How Dental Veneers Have Changed Over Time

Dental veneers are one of the more common cosmetic dentistry procedures we perform at our office. This is a fairly non-invasive, pain-free method of transforming a smile marred by stains, gaps, or mis-shapen teeth into a straight, vibrantly white smile. However, the technology to achieve this look has come a long way, and to help you better understand the innovations in dental veneers, our Cary cosmetic dentist is sharing how veneers have changed over time and what the procedure looks like today!

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What Are Dental Veneers?

Before we dive into the history and technology, it’s important to understand what dental veneers are and what they do. Dental veneers are thin, custom-made shells that are applied over your natural teeth and permanently bonded. Made from porcelain or resin, today’s veneers last around 10 to up to 30 years, depending on the care and the person wearing them. They cover a multitude of cosmetic issues, including stained teeth, or teeth that are mis-shapen, have gaps, or are chipped or broken.

The First Dental Veneers

Compared to crowns, dental fillings, and dentures, which all date back hundreds, or even thousands of years, veneers are a fairly new idea. The first dental veneers were invented in 1928 by Charles Pincus, a California dentist, who created them for an actor to use on a film shoot. Sensing an opportunity, Dr. Pincus began working more on this new idea. In 1937, he designed and created caps made from acrylic that could be attached temporarily using denture adhesive. The acrylic was fairly delicate and the adhesive didn’t last long, so this was a temporary solution, used more as a cosmetic, like fake fingernails, than a permanent solution. While the acrylic veneers were popular for Hollywood, and were the reason behind the bright, gleaming “Hollywood Smile” that we still think about today, they weren’t readily available to a wide population. Their temporary bond and likelihood of damage meant they were cost-prohibitive to the general public.

From Temporary to Long-Lasting Dental Veneers

By the 1950s, veneers were becoming more popular and were often made from porcelain or a resin material, similar to how they are made today. The problem was still in getting them to adhere for longer periods of time. This problem was solved in 1959 when “etching” was introduced by Dr. Michael Buonocore. This new technique was a game-changer in cosmetic dentistry. This technique involves applying a very mild acid substance to the tooth enamel which creates a rougher surface on the enamel. Adding this rougher texture to the tooth creates a surface that’s more conducive to adhesion, allowing more permanent bonding agents to be used to apply and attache long-lasting dental veneers. Cosmetic dentists still use etching gel today. Made from a 37 percent phosphoric acid solution, it creates microscopic “pits” and opens the enamel tubules on surface of the tooth.

The Beginning of Modern Dental Veneers

Once etching was discovered to improve veneer adhesion and provide a more permanent solution, tooth veneers became more common across the United States. However, the long-lasting dental veneers we think of today were created in 1982 by Dr. R. J. Simonsen and Dr. John Calamia. Their research showed that by etching porcelain with hydrofluoric acid, the bond between the tooth and the porcelain or composite resin veneer was virtually permanent. Patients who received veneers could expect them to last for several years before needing repairs or replacements.

Applying Dental Veneers – The Old Process

While the veneers themselves were highly effective and long-lasting, creating a natural, attractive smile, the process was still seen as difficult and time-consuming. First, a consultation would be scheduled and a cosmetic dentist would take dental x-rays and discuss the procedure. During this time, the dentist would consider the shape of the patient’s mouth, face, and how they talk to factor into the veneers being crafted. Sometimes at that appointment, the dentist would take molds of the patient’s mouth to be sent to a lab in order to craft the temporary veneers, though sometimes that would be at a second appointment. During the next appointment, if the molds needed to create temporary veneers were already complete, the dentist would then prepare the teeth for temporary veneers. The gums would be shaped to fit the temporary veneers and the top layer of enamel, generally only a half a millimeter, or less than the thickness of a dime, is trimmed off the top of the teeth. This is to make room for the veneers. The temporary veneers are applied  and the patient gets to take them on a “trial run.” After a week or so with temporary veneers, the patient would come back to have more molds and impressions taken for the final veneers. Those would be sent to a lab to be fabricated, and when they came in, the patient would then have the final veneers bonded to their teeth. After a week or so, there would be a follow-up visit to make sure they fit well and there weren’t any concerns. That is five or six appointments with a cosmetic dentist, which could be too time consuming or overwhelming for many patients. Additionally, relying on a lab to fabricate the veneers could lead to mistakes and delays in getting the veneers applied.

Digital Imaging and CAD Technology in Cosmetic Dentistry

Today, innovations in 3D digital imaging, computer-aided design (CAD) and other new technologies have transformed the procedure for getting veneers. At Beavers Dentistry, we offer Chairside Economical Restorations of Esthetic Ceramic, or CEREC® technology.

CEREC® Technology

Instead of relying on taking impressions and sending them to a lab, which can lead to errors and time-delays, CEREC® means crowns, inlays, and tooth veneers can be created right in our office. Comprised of CAD tools and 3D imaging software, we can take a variety of images of your teeth, and the images are used to create a digital 3D model. This is what the veneers are based on. Once the models are finalized, they are entered into a milling machine so the veneers can be created from porcelain or a composite resin material. The porcelain veneer is just as strong and durable as anything created in the lab!

Today’s Dental Veneer Procedure

Today, using CEREC®, we are able to minimize your visits while ensuring an accurate, comfortable dental veneer. We begin with a consultation where we determine the health of your teeth and whether you’re a good candidate for successful veneers. Assuming no decay or cavities need to be cared for, at the next visit, we take 3D digital images of your teeth and get to fabricating your veneers. While they are being crafted here in our cosmetic dentist’s office, we can work on preparing your teeth by removing the very thin layer of enamel and providing any gum contouring if necessary. Because the veneers are prepared so quickly, we don’t need to worry about temporary veneers or taking impressions of your teeth. Additionally, because we make them here, they’re much more accurate compared to sending them out to a lab. Once your veneers are bonded to your teeth, we provide you with instructions and schedule a follow up appointment. Instead of five or six appointments, the whole process, start to finish, is two or three!

Life with Tooth Veneers

One of the questions we get frequently about veneers is regarding follow-up care and if there’s anything special necessary to caring for them. Tooth veneers are actually very easy to take care of and are similar to caring for your natural teeth. You still want to brush your teeth two or three times a day, floss daily, and visit your dentist for routine teeth cleanings and checkups.  In order to make sure they last as long as possible, you want to avoid crunching ice, hard candy, and other types of foods, and avoid beverages and foods that stain your teeth. After all, you want them to look as good as possible, for as long as possible! However, we can’t stress enough how important it is to maintain healthy dental habits. We’ve seen too many patients get a beautiful smile, but then don’t maintain it or follow up for dental checkups or getting minor cavities filled.

Get the Gorgeous Smile You Deserve

If you are uncomfortable or self-conscious with how your teeth look, our cosmetic dentist can help! We offer Smile Design, a personalized consultation to help you determine which cosmetic solutions are best to help you get the healthy, vibrant smile you deserve!

Contact Our Cosmetic Dental Office in Cary

We want to help restore your smile and your confidence! Reach out to us today by filling out the form below or calling us to schedule your consultation!

(919) 467-0654