The tales and anecdotes of what really goes into getting a set of veneers—thin porcelains shells that are adhered to your teeth to mask imperfections and make them whiter, straighter and prettier—range from having no original tooth left (under the veneers) to being able to slack off on taking care of your teeth and pretty much everything in between. But, truth be told, none of them are actually true. To set the record straight, we went to the experts to separate fact from fiction and find out what really happens when you get veneers.
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You Can’t Get Veneers On The Spot
Getting veneers is a multistep, time-consuming process—you can’t walk into your dentist’s office and expect to walk out with a brand new smile that same day. “A smile analysis needs to be done so your dentist can confirm you’re a candidate for veneers. There are times when veneers aren’t the only solution and other procedures can achieve a similar effect,” says New York cosmetic dentist Emanuel Layliev, DDS. “You should discuss with your dentist what you like and don’t like about your smile and what you hope to achieve with veneers.”
Your New Smile Is Made Exactly How You Want It
One of the best things about veneers is that they can be customized to your liking. Whatever you don’t like about your teeth can be minimized or changed. To create the perfect result, your bite, enamel thickness and pulp tissue all need to be measured and taken into consideration so your dentist can craft your veneers to be flattering to your smile. These factors play an important role so that the thickness of your veneers is just right for a natural result.
You Have to Wear a “Trial Smile”
Unlike the final thing, your temporary veneers are adhered to your teeth with a temporary bonding cement so you can get an idea as to how your new smile will look and feel once it’s complete. “A trial smile is offered to show you what your new smile can look like so there are no surprises after the initial procedure. It is done quickly and usually only needs to be work for a few days,” says New York cosmetic dentist Irwin Smigel, DDS. During the trial smile period (the teeth will look natural) is the time to make any final tweaks to your veneers.
Your Natural Teeth Exist, but They’re Thinner and Smaller
In order for veneers to fit and hold on to your teeth, Miami cosmetic dentist Ryan Ziegler, DMD, says your natural teeth need to be slightly reduced. “It varies as to how much reduction is needed for each patient, but I try to keep it to a minimum.” Chances are, your teeth won’t be filed down to the width of a toothpick. “Porcelain veneers are an irreversible procedure, which is why it’s important to be in the hands of an experienced cosmetic dentist. Prior to bonding the veneers onto the teeth, I place them in position for my patients’ final approval,” adds Dr. Ziegler.
The Process Isn’t as Painful as You May Think
It’s not that getting veneers is an excruciatingly painful procedure, but there may be some discomfort. “A patient should never feel any pain during the procedure. We carefully numb all the required areas we are working topically before going ahead with Novocain,” says Dr. Layliev. “Nitrous oxide can also be used during the treatment to calm and soothe the patient, and in some instances, Valium is used, too.” He adds that it’s not atypical to feel some sensitivity along the gumline on the day of treatment, but it should subside with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
You May Have to Have Them Replaced
While veneers are a long-term option (you can get 10 to 20 years out of them) they won’t last forever. “How long they last will depend on how well you take care of your teeth,” says Wellington, FL, cosmetic dentist Sam Sadati, DDS. After years of wear and tear, the porcelain may become worn down, chipped or broken, which means it’s time to replace them (you probably won’t have to replace every veneer at once). “If there is gum recession around the teeth, there may be a discrepancy in color or shape if the natural tooth is dark and your veneers are not.”