Veneers are synthetic covers which are bonded to your teeth, most commonly front teeth.
Usually, a veneer is used to change the appearance of a tooth. It can alter its colour, shape and even, to a limited extent, its position. A single veneer can be considered a ‘makeover’ for a tooth; a whole series of veneers can create a full dental smile makeover. They are usually used in the ‘Smile Lift’ procedure, when the patient wants a wider fuller smile, showing ‘more tooth’. Veneers can be almost thought of as a dental version of a false fingernail (although much more permanent) !
So, for example, a veneer can be used to change the colour of a very discoloured (eg. grey) tooth. It can restore a front tooth that is badly chipped. It can sometimes correct a crooked, twisted tooth. It can make a tooth bigger to close a gap.
Veneers can make teeth longer that have been worn down significantly by night-time tooth grinding.
Carefully and appropriately prepared, veneers can be very conservative restorations, requiring either no or minimal tooth preparation. Wherever possible, they are used instead of crowns as they are much more conservative of natural tooth structure.
Veneers are made of one of two materials; quartz composite or porcelain.
In general, porcelain is almost always the preferred option because the material (unlike quartz composite) is much harder , does not wear out , needs no additional ‘maintenance’ and retains its beauty for a very long time. Consequently it is considered relatively ‘permanent’, and should last many, many years, perhaps decades. It has to be ‘custom’ made on a tooth replica model by a dental technician in a laboratory. However, it does require slightly more tooth preparation (than composite) and the cost investment is higher.
Composite veneers fulfill a similar purpose to porcelain. However, the material is much softer and so will ‘degrade’ in time, losing its surface texture and shine as well as discolouring and wearing down. It does need maintenance (polishing up every year or two) and may need replacing after about four to six years. So it cannot really be considered ‘long term’ or ‘permanent’. However it can be bonded to the tooth without any tooth preparation and as it is placed in one visit by the dentist in the surgery the fee is much lower.