Porcelain veneers, otherwise termed dental veneers, are wafer-thin shells of porcelain that are bonded onto the front side of teeth to create a cosmetic improvement for the tooth. Porcelain veneers are regularly used by dentists as a way to make cosmetic changes for teeth that are discoloured, worn, chipped, or skew.

What is the dental science associated with porcelain veneers?

The porcelain veneer technique is a subsidiary of the basic science of cosmetic dental bonding. Dentists have had materials available to them for years that are capable of creating a stubborn bond with tooth enamel. Porcelain veneer technique utilizes the bonding potential of these materials to firmly attach a thin shell of porcelain (the porcelain veneer) to a tooth. Although porcelain is naturally brittle, when it is firmly bonded to a strong substructure (a tooth) it becomes very strong and resilient.

What are some of the advantages of porcelain veneers over other types of cosmetic dental procedures?

One of the greatest advantages of porcelain veneers over other types of cosmetic dental bonding is: Porcelain veneers create a very life-like tooth appearance.

You might be surprised to learn that while a large portion of every tooth is composed of dental enamel, teeth are not solid enamel. The enamel component of a tooth is actually an outer encasement. The hard tooth tissue that lies underneath a tooth’s enamel layer is called “dentin.”

One possession of tooth enamel is that it’s transparent. This means that when light strikes a tooth’s surface it is not immediately reflected off, but instead penetrates into its enamel layer. Once the light has passed through the full thickness of the enamel it reflects off the solid (non-transparent) tooth dentin that lies underneath, and then back out of the tooth. This manner of handling light and the transparency effect of a tooth’s enamel, is an important aspect of what give teeth their characteristic radiant appearance.

In the past, the only cosmetic surgery materials that dentists had available to them were semi-translucent. This meant that most of the light that struck a repaired tooth would not pierce into the bonding but instead be reflected off its outer surface. The result was that while the bonding did give the tooth an improved appearance, there was no sense of translucency.

Cosmetic dental bonding materials have the weakness of being prone to staining and discoloring. This is particularly true when they are used in conjunction with individuals whose consumption habits include the use of tea, coffee, red wine, and tobacco products.

However, a significant advantage of placing porcelain veneers as opposed to cosmetic dental bonding is that a porcelain veneer’s surface is exactly that, porcelain. Since porcelain is a ceramic, and therefore glass-like, a veneer’s porcelain surface will be extremely stain resistant.