Porcelain veneers – or to use the more up-to-date term, ceramic veneers – are the most durable thing of beauty that dentistry can provide for improving the appearance and function of teeth – whether it be their length, shape, proportion, surface texture, or colour and brightness, or any combination of these.
A little background
Porcelain veneers were introduced to dentistry in the mid-1980s.They were secured by powerful resin bonding, with both the porcelain and the tooth enamel having first been specially treated. Since the 1980s, the designs and techniques have been significantly improved, and lithium disilicate ceramic is now the material being commonly used in the manufacture of dental veneers. This material is two and a half times stronger than the porcelain used originally, and it’s just as beautiful.
Now to the question of how long they will last?
When people ask how long their veneers will last, I suspect they are actually asking a more specific question. Here are some examples.
Can they break?
It takes quite a lot to break ceramic veneers, but yes, it can happen – just as it can with unrestored teeth. Veneers can chip or fracture if subjected to trauma or other structural overload. Just like tooth enamel, they can still wear or become damaged if subjected to the destructive forces of a grinding or clenching habit.
Can they come off?
In dentistry, only a fool says never. The best answer is rarely. When a ceramic veneer does become detached, one cause can be an error in materials handling or performance. More commonly, though, the cause is a failure of the veneer to bond to the tooth due to insufficient dental enamel, suggesting that a veneer may not have been the most appropriate choice of restoration in the first place.
Will my veneers always look the same as they did on the day they were first placed?
Pretty much. However, some people do eventually reach a point – after years, maybe even decades – where they are no longer happy with their veneers and want them renewed. Over time, gums often recede. Veneer join lines (margins), at first hidden at the gum edge, may become visible. Sometimes accumulated stain at the margin line that was previously hidden can become evident.
Patients who have elected to have veneers made with a significantly different brightness level or colour can become disappointed to see re-emergence of their underlying darker tooth enamel as their gums recede. When the brightness disparity is greater, this problem emerges sooner, perhaps resulting in a shorter effective restoration lifespan. Dental ceramic is very colour-stable, yet over the years our own tooth material darkens and often becomes more translucent. As the years pass, unveneered teeth may look increasingly different from their veneered neighbours, and in time this may trigger a wish for replacement.
To sum up
In a nutshell, no other technique can deliver, with the same balance of durability and maximal retention of original tooth material, all the dental enhancements provided by ceramic veneers.
I placed ceramic veneers on my mum’s two middle front teeth some time in the mid-1980s, not long after the technique became known. For many years now, I have hidden my joins deeper between the teeth than is shown here. This photo was taken in 2009, indicating a potential lifespan of at least 2.5 decades.
Porcelain veneers had been placed for this man when he was in his late teens. He came to me in his early 30s wanting them replaced. Only one had failed in a structural sense. While a certain lack of artistry and technical skill on the part of the dental team would have been evident from Day 1, perhaps the main “fault” leading to a request for replacement is that the position of the gum margin receded in the intervening years.
Now, with six new ceramic veneers placed by me at Smile Solutions, he may still feel the need to renew them once or twice more in his lifetime.
This lady was unhappy with her smile. We performed some laser gum realignment, then made four veneers.
Her ceramic veneers – durable beauty. She can expect many years’ service from them. Even so, one day, long into the future, she may feel the need to replace them.