Dental veneers are wafer-thin, custom made shells designed to cover the front surface of teeth to improve appearance. The shells are made of tooth-colored materials and bonded to the front of teeth changing their color, size or shape. They can give a beautiful new look to teeth that are discolored, worn, chipped, misaligned, uneven or have gaps.
1. The difference between a general dentist and a cosmetic dentist
Cosmetic dentists complete their general dentistry training to treat dental problems and promote oral hygiene. Additional training to cultivate the art of dental aesthetics and function can take several more years. This training includes smile design, tooth structure and color-matching to complement surrounding teeth. Find out what training your dentist has in aesthetic design and dental function.
2. Look for a dentist with smile design experience
Cosmetic dentistry is as much art as it is science. The more experience the dentist has in color, design and function, the more natural the smile outcome. Smile design considers lips, gum line, mouth shape, tooth shape and facial structure. Dentists will look at the relationship of every tooth to your lip line and your smile, ensuring a natural look.
They consider your personality, how you speak, the curve of your smile and expressions so that while giving the smile you want, the teeth will still function properly. Each patient requires different anatomically shaped teeth. You want your veneers to look like the teeth you were born with.
Experienced dentists often don’t need to shave more than .5 millimeters from the tooth (similar to a fingernail) to achieve a beautiful look. Their expertise in smile design enables them look at the structure of your teeth to optimize what is there and be minimal in what is done to the original teeth.
3. Lip injections or other facial surgery?
Let your dentist know if you are thinking about getting lip injections or other facial surgery. Any work done to the face can change the look of your smile. Lip injections can cast a shadow over the teeth making them look gray. Let your dentist know if you anticipate any facial surgeries or injections so facial alignments can be factored into the tooth design.
4. Look at before & after photos
It’s a good idea to see a dentist’s results to make sure you like what you see. Look at online galleries or albums you can review. Ask to see photos from cases similar to your own.
5. The color of a veneer is a tricky thing
People want their teeth to look natural but teeth are either yellow-white or gray-white by nature. Creating “white” teeth is an art because it requires gauging the translucency of the veneers against the natural teeth and adjusting to meet what the patient desires. You want white teeth but not a dense, opaque “fake” look. To find the perfect shade, a dentist will look at a variety of factors including skin tone, shape of lips and the shade of the natural teeth to make a customized decision.
Porcelain veneers are often recommended because they better mimic the light reflecting properties of natural teeth.
6. Quality of lab
While the dentist chooses the design it’s the lab technician who fabricates the veneers. Ask your dentist about the quality of their lab. How long have they been in business? Do their technicians complete certifications to ensure high design style for patients? Are they using high-quality materials to provide long lasting durability? Labs which have been in business for a long time will be there because they have a good reputation and provide quality materials dentists can trust.
7. Written treatment plan
You should ask for a written treatment plan after an initial consultation. It should include specifics about treatments and the approximate time of completion. It is possible that orthodontics maybe necessary to avoid breakage in the veneers that can happen with an incorrect bite. You’ll want to look for a dentist who sets realistic expectations and will tell you what they can and cannot do for your smile.
You’ll want to know how long the process will take, what you’ll have to do and any complications that can occur. This will help you decide if the dentist is a good fit for your needs and understands what you want from the treatment plan.
8. Preview the new look before any work is done
A dental diagnostic wax-up is a way to visualize your new smile. An impression or mold is taken of your teeth. Using white wax, the shape, size, contour and position of teeth are modified. Additionally any spaces or gum levels are addressed to show what your smile could look like. It is similar to a “working model” used by architects and designers. The dentist will also take photos of you and your smile. When the mold is finished, through imaging and composite mock-ups, a smile design image is created. You can now preview your new look before any work begins.
The more a patient knows up front, the better their decisions about what is needed. Often a dental wax-up prior to beginning the new smile is critical to understanding the full treatment plan. Occasionally, certain procedures are difficult to visualize and the dentist cannot build the final product without a working model to understand the full design. The patient is better served to have this preview and the dentist has a more complete design plan with a 3-D working model.