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Porcelain Veneers vs. Composite Veneers

If you want to cover up tooth stains, gaps, minor damage or other aspects of your smile you're not happy with, your dentist might suggest dental veneers as an option. Veneers are thin coverings that can replace the front surface of your teeth to give you a whiter or more even smile.

If you are interested in dental veneers, the decisions don't end there. The two most common types of dental veneers are porcelain veneers and composite veneers. Both options have their advantages, depending on what you want from the treatment and how much you can afford to spend.

Read this short guide for an overview of the pros and cons of porcelain vs composite veneers. Your dentist will make sure you have all the information you need to decide which type of veneers is best for you.

Who can have veneers?

You may be suitable for dental veneers if you want to correct:

  • stained or discoloured teeth
  • chipped or cracked teeth
  • slightly misaligned or misshapen teeth
  • gaps between teeth

Veneers are a cosmetic dental treatment, so they're generally recommended for aesthetic rather than functional benefits. While they can help to repair minor tooth damage and can straighten slightly crooked teeth, your dentist may recommend other dental or orthodontic treatments for more serious problems.

Your dentist needs to complete an oral health assessment before they can tell if you're suitable for veneers. You may not be eligible if:

  • you have an oral health problem such as tooth decay or gum disease, which can cause veneers to come loose
  • you grind or clench your teeth while sleeping or feeling stressed, which can cause veneers to chip, crack or detach
  • you have thin or sensitive teeth, as preparation for veneers may cause teeth to feel more sensitive

Porcelain veneers

Porcelain veneers are ceramic restorations that are designed by dentists to look just like natural teeth. Your dentist can choose a shade of ceramic that matches your natural tooth colour or something lighter if you want to take the opportunity to whiten your smile.

How are porcelain veneers made?

The first stage of veneer treatment involves removing a thin layer of tooth enamel or buffing the front of the tooth, so your veneers won't stick out. Local anaesthetic may be used during this part of the treatment to help relieve any pain.

Once your tooth or teeth have been prepared, your dentist will take impressions of them. These impressions are used to design your custom veneers for a perfect fit. Your porcelain veneers will then be made in a dental lab, which can take one or more weeks, or they may be produced in the dental clinic on the same day using CEREC computer-aided design and manufacturing technology.

While you're waiting for your veneers to be made, your dentist can provide temporary veneers to cover your teeth. These are less strong than permanent veneers, so you need to take extra care to avoid damaging them. Once your porcelain veneers are ready, your dentist will check that they fit perfectly, make any final adjustments and cement them to your teeth.

Pros of porcelain veneers

  • Stronger and longer lasting
  • More natural appearance
  • Can treat a wider range of issues
  • You don't need to change your diet

Cons of porcelain veneers

  • More expensive than composite veneers
  • May require several appointments
  • Treatment is not reversible

Composite veneers

Composite veneers are made from a composite resin of plastic, glass and other materials. Like ceramic, the colour of this resin can be adjusted to match your natural tooth shade or for whiter teeth.

How are composite veneers made?

Unlike porcelain veneers that are made outside the mouth and later bonded to the teeth, composite resin is applied directly to tooth surfaces in layers. Each layer is hardened using a UV light or laser until the veneer is fully formed, then shaped and polished by your dentist. This means that composite veneers can usually be completed in a single appointment, depending on how many teeth are being treated.

Less tooth preparation is needed for composite veneers, but their surface may still be buffed and etched to help the resin to bond. Local anaesthetic may be used to numb your mouth during preparation, but isn't needed while the veneers are being sculpted.

Pros of composite veneers

  • Cheaper than porcelain veneers
  • Less enamel removed from your teeth
  • Same day treatment

Cons of composite veneers

  • More prone to damage and stains
  • You may be advised to avoid some food and drink
  • Need to be replaced sooner

What's the best type of veneers?

The best veneers for you depend on what results you want from your new smile, how much you want to spend and other considerations. The 6 main points to consider when comparing veneer options are:

  • Appearance
  • Strength
  • Lifespan
  • Versatility
  • Treatment time
  • Cost

Appearance

Pick: Porcelain veneers

Both porcelain ceramic and composite resin can create lifelike tooth aesthetics, but porcelain's translucent properties give it the edge. These veneers catch and reflect light in the same way as tooth enamel, while composite veneers have a duller finish.

Porcelain is also more resistant to stains than the more porous surface of resin. This means these veneers can retain their appearance for longer and you won't have to avoid common sources of stains such as tea, coffee, wine and sauces. It's still advisable to avoid stains generally, as the teeth around your veneers may discolour.

Strength

Pick: Porcelain veneers

Developments in composite resin mean that these veneers are now stronger than they used to be, but they're still no match for the strength and durability of porcelain.

When bonded to a healthy tooth, a porcelain veneer will be resistant to chipping and cracking, though it's still important to protect your teeth and veneers by:

  • avoiding biting down on anything too hard
  • not grinding or clenching your teeth
  • maintaining good oral hygiene
  • wearing a custom mouthguard if you play sports

Lifespan

Pick: Porcelain veneers

As well as being more resistant to damage, porcelain veneers can also last for twice as long as composite veneers before they need to be replaced. The average lifespan of porcelain veneers is 7 to 15 years, compared to 4 to 8 years for composite. Your dentist can arrange a repeat treatment to help you maintain your new smile.

On the other hand, composite veneers may be repaired if damaged, while a chipped or cracked porcelain veneer will need to be fully replaced.

Versatility

Pick: Porcelain veneers

Porcelain veneers can treat a wider range of conditions than composite, from rebuilding worn enamel to straightening crooked teeth. Composite veneers can still treat a number of aesthetic concerns, but they won't usually be viable for more severe discolouration or closing more widely spaced teeth.

One option that composite veneers do offer over porcelain is reversibility. As less enamel is removed from the teeth, you may not need to continue replacing composite veneers if you decide you no longer want them in the future. Porcelain veneers require more preparation of the underlying teeth, which can leave them sensitive and fragile if veneers aren't present.

Treatment time

Pick: Composite veneers

Direct composite bonding can usually be completed in a single visit to the dentist, depending on how many veneers you need. Porcelain veneers typically involve two or more appointments, as impressions need to be made of your mouth and the veneers need to be custom made before finally being bonded to your teeth.

However, porcelain veneers may also be a same day procedure for dental clinics equipped with CEREC CAD/CAM technology. This can be used to design and manufacture ceramic restorations on site during your appointment.

Cost

Pick: Composite veneers

Composite veneers cost around half as much as porcelain, but they also last half as long, meaning they're likely to need replacing sooner and the cost of veneers can balance out over time.

As veneers are a cosmetic procedure, they're not normally covered by health insurance or subsidised by benefits. If you're concerned about not being able to afford veneers, you can check whether your dentist offers any special discounts on veneers or interest-free payment plans to help you pay for your treatment in instalments.

What are my other options?

Dental veneers might not always be the best option for changing your smile. Depending on what you want to achieve, your dentist may also recommend:

  • Teeth whitening using bleaching gels applied at home or by a dentist
  • Dental crowns to cover a weak, damaged or misshapen tooth
  • Orthodontics using braces or aligners to straighten teeth and close gaps

Your dentist will make sure you know the pros, cons and costs involved for all procedures so you can make well-informed decisions.

Book a consultation for veneers in Sydney CBD

To find out more about porcelain vs composite veneers or other ways to improve your smile, make an appointment with our experienced dentists at Sydney CBD Dental.

Call (02) 9232 3900 or book online and we'll make sure you know all your options.

References

Healthdirect. Veneers [Online] 2018 [Accessed October 2020] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/veneers