Oral Health Resources | 23 August, 2019

All About Veneers - The Whats and Hows

“How long do veneers last?” – it’s the question every patient wants to know. The answer: Veneers can last many years when planned and done well. Dr Andrea Shepperson from Lumino City Dental at Quay Park explains.

The decision to invest in veneers is an important one and involves a significant investment for most patients.  You’ll want to know that your investment is going to look good and also perform well over many years.

What is a veneer?

A veneer is a thin shell of porcelain or composite filling material bonded to tooth enamel.  Veneers change the shape, length, colour, position and surface texture of teeth.

Enamel is a strong coating on the surface of a tooth which can be treated with an acid gel to roughen it microscopically.  Special resin glues or bonding agents will bind to the roughened surface and create a very strong bond.  This allows a dentist to glue on a porcelain veneer or tooth coloured filling to create changes in shape, position, length and make minor colour changes.  The longevity of veneers is excellent when they are bonded entirely to enamel.

How long will a porcelain veneer last?

A porcelain veneer is a very strong, beautiful and lifelike restoration that will last many years, up to 20 or more.  The margin of a veneer is placed on enamel with a very tight seal.  In the front of the mouth it is unusual to see decay at these sites in a well-cared for mouth. Andrea says they have patients with veneers that are nearly 25 years old.  The porcelain (ceramic) material is very hard, smooth and durable.  It does not stain, lose its colour and is stronger than a composite resin veneer.

A veneer can need replacement for a number of reasons:

  • Gums can recede over time, showing the margin between the veneer and the tooth root.  This can stain slightly over the years.   In a patient who shows their gum line this can create a fine brown line.
  • Veneers can chip and break after many years as the ceramic weakens with wear and tear and daily use.
  • Veneers will break if the bite changes significantly through tooth loss, acid erosion or decay in teeth.

How long will a composite veneer last?

A composite veneer is a tooth coloured filling material bonded to tooth structure.  They can be used with virtually no tooth preparation, making them conservative and a cost-effective option.  They are placed in a single visit, based on a digital design or waxed design.  The result is immediate.  Composite resin veneers are more liable to wear and tear – staining, chipping, pitting and discolouration – and will not be as durable as a porcelain veneer.

Composite veneers will last 7-10 years and over this time may need some touch-up work.  Expect to spend a little on maintenance of composite veneers.

Will I need to replace my veneers?

Yes, it is highly likely your veneers will need to be replaced at some stage over your lifetime, especially if you start at a young age with veneers.  When it is time to replace them, they are polished off by your dentist, re-prepared and redone.  Each time they are replaced a small amount of enamel will be removed and sometimes old veneers may need to be replaced with crowns if there is less enamel left.

Are veneers the best option?

Veneers can be life-changing for patients and, done in experienced hands, will last a long time.

Careful planning and good design is critical to the success of veneers.  Most of all a dentist needs enamel to bond to, to allow veneers to be glued onto teeth.  If there is inadequate enamel through tooth wear or acid erosion, a veneer will not be as strong, and may be liable to debond or break.

Every case needs careful assessment and a dentist skilled in veneers will do a thorough assessment of:

  • How much enamel is left to bond to.  If there is not enough then a crown (360-degree cover) may be a better option.
  • The amount of tooth re-positioning If big changes in position are required then some minor orthodontic re-positioning may be needed first.  Sometimes, if a beautiful smile can be achieved with orthodontics such as Invisalign, then veneers are not needed at all.
  • The underlying colour of the tooth.  Very dark, black or grey discoloured teeth are hard to mask with veneers.  These are better managed with crowns.
  • Your biteand whether it needs correcting before veneers are placed.  The way you use your teeth is critical to the success of veneers.   Choose a dentist who really knows how to assess your bite properly, to make sure it is not going to compromise your veneers or need correction before veneers are done.
  • Your age and the impact of removing enamel.  If teeth are already damaged through tooth wear, old fillings, acid erosion then a dentist will generally recommend porcelain veneers, or crowns.  If you are young and your teeth are beautiful with perfect enamel, a dentist may recommend Invisalign or minimal preparation composite veneers. This allows enamel to be preserved.

How can I look after my veneers?

  • Don’t use your teeth as tools.  Even habits like nail biting can put huge forces on veneers and cause them to break.  Other habits such as biting fishing line, sewing thread, opening bottles or plastic seals can damage veneers.
  • If you are grinding your teeth, have your dentist make you a protective splint. These are mostly used at night-time.
  • Moderate your quantity of staining drinks, such as tea and coffee.
  • Visit a hygienist regularly and really look after your gums well.  Floss daily and use a soft brush or electric toothbrush head.  Try to avoid gum recession and exposed veneer margins as a consequence.
  • Use a low abrasion formula toothpaste.  Commercial brands often have larger particles that can scratch veneers.  Ask your dentist or hygienist for recommendations.
  • Moderate your acid intake – no lemon juice in water, soft drinks or vinegar diets – they can dissolve teeth that support veneers and cause some damage to composites over time.

Who should do my veneers?

Choose a dentist with experience, to be assured that they will assess and design your case considering the best solution for you.  The design and planning of your veneers will make a big difference to how long your veneers will last.  Ask your dentist to show you cases of their own success and how they managed the failure of poorly done veneers.  A good dentist will be happy to share outcomes with you.

Andrea Shepperson and her team use Digital Smile Design, a 3D planning technique to assess and design a case. Andrea is New Zealand’s only Digital Smile Design Master and Instructor and much of her work involves correcting worn bites before doing veneers, as well as straightforward cosmetic improvements.