Crowns Versus Veneers: What is Right for You?

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HOW TO CHOOSE BETWEEN CROWNS AND VENEERS?

What will fix that stubborn stain that just won’t budge? How about that snaggletooth on the bottom—the one that also has a chip in it from that time you fell at the lake as a kid.

You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers. But while you do your research, keep in mind that your dentist’s expertise and recommendations will be what ultimately informs which procedure you have.

During your initial appointment, your dentist will perform a dental exam to gain a complete picture of your current oral health. Based on their findings and your smile goals, they will then create a treatment plan that best suits your dental needs.

Both crowns and veneers can remedy a variety of dental issues from restoring function to the purely cosmetic. Which procedure will be the right fit for you depends on the health of your teeth, the location of the problem, and even your habits.

Here’s what you need to know to get a general idea of whether crowns or veneers will be right for you and your dental needs.

WHAT ARE CROWNS AND VENEERS?

A dental crown, also called a cap, is a tooth-shaped dental prosthetic that sits over a natural tooth, completely covering it. The natural tooth must be shaped into a post that acts as an anchor point for the crown to be securely placed. Crowns are either made up of all-ceramic, all metal, or porcelain fused to metal (commonly referred to as PFM). Dental crowns are typically partially covered, if not fully, by dental insurance plans as they are a part of many restorative procedures.

Veneers, sometimes called porcelain laminates, are a thin, shell-like piece of porcelain that covers the front of a tooth. Just a minimal amount of enamel needs to be removed for the veneer to be bonded in place to the tooth. For this reason they are considered a more conservative procedure than dental crowns. Veneers, however, are not usually covered by dental insurance plans as they are considered to be solely cosmetic in nature.

Crowns and veneers are what we call an indirect dental restoration. Both improve upon the appearance and functionality of a tooth by covering it and acting as a protective layer. Neither are temporary or reversible, both typically lasting 10 years or longer.

Since both can be made from ceramic, they can be incredibly realistic looking, often indiscernible from the rest of your natural teeth. This is due to the coloring and transparency of ceramic which lends the material very similar characteristics to that of a natural tooth.

HOW DO CROWNS AND VENEERS DIFFER?

There are, of course, some very distinct differences between crowns and veneers.

Veneers are far thinner than dental crowns and therefore require very little of the natural tooth to be removed before placement. In fact, just a fraction of a millimeter needs to be removed for a veneer to be securely placed.

Crowns, on the other hand, require far more of a natural tooth to be removed for placement. Depending on the health of the tooth, it is either shaped down or built up to a post shape for the crown to sit over. A significant amount of a natural tooth needs to be removed, not just to shape the tooth but also to create space for the bulk of the crown.

The thickness of dental crowns lends them strength and durability that veneers can’t provide. They are able to withstand the pressure of day-to-day dental use that veneers cannot. This is especially true for the back teeth, which are subject to far more pressure and grinding than the front teeth. For this reason it’s more common to find veneers placed on front teeth and crowns on the backmost teeth.

WHEN ARE VENEERS USED?

Veneers are most commonly used on front teeth that are visible when smiling—typically the incisors and canines. Veneers are often a part of smile makeovers that involve aesthetic changes. They can be used cosmetically to improve severely stained teeth, small chips or cracks, minor alignment issues, uneven teeth, or to close small gaps between teeth.

Veneers can also be used to restore and protect teeth. They can be used to correct the height of teeth that have been badly worn down, protect teeth that have experienced significant enamel loss, restore teeth that have been compromised by decay, and remedy malocclusion (bite misalignment).

Since veneers are a thin ceramic shell, they are not an ideal solution for those with bruxism. The constant pressure of habitual grinding can easily cause veneers to crack or chip.

WHEN ARE DENTAL CROWNS USED?

Dental crowns are often used in conjunction with other restorative treatments. Patients who undergo root canal therapy, dental implant surgery, or require a dental bridge will commonly find that crowns are a part of their treatment plan. Dental crowns are also often used to save weak, damaged teeth. They can protect and restore the function of badly broken or cracked teeth, and they can preserve what is left of a natural tooth that has been severely affected by dental decay.

Like veneers, crowns can be used to cosmetically improve the appearance of a smile. They can restore teeth that are discolored, uneven, misshapen, or misaligned. They can also be used to close gaps between teeth.

Dental crowns can be used to treat malocclusion, adding height to teeth that have been markedly ground down. They may also be used on teeth that are lacking enough enamel to otherwise support the bonding of veneers.

Your dentist will not recommend crowns if there is a more conservative treatment available. It is best practice to preserve as much structure of the natural tooth as feasibly possible. On the other hand, teeth that have been too far compromised to be built up with a filling to create a post will not be able to support the placement of a dental crown.

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