Porcelain veneers (also referred to as dental laminates), are wafer-thin shells made out of dental ceramic that are bonded onto the front side of teeth.
They’re generally about .5 to .6 mm thick. That’s about 1/2 the thickness of a dime or twice the thickness of an eggshell.
What are they used for?
The primary function of veneers is improving the appearance of teeth. You can think of placing one as a way of resurfacing a tooth.
Porcelain laminates are routinely used to make color, shape and position adjustments.
So teeth that are discolored, worn, chipped, malformed, have spaces between them or are slightly misaligned, as well as those that have any combination of these problems, can all be improved.
Veneers are usually an elective procedure.
In most cases laminates are placed at the patient’s discretion solely to enhance the appearance of their teeth, as opposed to improving them structurally or to prevent their further deterioration.
Why do they work?
You might wonder how a wafer-thin shell of porcelain can successfully withstand all of the wear and tear that it’s ultimately exposed too. The answer lies in these two facts:
- Although porcelain is inherently brittle and is easily fractured if dropped or flexed, when it’s firmly bonded to a sturdy substructure (its tooth) it’s supported in a manner that avoids these weaknesses. (Minimal flexure occurs. Forces directed to it are passed onto and withstood by the strong, rigid tooth structure underneath.)
- The hard, ceramic (glass-like) nature of a veneer creates a very durable surface. (It’s impervious to the compounds it is exposed to and resists wear well.)
How do they work?
The way porcelain laminates are attached to teeth is really just an extension of the science of tooth bonding.
With that process, a series of steps are used to create a strong bond between dental composite (tooth-colored filling material) and a tooth’s enamel.
When veneers are placed, similar steps and materials are used but this time establishing a strong bond between enamel and porcelain.
The net result is one where the bonding acts as a layer of cement sandwiched between the veneer and its tooth, thus anchoring the restoration firmly in place.