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Porcelain Veneer Regrets: Costs Beyond the Pocketbook

Updated on December 28, 2010

The secret weapon of many Hollywood actors is a stunning mega-watt smile. True to the legacy of tinsel town, the props are fake yet still terribly expensive. Most actors get a perfect smile by visiting a top cosmetic dentist and shelling out anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 a tooth. For an in-demand actor that relies on his or her looks to get prestigious roles, it appears to be a sound investment.

Although Porcelain veneers look overdone or even phony in person, the look is alluring through a camera lens. Whether we like to admit it or not North Americans are influenced by the impossible standards of beauty imposed upon us by mass media.

Behind all those perfect smiles, there is a dark side that dentists do their best to keep hush, hush about. Getting veneers involves a highly invasive, irreversible procedure that compromises the structural integrity of teeth. Nerve damage during the procedure is not uncommon and requires root canal treatments that would otherwise be unnecessary. Worst of all the natural healing power of the teeth are disabled.

To get an idea of the obvious damage that is done, let’s take a look at the procedure. Traditionally dentists shave off about half a millimetre of the enamel to make room for placement of veneers. This may not seem like much but in actuality it is close to half the enamel on the front of a tooth. From there harsh acid is applied to the natural teeth. The surface is etched so that the special cement bonds more effectively to veneers. Temporary covers are applied while specially shaped porcelain veneers sent off to be manufactured at the lab. Later the patient returns and is fitted with the final veneers.

George Clooney before and after veneers.
George Clooney before and after veneers.

Once you get veneers there is no going back. Enamel that has been removed is gone for good. Acid that was used to etch the surface of the teeth has created irreversible damage. Tooth sensitivity may become as issue because the dentist caused nerve damage or merely because enamel was removed and the porcelain cover isn’t robust enough to shield nerve endings from the menace of a popsicle or steaming cup of coffee.

Is it worth the heavy cost to get a "perfect smile?"
Is it worth the heavy cost to get a "perfect smile?"

Another common problem that dentists fail to talk about upfront is that veneers are prone to breaking or falling off the surface of teeth. Natural tooth enamel is the hardest and most highly mineralized substance in the body. Porcelain on the other hand is extremely fragile, especially when cut so thin. Common sense tells us that a porcelain veneer that is less than a millimetre thick will inevitably need to be replaced. So the shocking sticker price of the initial procedure is actually just the beginning. Anyone with veneers is forced to deal with maintenance issues for life.

Before you start to envy a friend’s new veneers keep in the mind that there are so many potential issues lying under the surface. It is more reasonable to pity the individual because it is a short term fix that loses its lustre in time. After the honeymoon period is over a good portion of individuals come to regret getting veneers in the first place.

The Verdict

Ultimately veneers attack both your dental health and your wallet. If you have healthy teeth the drawbacks are too great as perfection is an impossible dream. Porcelain veneers are best reserved for restoring the look of problematic or broken teeth.

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    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 6 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Enjoyed this "expose" of veneers...something I've always thought I wanted ;) Goes to show that natural is usually the better option.

    • quotations profile image

      Robert P 7 years ago from Canada

      Interesting article. Do you have an opinion about a product called Lumineers (I think) which the company says is reversible and does not damage the tooth?

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      dentists Miami Florida  7 years ago

      Veneers are not only for whitening teeth. If you have a veneer on the surface of a tooth, it will protect the damage and the surface of your tooth. That's why some of us prefer to have veneers on their teeth.

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