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Porcelain Veneers

Strength & Beauty As Never Before

By Dr. Elizabeth M. Bakeman

This article is endorsed by the
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
Porcelain Veneers.

The advances dentistry has seen in recent years are truly remarkable — especially when it comes to porcelain veneers. Not only have the materials used to make veneers improved tremendously, so too has the skill level of the dental professionals who work with them.

Putting Your Best Face Forward

Smiling makes you feel good. It also communicates positive emotions to others. But some people have lost the ability to smile freely, along with the joy it brings to both themselves and others. They will cover their mouths with their hands to avoid showing their teeth in public. In many cases, the problems they are trying to hide — staining or discoloration, worn-down or slightly misaligned teeth, or even too much space between their teeth — could be addressed beautifully with porcelain veneers.

So what, exactly, is a porcelain veneer?

You've probably already heard the word “veneer” used in other contexts to describe a very thin covering that makes the surface of something look better. That's exactly what it means in dentistry as well. An extremely thin custom-made shell that is astonishingly lifelike in appearance is placed on the front of a tooth giving it a new “face.” In order to make veneers look naturally contoured and harmonious, it may or may not be necessary to remove tooth structure, depending on how big the teeth are to begin with, as well as the desired final tooth size and shape.

Veneers can improve any of the following characteristics:


Tooth color can change throughout one's life, generally yellowing with age and time. Some people who were given the antibiotic tetracycline in childhood develop tooth discoloration that is very difficult to remove. Also, the choices we make in consuming certain foods, drinks (especially red wine, coffee and tea), and/or cigarettes can affect the color of our teeth. Whitening can help, but the degree the teeth will whiten is dependent on the starting point. Some teeth with excessive discoloration never achieve an acceptable color with simple tooth whitening. A porcelain veneer, however, has the ability to mask color and therefore provides greater latitude when making a color shift to whiter and brighter.


Abnormal wear on teeth can make them appear shorter, flatter or rough along the edges. Younger teeth have rounder shaped edges. Therefore, veneers can give you a more youthful smile not only making the teeth whiter, and brighter, but also by redesigning them to incorporate the features that make them look more youthful. On the other hand, some people consider rounder teeth more feminine and might want the edges made a little squarer for a more masculine appearance. But that's the great thing about veneers: it's a collaborative effort in which you play an important part.


Sometimes the only thing keeping a person's smile from being all it can be is simply that the teeth are too small. Maybe they've always been that way or maybe they became shorter with wear, over time. Veneers can be used to make the teeth appear larger for a dramatic enhancement. Of course, if the teeth have been worn down excessively, it is important to address the underlying causes in order to prevent recurrence. Likewise, if you have lost a lot of tooth structure from decay or trauma, you might benefit more from porcelain crowns that cover the entire tooth and reduce the risk for future problems.

Alignment & Spacing

If you want to close a small gap between your two front teeth, for example, or if some of your teeth are misaligned, there are a couple of ways you could straighten them. You could opt for orthodontic treatment, if they are very crooked, which would move them into correct alignment. Veneers can make slight corrections in alignment while improving color and shape at the same time. Of course, if the gap is large or the misalignment significant, orthodontics might still be the way to go, or a combination of both might be needed for best possible results.