, and in offering veneers, dentists are simply supplying the demand.
Of course, they can be used to close gaps, and hide worn teeth, but this still falls under the cosmetic category, as no medical condition arises from a small gap in teeth, or possessing worn teeth. Still, the market is created by consumers who are self conscious of such afflictions, and are willing to pay for a solution. Before veneers were created, the only option for a dentist seeking to correct any imperfections was to use a crown, which covered the whole tooth, instead of attaching a piece to the front of the tooth. As research verified the safety and durability of veneers, they became, and remain, a popularly requested procedure at the dentist, whether purely for cosmetic purposes, or to close gaps and restore worn or chipped teeth. The desire for both is the improvement of looks, and therefore a boost in self confidence.