This is my experience with porcelain veneers, the good, the bad and the ugly. You will see pictures of my veneers before and after and read about my experience during the entire process.
I went for years and years not at all self-conscious about my teeth.
Until one day I was.
My front tooth had started to chip and every time a little piece broke off, I became more and more aware of their unevenness. And then a friend captured an amazing photo of me and I was stunned by how unhappy I was with the appearance of my teeth.
Seeing that photo was the moment when I decided that I should do something about it. My smile is the first thing I can show to people, and I wanted it to be dazzling.
I had thought of having my crooked teeth fixed before but fear overcame vanity every time. Changing your smile is surely painful. Not to mention the cost, cosmetic dentistry is expensive.
I don’t know what caused me to actually make the decision to ask my dentist about porcelain veneers, but last year I finally did. He was very positive about the experience, said it was a good choice, and I decided I wanted to move forward.
And then I procrastinated some more, until my last dental cleaning in January when I decided to put the fear aside and schedule the appointment.
Then I spent the next 2 months enduring a perpetual stomach ache from anxiety.
Porcelain Veneers Procedure
I would require 3-4 visits with the dentist to receive porcelain veneers. My dentist does the veneers himself but you may need a cosmetic dentist if yours doesn’t do them.
The first visit was a consult and casting of molds (impressions) of my existing natural teeth. We also discussed what my goals were for my teeth, how many teeth should be veneered and how I wanted them to look. I originally only wanted 4 of my teeth done (on top) but my dentist felt that he would need to do 6 to make it look the best. He also discussed treatment options and treatment planning so I knew what to expect along the way. Your dentist may do it differently from mine, but I imagine it’s a fairly similar procedure.
I told him that I wanted to repair the chip in my front tooth, bring down the shorter second tooth on the one side, and straighten out and file down the sharp third tooth on both sides.
At this visit we also discussed whitening my existing teeth that will remain. I wanted my veneers to be as white as possible as they cannot be changed afterwards. There is no whitening veneers, what you see is what you get for the rest of your life.
So whitening my existing teeth will set a baseline for the maximum whiteness for my veneers. Too white and I will glow in the dark! Or at least have too much contrast with my existing teeth. I want the veneers to look natural.
At this time we also discussed whether I would take home a whitening kit or schedule an in-office whitening procedure.
Because my teeth were slightly grey from antibiotics as a child, we decided to do one in-office whitening application to help boost my whitening efforts. It was a set of 3, 20 minute sessions with my mouth propped open and whitening gel applied. I had 10 minute breaks in between. It’s much stronger than anything I could do at home.
During this visit, my dentist also showed me the mockup of my new teeth. It was really amazing to see my future smile right there in front of me. I declined the Frankenstein blue gums option.
After this appointment, I received an at-home whitening kit and spent the next 3 weeks using it almost daily.
The whitening worked fairly well for me. Not 100% but better than I expected. By the time my 3rd appointment rolled around, however, I still had some gel left and wanted to continue to whiten.
My dentist decided to proceed with preparing my teeth for the porcelain veneers while I continued to whiten the remaining teeth. I’m not going to lie to you, this third appointment was the absolute worst. I was so nervous that my body was physically shaking so terribly that I couldn’t get a key into a lock or hit the right button on my phone to turn some music on.
My dentist said he allows 4 hours for this appointment but can take as little as 2 hours. Neither option was very appealing but there was no going back now.
During this appointment they shaved/grinded/drilled the tooth enamel off my existing tooth structure to make room for the veneers. Yes, it was as unpleasant as it sounds.
To prep the teeth, he had to numb every tooth at the root, which means I got 6 shots into my gums. He numbed it first with a topical spray that tastes like cough medicine and honestly the shots were a mere discomfort, not painful like I thought they would be. I felt a stinging sensation as the medicine went in which was worse than the needle stick.
Here’s where it gets really fun. The drilling, as my dentist called it, was wet and I felt the vibration but no actual pain. Having my headphones on with loud music helped me zone out a little bit which made it somewhat easier. He kept me updated on the progress and it didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Although that was hindsight. It felt like hours while I was sitting there but really the drilling took less than a ½ hour or so.
The rest of the work during this third appointment involved taking impressions of what was left of my existing teeth. First to create a set of temporary teeth and second to create the final veneers. This was uncomfortable but at this point the worst was over.
I had read somewhere that someone recommended keeping your tongue away from your teeth because feeling the new shape of them was very strange. So I did manage to avoid it.
