Dental veneers are thin facings that are securely attached to the front surface of teeth. They can be used to improve the size, shape, and colour of teeth or the symmetry of the whole smile.
If you thought that Hollywood celebrities get their white, even smiles thanks to dental veneers you are probably right. However, you may be surprised to hear that dental veneers have been around for almost a century.
History of Dental Veneers
That’s right, the first dental veneers were made almost 100 years ago! But they were a far cry from what they are today.
In 1928 Hollywood dentist Dr Charles Pincus used veneers made out of acrylic to improve the smiles of Hollywood actors for their roles on the big screen. However, the problem with these veneers was that they were weak and their bond to the teeth was weak. Therefore they would need to be removed after the film shoot.
In the 1950s, Dr Michael Buonocore developed the use of adhesives in dentistry which paved the way for materials such as composite resin to be bonded onto teeth. This forms the basis for modern dentistry today.
Following this innovation, dentists started to explore ways they could bond materials such as composite resin and porcelain onto teeth more permanently and reliably. In the 1980s, porcelain veneers started being used more commonly. However, the quality of the old porcelains meant they often looked opaque and bulky.
Think of Burt Reynolds’ teeth!
What Are Dental Veneers Made Of?
“Dental Veneers” is a broad term that can be used to describe thin facings made out of either composite resin or ceramic.
Composite Resin Veneers are “direct restorations”, meaning they are made by sculpting them directly onto the tooth. You’ll find more details about composite resin veneers elsewhere on this website.
When people talk about Dental Veneers, most are referring to “indirect restorations” which are made outside of the mouth. Indirect veneers are made of dental ceramic, and may also be called “Porcelain Veneers” or “Ceramic Veneers”.
What Are “Dental Ceramics”?
A ceramic is defined as a material that contains both metallic and non-metallic elements held together by strong chemical bonds. The many different types of ceramics used in dentistry include:
- feldspathic porcelains
- leucite-reinforced ceramics,
- lithium disilicate glass-ceramic and
- zirconia ceramic.
The feldspathic porcelains have the lowest strength (approximately 70MPa) and zirconias are the strongest (approximately 900MPa).
Traditionally, dental veneers were made out of feldspathic porcelain which contained kaolin, quartz (silica), feldspar, and glass components. These veneers were quite weak in nature and were prone to breaking.
In recent times there have been vast advancements in dental materials and dental bonding technology. Nowadays, the bond between dental veneers to teeth and the strength of the veneers themselves are many times stronger than what could be achieved in the 1980s.
Dental Ceramic Brands (And Which One I Use)
Did you know that there are a plethora of different brands of dental ceramics available? Some popular brands include
- IPS Empress
- IPS e.max
The very popular brand IPS e.max (made by Ivoclar Vivadent) is the material I choose for the dental veneers I make. This lithium disilicate glass-ceramic is composed of quartz, lithium dioxide, phosphor oxide, alumina, potassium oxide, and has translucency and light-reflective properties that mimic natural teeth. E.max veneers can be made out of one solid piece of ceramic (“monolithic”), or they can be layered.
Technically, veneers made out of e.max are ceramic veneers but they are often referred to as porcelain veneers.
When skillfully crafted and correctly bonded onto teeth, dental veneers yield durable and stunningly lifelike results.