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Porcelain crowns and veneers are both extremely popular cosmetic dentistry procedures, frequently providing the ideal solution for people seeking to perfect the appearance of their smile. Good cosmetic dentistry aims to ensure your teeth look their very best without making it obvious you have had any dental work.
Ideally, people will notice a subtle change but won’t entirely be sure why, and perhaps it is due at least in part to your increased self-confidence and self-esteem. But, what is the difference between porcelain crowns and porcelain veneers? Both are very different and are suitable for specific situations. Often during a comprehensive smile makeover, your dentist may recommend using a combination of both techniques.
Porcelain veneers consist of a thin layer of durable ceramic material and are custom-made to fit tightly over the front surface of a tooth. The veneer essentially replaces a layer of tooth enamel, and it’s easiest to imagine it as acting like a false fingernail or a contact lens. Before you can have a porcelain veneer, it’s usually necessary for your dentist to reduce the front surface of the tooth by at least 0.5 mm. Removing a small amount of tooth structure provides enough room to ensure the porcelain veneer looks and feels incredibly natural, enhancing and perfecting the overall shape and appearance of the tooth.
When to Have Porcelain Veneers
Porcelain veneers are an excellent choice when a tooth requires aesthetic improvements. For example, you may wish to have a porcelain veneer if a tooth is badly stained or is an undesirable color that cannot be rectified with tooth whitening. Porcelain veneers can change the overall shape and size of a tooth and can mend small cracks, chips, and worn areas in the tooth. They can even improve the overall alignment of a tooth, so for example, if you have a tooth that is slightly protrusive or rotated, a porcelain veneer can help to correct its position. Small unsightly spaces in between teeth can be minimized or closed with porcelain veneers.
Is There Any Downside to Choosing This Treatment?
Often, porcelain veneers are used to create beautiful and more perfect smiles, but one thing to bear in mind is that treatment is usually irreversible. When any tooth structure is removed, it cannot regrow naturally and will always need to be artificially replaced to protect the tooth. Although porcelain veneers are strong and durable, they will eventually need replacing but could last for 10 years or more.
Additionally, removing any tooth structure can increase the risk of infection and decay in the future, and especially if the veneer begins to leak. Regular dental checkups and hygiene appointments help to prolong the natural life of dental veneers and ensure that your dentist can assess the fit and function of the veneers so that any that are beginning to leak or fail are replaced to continue protecting your teeth. An alternative is to consider what are called no-prep veneers.
As their name suggests, no-prep veneers or prep-less veneers do not require any modifications to your teeth. Instead, the veneers are custom-made to fit over the natural tooth surface without removing any tooth enamel. These veneers use a special type of porcelain that is exceptionally strong, and they can last 20 years or more. Typically, these types of veneers are only 0.3 mm in thickness, which is why it’s possible to make and fit them without any tooth modifications. However, they are only suitable for specific situations, and your dentist can advise you if they are the best choice to perfect your smile.
A porcelain crown covers or ‘caps’ your natural tooth entirely, so none of its original structure is visible above the gum level. It protects the remaining part of the tooth as it is usually used when a tooth is very badly damaged and where much of its original structure is missing. This could happen if you have a severely decayed tooth, or where a tooth has taken a blow which has badly chipped or cracked it. In these cases, a veneer or a dental filling wouldn’t be substantial enough to restore the tooth’s original shape and strength completely, but modern crowns are extremely strong and durable so you can eat whatever you like.
Just like veneers, crowns can significantly improve the overall appearance of a tooth, changing its shape or color, and crowns can restore teeth worn down by bruxism or which have been damaged by enamel erosion. Often, a dental crown is a final stage for root canal therapy.
When to Have Porcelain Crowns
Porcelain crowns are needed if you wish to restore severely damaged teeth or teeth that already have large fillings, and they are a durable and long-lasting restoration. The most aesthetically pleasing crowns can be entirely metal-free and are frequently made from a strong material called zirconia, which looks and feel pleasingly natural. Zirconia is highly suitable for people with bruxism, and where they clench and grind their teeth. These crowns can restore teeth worn down by clenching and grinding and zirconia is very biocompatible so it will not damage the opposing teeth.
Is There Any Downside to Choosing This Treatment?
Your dentist will only recommend full dental crowns if you have teeth that will benefit from being covered up entirely. Many of today’s modern crowns are precision-made using the very latest CADCAM technology, providing the ultimate protection for your teeth combined with excellent aesthetics. As with any type of dental treatment, regular checkups and cleanings are essential, as is an excellent oral hygiene routine. When you look after your teeth, it’s difficult to see any real downside with this treatment because it preserves and protects them!
Both porcelain veneers and crowns can be used as stand-alone procedures or in conjunction with other treatments. For example, these treatments can work well with teeth whitening, where your teeth are whitened first so your new restorations can be precisely matched to the brighter and whiter color of your teeth. Your dentist should recommend the treatments that will provide you with the most conservative results, protecting and preserving your natural teeth and only removing a minimal amount of tooth structure when absolutely necessary.