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Which is Better for Crooked Teeth - Caps or Veneers?

Updated on July 13, 2011

What are Veneers?

Dental veneers refer to a thin layer of restorative material that is placed over a tooth to improve its aesthetics. They are constructed from either one of two materials – porcelain or composite. To place veneers onto teeth, there is little preparation and removal of natural tooth structure required. At most, the tooth surface is roughened to improve the bond between the veneer and the teeth. As far as restorative dental treatments go, the placement of veneers would be considered minimally invasive.

Although veneers are generally thin in nature, the use of veneers to correct crooked teeth may involve the placement of thicker layers of restorative material in order to achieve a proper aesthetic alignment of the teeth.

What are Caps?

Caps, or crowns, are essentially that – a tooth-shaped cover that completely encases a tooth.  Generally recommended for teeth that are badly damaged or structurally weakened, the placement of crowns are known to be extremely invasive of natural tooth structure.  In order to place a crown over an existing tooth, sufficient tooth structure must first be removed to make way for the crown.  If veneers are minimally invasive, then crowns would be on the opposite end of the treatment spectrum for invasiveness.

Which is better for correcting crooked teeth?

Whenever any form of dental treatment is required, the general recommendation has always been to take the least aggressive option. This is because dental treatment, no matter how well designed or placed, comes with a shelf life. Although the shelf-life largely depends on the patient’s continued maintenance of the mouth, no artificial replacement made for the mouth can ever match the structure and integrity of original tooth structure.

When treatment undertaken is purely for cosmetic purposes, such as in the case of correcting crooked teeth, there is even less reason to select the more aggressive option. Ideally, crooked teeth should be addressed with braces (orthodontics), which is the least invasive of all treatments dealing with the correction of malaligned teeth. However, treatment with braces usually takes at minimum a year and some individuals dislike having to wear them for such a long period of time.

Therefore, between the options to place veneers versus crowns for the correction of crooked teeth, veneers would be generally be the recommended course of action to take. This is especially so if the individual in question has a generally intact arch with sound teeth. To destroy good tooth structure only to be replaced with a crown for no other purpose other than a cosmetic one would be unnecessarily aggressive. As all dental work will not last indefinitely, there will come a time when a replacement is necessary. Such replacements will only result in further removal of sound tooth structure which propagates the continued destruction of the tooth.

Additionally, crowns increase the number of tooth-restorative margins in the mouth and these are often a site of weakness that is more susceptible to bacterial penetration which can lead to tooth decay. If the malalignment of teeth is severe, it would mean the placement of several crowns, meaning even more tooth-restorative margins in the mouth.

There are situations when crowns might be a better option to veneers, such as the case where an individual also presents with badly decayed teeth that already require crowning. However, assuming the individual has no other oral conditions present and that the teeth are generally healthy, veneers are preferred over crowns.

Before making such decisions, however, it is preferable to see your dentist for a full dental check-up and have your dentist present all the options to you based on the current situation in your mouth. You can then make a proper decision by weighing up the pros and cons based on the state of your mouth rather than on a situation that is purely hypothetical and possibly irrelevant to your current oral condition.

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      Eddie Storms 7 years ago

      In my wife's case, her cosmetic dentist in Atlanta, GA recommended veneers instead of crowns. He said that her teeth were only crooked but not damaged, so they didn't need caps. Veneers are mainly for aesthetic purposes anyway, and that's just what my wife needed. You're right, it depends on what your teeth needs and not what you want. Thanks for the reminder! Great hub.

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