What is the difference between porcelain veneers and composite white fillings?

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Specialist Prosthodontist
Prosthodontic Care
BDSc (Melb), MDSc (Melb)

In cosmetic dentistry, stained, discoloured and mildly crooked teeth can be corrected using porcelain veneers or composite white fillings (or composite veneers), especially if patients do not want to have orthodontic treatment with braces. These treatments can also be used to increase the length and size of small teeth.

Both composite and porcelain veneers involve placing tooth-coloured material over the front surface of the tooth to improve its shape, colour and overall appearance.

“White fillings” are made of composite resin and are directly placed on the tooth and cured (set) with a blue light. These composite resin veneers can improve the appearance of teeth significantly and normally last 3 to 5 years. However, being more porous than porcelain veneers, they can stain and chip over time and may require regular polishing to address this spoiling. The larger the restoration and the greater the number of restorations, the more challenging it is for your prosthodontist to control the size, shape and colour of your veneers using direct composite fillings. If many teeth, or large portions of teeth, are involved porcelain veneers may be the preferred option.

Porcelain veneers are made of very thin slices of porcelain that are glazed with a very life-like lustre and appearance. They are more stain-resistant than composite veneers and reflect light like natural teeth. Porcelain veneers are cemented to the outside surface of the teeth. In some cases where the face, lips and cheeks allow, the teeth do not need to be prepared (ground). In other cases, the teeth need be slightly reduced; otherwise the veneers can be too prominent.

An accurate impression of the prepared teeth is taken and sent to a laboratory to hand-fabricate the custom-made veneers. Technology is always improving and we now have veneer materials that are 3 to 4 times stronger than the traditional porcelain veneer material. Temporary, plastic veneers may be placed during the fabrication process. The final veneers are then tried in the mouth and checked for accurate fitting as well as shape and colour. If everyone is happy, the veneers are cemented in place with a strong bonding resin cement and your beautiful smile is complete!

Beware of cheap imitations as poorly fitting veneers can cause gum problems, including bleeding, and promote dental decay. They can sometimes also look unsightly and unnatural if not designed and fabricated to the highest standard. A lot of the success of veneers depends on the ability of the prosthodontist to preserve tooth structure and at the same time mimic nature.

At the end of treatment, a splint or night guard is often suggested after any veneer treatment to protect the new restorations from tooth grinding at night time.

 

 

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