Whitening, Veneers, Braces, and Crowns, Oh My!

So you have a big life event coming up and you want your choppers to look their best. What do you do? Well, like all doctors will say, “it depends.”

Let’s say that you have straight teeth but you’re not happy with their color. If that’s the case, then you probably want to try whitening first. If you can’t achieve the Hollywood blinding-white smile that you desire with just bleaching alone, then you may want to consider veneers.

Veneers are porcelain covers that are placed on the front of your teeth. They can make your teeth appear whiter, more ideally shaped, and straighter. They are more conservative than placing crowns on your teeth because crowns cover the teeth 360 degrees, whereas veneers only cover the front of your teeth.

Dentists like to place veneers only in the “esthetic zone,” because there is no point in making your upper impacted wisdom tooth look pretty. Usually, the upper front six teeth (from canine to canine) are the teeth that are veneered. If you have a particularly wide smile, then your dentist may extend your veneers one or two teeth behind your canines. Less often, we will veneer your lower teeth because 1) your bite may actually knock off your lower veneers, 2) you often can’t see your lower teeth when you smile, and 3) crowns might be a better option for your lower front teeth.

Now let’s say that you’re someone who has minor crowding of your front teeth, but you don’t want to undergo two-to-three years of braces. Again veneers can give the appearance of straighter teeth, although you may have to reduce more tooth structure in this situation. If you have large existing fillings on your front teeth, or you have had root canals, your dentist may opt for crowns instead of veneers to better stabilize the teeth.

Patients with severe crowding of their teeth should not begin with veneers. Trying to fix severe crowding with veneers alone can actually damage the teeth. This is where the orthodontist steps in. After orthodontic treatment is complete, patients may still need to opt for veneers in order to achieve an ideal smile. After all, even straight and healthy teeth can look yellow or misshapen.

Whatever your case is, see your general dentist first so that he or she can be your quarterback. Without a proper plan, you may end up wasting time and resources.  Your dentist should give you a timeline and provide you with realistic expectations. After all, you shouldn’t expect a Julianne Hough smile when you should realistically be expecting Steve Buscemi!