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Dental veneers

Dental veneers are a cosmetic dentistry procedure to help improve the colour, shape and position of teeth, including chipped teeth.

The dental veneer is made from a thin layer of porcelain fitted over the front facing surface of tooth.

The procedure has been likened to false nails being stuck on top of real nails.

Veneers are not normally available as an NHS treatment.

Once fitted, a veneer should last for many years, but just like normal teeth, they can be broken or chipped.

Private costs vary between dentists, so make sure you get an estimate first and check what's covered, including aftercare.

What's the procedure for getting a dental veneer?

Getting a dental veneer usually requires three trips to the dentist - one for a consultation and two to make and apply the veneers. One tooth or many teeth can simultaneously undergo the veneering process described below.

  • Diagnosis and treatment planning. This first step involves active participation between you and your dentist. Explain to your dentist the result that you are trying to achieve. During this appointment your dentist will examine your teeth to make sure dental veneers are appropriate and discuss what the procedure will involve and some of its limitations. He or she also may take X-rays and possibly make impressions of your mouth and teeth.
  • Preparation. To prepare a tooth for a veneer, your dentist will remove about half a millimetre of enamel from the tooth surface, which is roughly equal to the thickness of the veneer to be added. Before trimming off the enamel, you and your dentist will decide on the need for a local anaesthetic to numb the area. Your dentist will then make a model or impression of your tooth. This model is sent out to a dental laboratory, which constructs your veneer. It usually takes 1 to 2 weeks for your dentist to receive the veneers back from the laboratory. For very unsightly teeth, temporary dental veneers can be placed, usually for an additional cost.
  • Bonding. Before the dental veneer is permanently cemented to your tooth, your dentist will temporarily place it on your tooth to examine its fit and colour. He or she will repeatedly remove and trim the veneer as needed to achieve the proper fit; the veneer colour can be adjusted with the shade of cement to be used. Next, to prepare your tooth to receive the veneer, your tooth will be cleaned, polished, and etched, which roughens it to allow for a strong bonding process. A glue cement is applied to the veneer, which is then placed on your tooth. Once properly positioned, your dentist will apply a special light beam to the veneer, which activates chemicals in the cement causing it to harden or cure very quickly. The final steps involve removing any excess cement, evaluating your bite and making final adjustments as necessary. Your dentist may ask you to return for a follow-up visit in a couple of weeks to check how your gums are responding to the veneer and to once again examine its placement.
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