Expert Commentary: Mark Morris D.M.D. 12/1/2009

Pain and root canals, public embarrassment, the loss of thousands of dollars – these can all result from poor case selection and operator technique with porcelain veneers. Everyone hears about how movie stars and athletes get great smiles with veneers but there is not much talk about the potential downsides.  I’m a dentist.  I’ve seen it all.  I’m here to give you the inside scoop.

Porcelain veneers are a common elective procedure that we perform in the dental profession.  Veneers are primarily used to reshape teeth and make them appear whiter and straighter.  A veneer is basically a porcelain facing used to resurface the front of a tooth.  They are usually performed in groups of six or more.  When performed with appropriate case selection and with good technique they provide a predictable and beautiful transformation of a person’s smile.  They can also become an expensive mess if not done carefully or in the wrong situation.

Here are a few situations that are not appropriate for veneers:

·    Veneers can make teeth appear unnaturally wide or large, especially when attempting to close large gaps.  Think of the scene with Matt Dillon in the movie “Something About Mary”.  

·    Teeth so uneven that they have to be cut too far back to make the teeth appear straighter.  This leads to nerve damage resulting in root canals and/or loss of teeth within a short time.

·    Patients with excessive grinding habits or poor hygiene are not good veneer candidates.  A teeth grinding habit can cause veneers to break frequently and poor hygiene can result in gum disease. 

·    Patients with unrealistic expectations.  Veneers can only do so much.  They can be an important part of looking great but there are many other factors which affect your overall appearance.

Careless operator technique can lead to:

·    Veneers debonding (coming off) frequently. 

·    Either too little or too much tooth adjustment to make room for the veneer.  Too little tooth adjustment and the veneers appear bulky and dull looking.  Too much adjustment and the strength and health of the tooth can be compromised. 

·    Poor planning giving the patient a result they were not expecting and not happy with.

·    A bad, uncomfortable bite that never feels natural.

Let face it – veneers are an expensive, elective procedure.  Anyone who pays thousands of dollars to have these placed should be thrilled with the outcome.  A good dentist will guide the patient through the procedure and carefully explain what the results should be.  A bad dentist is a salesman pushing an elective procedure on someone and not delivering what was promised.  If you are considering veneers, interview several dentists and ask to see photos of cases they have completed.  Ask to see the dentist’s teeth.  If they don’t have a great smile, there is no way you should trust them to take care of yours!


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