Choosing to have teeth veneers to give you a winning smile is the easiest decision you’ll ever make.

They can be life-changing.

The tricky part is whether to opt for composite or porcelain to give you the result that you want. For starters what actually is composite? And how will they look when they’re finished? How long do they last? And are you suitable?

There’s a whole host of questions you should be asking before you opt for either composite or porcelain to ensure you have the teeth veneers right for you.

In this article, we’ll look at what teeth veneers are and compare composite and porcelain to ensure you make the perfect choice.

What are teeth veneers?

illustration of teeth veneers

A veneer is a coating which sticks over the front surface of your tooth to change the appearance of your smile. It completely covers the surface and can make your teeth whiter, brighter, bigger, or even rounder… you get the point.

Think of having teeth veneers on your tooth like acrylics placed over your nails.

They’re a highly effective cosmetic treatment to correct:

  1. Mildly crowded teeth
  2. Chipped teeth
  3. Discoloured teeth, especially if teeth whitening doesn’t work
  4. Spaced teeth

As we’ve mentioned you can generally get your teeth veneers made from two materials; porcelain or composite.

What is composite?

Composite is a tooth coloured resin material. Before it’s placed in your mouth it resembles plasticine, it’s soft and mouldable.

The soft composite (Everglow for example) is placed on your tooth directly by your dentist and moulded into the correct shape. It’s then set with a blue light to make it hard and tooth-like.

Your dentist sculpts and polishes composite teeth veneers as you sit there.

What is porcelain?

photo of porcelain teeth veneers

Porcelain veneers are bespoke-made shells of high strength porcelain which are stuck onto the fronts of your teeth using special dental cement.

These are fabricated in a dental laboratory, not directly by the dentist.

Composite vs. Porcelain? Let’s compare the pros and cons of teeth veneers:

illustration of boxers to demonstrate composite vs porcelain teeth veneers

Process:

Whether you’re opting for composite or porcelain it’s incredibly important to see a dentist for a consultation first. The dentist needs to see your teeth and make sure you’re suitable for the procedure, then advise you what your best option is.

Equally importantly, you need to make sure you’re happy in the dentist’s hands.

The long term success of veneers depends partly on precision accuracy by your dentist and this comes with training, so choose carefully.  (The success, more importantly, is down to you looking after them properly, but we’ll come to that later).

So let’s say you opt for composite teeth veneers. Then what?

Composite veneers can normally be completed in one visit.

Your dentist will normally place a blue sheet over the teeth being treated to ensure there’s no water contamination. They’ll then ‘shampoo’ and ‘condition’ your teeth before placing the plasticine composite and moulding it. They’ll then use a blue light to set the plasticine into a hard tooth. Once the composite is added your dentist will shape and polish the composite to make it blend perfectly with your teeth.

Composite veneers are a type of composite bonding.

Porcelain veneers are completed over two appointments.

On the first appointment, your dentist may need to ‘prepare’ your teeth slightly for the veneers. This may mean shaping the outside enamel layer of your tooth. They will then take a mould of your teeth to send to the technician, who will make the veneers.

Your dentist will normally place a temporary veneer while you wait a week or so for the permanent veneers to be manufactured.

At the second appointment, your dentist will remove the temporary veneers and cement the permanent ones.

One big advantage about composite is that local anaesthetic usually isn’t required as there’s rarely any preparation of your teeth needed.

‘Prepless veneers’ are also a possibility, whereby no preparation of your tooth enamel is needed. This would depend on each case individually but if your dentist is able to complete them without preparation then they generally will.

Appearance

The visual quality of your veneers is greatly down to the dentist or technician behind them.

Great workmanship equals beautiful veneers no matter which material is used.

There’s an incredible amount of technical skill attached to placing a composite veneer to get both the shape and the colour matching your surrounding teeth.

Top tip: never pick a colour blind dentist or you’ll be in trouble.

The great thing about composite is it can be added to and changed. So if you decide you’d like your veneer slightly rounder or longer you can do this easily.

Porcelain veneers are designed and manufactured to match the natural translucency of your teeth.

Once a porcelain veneer is cemented it isn’t coming back out. Your dentist will make sure it fits perfectly before being glued in but always check in the mirror that you’re happy before they’re stuck, else you’ll be stuck later on.

For many years porcelain teeth veneers were considered a higher quality finish than composite, but I believe that if you find a dentist skilled in composites they can now create both equally impressively.

Cost

Composite veneers generally will cost less than porcelain. Composite is applied directly by your dentist while you’re in the chair and not prefabricated by a technician. This keeps the price of veneers down.

In the case of porcelain teeth veneers, although your dentist will prepare your teeth and take the moulds for porcelain veneers, they are not the ones making them. Like Santa’s elves, there are incredibly skilled technicians which use the moulds and hand manufacture bespoke veneers designed perfectly for your teeth. This is why there’s extra cost involved.

Composite veneers usually start at around £300+ per tooth, whereas porcelain can start at £400 +.

Life span

photo of a clock to illustrate teeth veneers lifespan

This is one category where porcelain wins hands down.

Porcelain and composite teeth veneers have different lifespans.

Porcelain is stronger, and both more durable and wear resistant than composite veneers. Well maintained porcelain veneers can last between 10-15 years.

Composite, in contrast, can be expected to last between 5-7 years.

To improve longevity both materials need to be well looked after by yourself and your dentist. At the end of the day, they’re not teeth, and will never be as strong. Things like biting your nails, grinding and poor oral hygiene can shorten their life span.

Breakage and maintenance

Whereas porcelain will last longer overall, fixability is where composite has a major advantage.

A broken composite tooth veneer can be added to and fixed with ease. Your dentist will have written down in your notes the colours used to make up your veneers and can match it seamlessly when it’s added to.

Porcelain is less easy and this is one of main the porcelain veneer disadvantages.

Think of dropping a porcelain mug on the floor. It usually breaks into loads of pieces and cannot be glued back together. You’re not drinking out of it again.

It’s the same if a porcelain veneer breaks. You will have to pay for a completely new one.

So, porcelain breakages are more costly than composite, but bear in mind they happen less often.

If the costs concern you, remember composite is cheaper initially but can have half the life span.

Although composites can be fixed, they have an issue with staining. All composite veneers eventually stain around the edges. This isn’t a problem with porcelain.

To make them last just use your common sense. If you’re doing something with your teeth other than eating food then you shouldn’t be. Biting pens or nails, opening bottles with your teeth and slicing sellotape are a big no.

It’s also best to avoid biting directly on hard food or biting into chicken drumsticks for example. This can make your veneers flex, and if they flex repeatedly they’ll flick off, or worse break.

You should also maintain regular check-ups with your dentist and ensure you are following their cleaning advice at home.

So which teeth veneers are best for you? Composite or Porcelain?

The decision must be a joint one between you and your dentist.

Your dentist will inform you of the pros and cons of both, potential problems with veneers specific to you and your overall suitability. It then depends on the factors we’ve talked about above. What you want to pay, how much maintenance you’re prepared to accept and how much time you can put aside for the treatment will all affect your decision.

If you have any specific questions your dentist will be always happy to answer them, or if you live in the Bournemouth and Poole area scroll down to contact me.


AUTHOR

Dr Gareth Edwards Dentist AuthorDr Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS RCPS (Glasg) is a Bournemouth & Poole based dentist who qualified with honours. He has a keen interest in aesthetic dentistry and orthodontics and is a certified Invisalign and Six Month Smiles provider. For more information click here.

 

 

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