If you need to tune up your teeth, your dentist can use bonding, veneers, and crowns to fix a range of dental problems.
If your teeth are chipped, broken, cracked, or badly stained or have slight gaps, you and your dentist may discuss a number of remedies. Your dentist should consider the simplest solution that works for you. In order of complexity, these solutions range from bonding to veneers and crowns.
With dental bonding, tooth-colored material (composite resin) is attached, or bonded, with an adhesive to your teeth to repair defects and reshape them. The procedure can be done in a single visit. Aside from fixing chipped, cracked, or stained teeth, bonding can also be used to close spaces in teeth and cover the surface of teeth to change their color or shape. Bonding lasts for several years, but it’s more vulnerable to chipping or staining.
Veneers are thin, custom-made shells designed to cover the front of your teeth. They are used to fix spaces between teeth and teeth that are chipped or worn, permanently stained, poorly shaped, or slightly crooked. Made of porcelain or plastic, they are usually used for the front teeth—particularly the upper front teeth—that are most visible when you smile. If you have a wide smile, some of the posterior teeth may be covered as well.
Veneers made of porcelain are the most durable and color-stable. They may also be an alternative to crowns, which are more expensive.
The process can take up to three visits. At the first visit, your dentist may make preliminary impressions of your teeth to make models to plan for the veneers. At the second appointment, the dentist will reduce some of the enamel on your teeth to make room for the veneers. The dentist will make a mold of the prepared teeth and send it to a dental laboratory, which will make your veneers. At the third visit, the dentist will place the veneers on your teeth with an adhesive resin.
If one of your teeth has a large amount of decay, number of fillings, or is cracked, your dentist might recommend a crown. This restores your entire tooth, not just its front surface. To prepare your tooth for a crown, your dentist will reduce the tooth to a stable foundation so that the crown can fit over it.
The dentist will make an impression to send to a dental laboratory that will make your crown. Your dentist will also fashion a temporary crown to cover your tooth until your permanent crown is made and fitted by your dentist during a second sitting. Dentists using CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) technology may be able to make your crown at the same visit as the tooth is prepared.
Crowns are made of materials such as ceramics (porcelain being one type); or metal (alloys of gold, copper, or other so-called noble metals or base metal alloys with a silver appearance) or a combination of ceramics and metal. They are often more expensive than bonding and veneers.