A dental veneer is a thin piece of porcelain that is used to change the shape, color, or size of a tooth or a group of teeth. Veneers are most often done on the front teeth of the upper and lower jaws but can be used for premolars (the teeth behind the canines) if the patient has a wide smile and the color difference would show.
While a veneer can technically be used as a restoration on a single tooth, it's rare that we veneer a single tooth because getting the proper color match of a single veneer to your natural teeth is extremely difficult. In these cases, an all-ceramic crown may be a better option.
Patients who want to straighten their teeth or change the position of their teeth often ask whether treatment with veneers can be used instead of orthodontic treatment. The answer is "it depends." In dentistry we have a number of techniques and treatment modalities that we can use to achieve a goal -- and each patient's needs and goals are different. For example, if someone has extensive crowding of their teeth along with severe rotations of their teeth, then orthodontic treatment may be the best choice. However, if a patient has a single front tooth that is too far forward or back, Invisalign might be a better option because you would need to prepare (drill) multiple teeth to get the same effect with veneers. If a patient, however, has multiple discolored teeth with slight rotations or irregular heights, then treatment with veneers might be a good choice.
How long do veneers last?
Like any dental restoration, veneers don't last forever. With proper home care and maintenance, veneers can last for over a decade if not longer.
Disadvantages of veneers
Veneers are made of a thin strip of porcelain, and like any other porcelain, veneers can fracture. If a veneer fractures we may be able to repair it, but more often than not a patient with a fractured veneer will need a new veneer. And while we can come close to the color match of the previous and/or other exiting veneers, no color match is as ideal as the original set of veneers or the original veneer. This is the reason why we often prefer to use ceramic crowns instead of veneers for single teeth.