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Porcelain Veneers Without the Drill

A new look at drill-free cosmetic dentistry

By Dr. Dennis J. Wells

This article is endorsed by the
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
No-prep porcelain veneers.

The notion of adding materials to teeth in order to change the way they look is nothing new to dentistry. Traditionally, teeth are prepared in some way or fashion in order to place and retain a restorative material — typically a filling, porcelain veneer or crown. Not only is tooth reduction generally necessary to restore lost or damaged natural enamel as a result of the ravages of tooth decay or trauma, but it is also necessary to create room to place an aesthetic and functional “restoration.”

The purpose of this article is to introduce and provide a clear understanding of an alternative cosmetic treatment option, the “no-prep” or “prepless veneer,” whereby no drilling is required to enhance a smile. It also endeavors to bring clarity and understanding to the numerous areas of confusion regarding this treatment modality. Most importantly, it examines the case selection process; when prepless dentistry will work and when it won't. As with almost all dental and medical procedures, there are risks, benefits and alternatives. It is with the help of a dental professional experienced in these advanced techniques, together with your own goals and understanding, that you can make decisions that are right for you.

Prepless porcelain veneers patient.
Before prepless porcelain veneers.
After prepless porcelain veneers.
Figures 1 and 2: Photographs illustrating a common problem improved dramatically with prepless porcelain veneers. Note that the original smile is attractive but it is improved with the new veneers.
Photos provided by Dr. Dennis Wells

No-Drilling: Reality Or Ridiculous?

“Prepless veneers” is a concept that elicits various reactions and opinions among dentists, ranging from absolute disbelief that they can facilitate effective restorations, to appreciation for these conservative and advanced works of art! This range of opinion about a novel approach to cosmetic dentistry is vast and with good reason. The concept of “additive only” restorations intuitively causes the experienced clinician reason for concern as visions of bulky, over-contoured teeth quickly come to mind. Unfortunately, some prepless techniques and products circulated heavily in the media have shown thick, bulky looking restorations, causing skepticism among some dentists and consumers alike.

And yet, despite these concerns, an undeniable trend is emerging among many esteemed cosmetic dentists to incorporate not only minimal prep, but also “no-prep” restorations into their compendium of viable treatment options and alternatives.

In recent years, new developments in techniques and materials have resulted in a fresh look at the aesthetic possibilities for the no-prep veneer option. Cases done by talented dentists and lab technicians have produced results which would meet the highest standards in cosmetic dentistry [Figures 1 and 2]. Part of the advanced level of training for prepless veneers includes the important aspect of proper case selection. Not every situation lends itself to a no-prep approach, but when it does, the results can be not only beautiful, but also stable and reversible!

Paradigms and Beliefs — A Shift

The promotion and endorsement of “prepless” veneers is predicated on the following paradigms and beliefs:

  • It is not necessary to prepare a tooth to create a border (known in dental terms as a “margin”). Highly skilled dental technicians can design a custom-fit veneer that feathers into the tooth just short of the gumline.
  • Aside from the other obvious benefits of prepless veneers, they are not placed under the gum tissue. This eliminates the risk of the restorations having a negative impact on the periodontal (gum tissue) health.
  • In many cases it is possible to use an additive-only approach to create aesthetically pleasing and natural-looking restorations without reducing the underlying tooth structure.
  • Consumers who are looking for a way to enhance their smiles are more likely to seek out and accept a no-prep approach with a highly-skilled dentist in situations in which they don't need aggressive enamel removal.


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