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Freshen your smile with dental veneers

Just as new siding can freshen the appearance of your home or a slipcover can give an old sofa a new look, dental veneers can breathe new life into your smile.

Essentially, veneers are like siding or slipcovers for your teeth: they create a fresh, new surface that is more aesthetically pleasing than the old one. Consider veneers if your teeth are slightly chipped or badly stained (beyond the help of teeth whitening products and procedures), or if they are not uniform in appearance (for example, if some are noticeably shorter or narrower than others).

How do tooth veneers work?

Tooth veneers are thin shells of porcelain or composite materials that adhere to the front surface of a tooth, altering its appearance (size, length, color, shape or some combination of these).

Usually, veneers are used only on the teeth that show when a person speaks or smiles. They also are generally applied in sets, since it can be difficult to match a single veneer to the shape and color of the surrounding natural teeth.

Dental veneers can cover chips or breaks, correct length or width variations and create a brighter, whiter appearance. They do not correct underlying problems in tooth structure, however, and they rely on the health and strength of the underlying tooth for support. Thus, veneers should not be applied to teeth that have been damaged or discolored by a more serious problem, such as a tooth or gum infection, or in cases where damage to the tooth has compromised the strength of its root or the underlying bone.

In other words, tooth veneers are purely cosmetic. You don't expect a slipcover to make the sofa more comfortable to sit on, so you shouldn't expect cosmetic veneers to make your teeth healthier.

How much do cosmetic veneers cost?

The actual cost of veneers depends on the number and type of veneers being applied. Porcelain veneers are more expensive than composite ones, but they tend to provide a more natural appearance.

In general, expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars per tooth — and don't expect your dental insurance to cover it, either. Because veneers are a cosmetic dental procedure, most dental health insurance plans consider it an optional procedure and exclude it from coverage. However, many dentists provide payment plans for expensive procedures, and your dentist may be willing to give you a discount if you're getting veneers on both your upper and lower teeth.

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