Are Veneer treatments safe?

For anyone in search of that perfect Hollywood smile, then cosmetic dentistry can certainly make for an obvious choice.

In days gone by, the only way to correct any dental imperfections was to cover the entire tooth with a crown. However, this is now a thing of the past thanks to the invention of veneers, which were first invented by Californian dentist, Charles Pincus back in 1928 when he found himself tasked with the job of temporarily changing the appearance of an actor’s teeth.

In this blog we take a peek at what veneer treatments actually are and, more importantly, whether they’re safe to have fitted.

What are veneers?

Veneers are very fine, narrow, custom-made coverings that are carefully bonded to the front of a tooth. They’re typically used to cover imperfections such as chipped or uneven teeth – or even just for cosmetic reasons, since they give the appearance of a ‘perfect’ tooth.

Since veneers are typically made from either porcelain or acrylic, they’re extremely hard-wearing and compared to crowns, are much less expensive to fit.

What are veneers used for?

Veneers can either be used purely for cosmetic reasons or even for certain conditions, such as a diastema (a space or gap between the teeth). They can also be used to treat an abnormal bone structure or for younger patients whose teeth haven’t yet developed properly.

Veneers can also help to improve the colour, shape and general position of teeth, making them a great option to hide a chipped tooth, or close a small gap when orthodontics (braces) aren’t considered suitable.

How are they fitted?

If you’ve opted to have veneers then your dentist will lightly buff your existing tooth, typically to a depth of around 0.5mm (which, for the purposes of visualisation, is about the same depth as an average contact lens).

At the start of your treatment, the area to be treated will be frozen to enable a tiny portion of your existing tooth enamel to be removed; thus, allowing enough room for the veneer to be fitted. You might also choose to have local anaesthetic, although this isn’t always necessary and can be certainly be discussed with your dentist..

In order to create the best treatment area, a mould or ‘impression’ is created and sent away so that a custom-made version can be made up and will be carefully crafted to match your natural tooth colour. During this time, you might choose to opt for a temporary version of the eventual veneer. It’s always best to discuss this with your dentist since the time it takes to create the permanent veneer will naturally vary between each lab and it may well be that certain adjustments need to be made before they’re finally fitted using a special adhesive.

How long does the treatment take?

A veneer fitting will often necessitate at least two visits to your dentist: the first one to prepare the tooth and match the shade; then a second one to actually fit it. Prior to fitting the veneer, your dentist will show you the veneer on your tooth, just to make sure you’re entirely happy with it prior to the actual fitting. Your dentist might then recommend a follow-up appointment just to check that you’re happy with the treatment and that the veneers have settled as they should.

How long will they last?

Cared for properly, carefully fitted veneers can typically last up to 30 years. However, as with any other cosmetic treatment, they may well need replacing for a number of reasons such as cracking, discoloration or eventual shrinkage of the gum line.

Are veneer treatments safe?

Whilst most dental professionals will maintain that veneers are entirely safe to both fit and use, Canadian doctor, Dr Michael Zuk, raised certain key concerns in his publication “Confessions of a Former Cosmetic Dentist” during which he suggested that the use of veneers can in fact be harmful, particularly for younger patients with otherwise healthy teeth.

Of course, it perhaps goes without saying that anyone thinking about the use of veneers is well advised to shop around for the right dentist and one who has specific experience of this particular technique since preparation of the area is key given that, in some cases, between 3% and 30% of the tooth’s surface can easily be destroyed if not performed correctly.

Generally speaking, whilst veneer treatments are considered safe, (not to mention a definite bonus for those patients needing remedial treatment), since the preparation for veneers necessitates the tooth being shaved down they can cause increased sensitivity, so certainly aren’t recommended for anyone with otherwise healthy teeth which merely need routine cleaning.

That said, given the amount of patients who opt to have veneers there are very few issues reported and treatment should never be given unnecessarily (hence the reason to find the right dentist). Perhaps the most common risk, however, is the danger of patients covering up unsightly teeth when in fact they’re not healthy enough to support a veneer. It’s one thing to cover up unsightly teeth, but when teeth look unpleasant purely due to poor dental hygiene, then veneers shouldn’t be seen as a ‘get out clause’.  However, any good dentist will be able to advise you on this.

A final issue to remain mindful of is that by simply having veneers fitted doesn’t necessarily mean that your teeth and gums will remain forever healthy. In fact, far from it. However, whilst this doesn’t raise concerns in terms of actual safety; it’s certainly something to bear in mind. Veneers should never be fitted and then simply forgotten about. By doing this you not only risk your own oral health but could well encounter future problems down the line.

Generally speaking, however, veneers are extremely safe to have fitted and many patients across the globe enjoy some of the many benefits they bring, such as a nice, natural smile and a general feeling of cleanliness. As we’ve already seen, treated right they can last for up to 30 years so there really are plenty of miles in your smiles!