Somehow, magically, my dentist made a one-piece temporary veneers for all 6 teeth that he glued into place while the final veneers are being created. They use 1-piece for the temporary teeth to reduce the likelihood of them falling off with the temporary adhesive. This piece looked really good, and even though it is some sort of plastic, it was tooth colored and it looked far better than my old teeth. I walked out of there still numb but happy that this was finally becoming a reality.
The final veneers are created in a dental laboratory, so any necessary impressions and information is sent out to them while you wait. I had to wait three weeks for my final appointment.
Living with temporary veneers
After leaving the dentist with my temporary veneers, there wasn’t any pain, just annoyance at the swelling and numbness in my upper lip and my nose. My dentist told me I could eat fairly normally with my temporary veneers except to chew meat and anything harder on my back teeth. But I opted for a milkshake because it just felt weird.
The next day, my temporaries slipped slightly and I had to go back to the dentist and have them re-glued on. This was almost worse than the grinding and drilling they did on my teeth because they were so sensitive now that I didn’t have anything to numb them. But he reset them with better adhesive and sent me on my way.
I tried eating real food but the only thing I have been comfortable with so far is scrambled eggs, yogurt, soft pasta, mashed potatoes and soft bread. Which is great considering I normally avoid carbs. But I have to eat something for the next 3 weeks.
To brush and floss has been a bit of a challenge as well. I probably brushed too hard before anyway, so I’m learning to do my oral health a little different with a bit more care and precision to avoid knocking these temporaries out of my mouth.
Also, in the evenings, there is a lot of pressure in my mouth where the temporary veneers are. I am assuming that it is because it is one piece. It’s pretty annoying and has required some OTC pain medicine.
But despite any moderate discomfort I might feel with my temporary veneers, I am so happy with the way they look. If I had to live with the discomfort of these temporaries forever in exchange for a beautiful smile, I totally would. If this was as good as it gets, I would still do it.
It did take a couple of days before I felt that I looked like me again, although everyone else said I still looked like me just with nicer teeth. My kids couldn’t see the difference, but I think that’s because my dentist did a great job of making the temporaries look like my teeth would have looked had they been even. He captured that character of the existing teeth and just made them better.
My temporaries slipped again, this time my dentist was out of town for the week so I had to suffer with it for a week. I ate a lot of yogurt and drank iced coffee and I lost 5 lbs. I was miserable and petrified that they would fall out. But they didn’t, the right side held fast.
My dentist did what I like to call “spot welded” my temporaries back in. He didn’t pull them out, he just glued the loose side back on. It worked well enough.
By the end of the three weeks, I was really, really done with the temporaries. They were annoying and frustrating.
Temporary porcelain veneers before and after
The side by side photo below shows my veneers before and after with the temporary veneers.
I was not quite as nervous for this appointment as I was for the first one, but I was still nervous. I think the anticipation of getting the final veneers caused the anxiety more than fear.
This appointment was about 90 minutes long. After numbing each tooth, my dentist removed the temporaries, and placed the final veneers on each tooth to show me how they would look. Then he took them off, and began prepping each one for placement.
There was a lot of placing each veneer on, removing it, and placing it back. Then there was a multiple step process for the bonding which involved a lot of pushing and prodding and my jaw was exhausted by the time it was all done.
My gums were quite sore and sensitive for the next 2 or 3 days but I could eat and drink normally again. My dentist told me to avoid really hard foods like raw carrots, not to gnaw on anything like pencils, and not to use my teeth to open bottles or bite my nails. Otherwise he said I should be able to eat and drink whatever I want.
I can’t even begin to tell you how often I smile at myself now. It’s still a habit to offer up a “Mona Lisa” type smile when I greet people, but I am catching myself and offering up a full smile afterwards.
How much do veneers cost?
The cost of veneers varies by dentist and by location. I have heard price ranges anywhere from $900 per tooth to $2,000 per tooth. My veneers cost was on the middle end of that range but my dentist is fantastic and he is the only one I would trust with this type of procedure so I didn’t shop around.
Dental insurance may cover some veneer work if it is considered necessary, so if you have dental insurance, definitely make sure you have that conversation with them and with your dentist.
Also, some dentists take Care Credit which is easy to apply for. Care Credit has plans with zero interest if paid in full before a certain time period like 12 months or 24 months. Also your dentist may be able to help you work out a payment plan directly through their office.
How long do veneers last?
Porcelain veneers can last for many years. In some ways they are better than your regular teeth because they resist staining. But they can also chip and become damaged just like your natural teeth. The average life of porcelain veneers is 10 years, but with good oral hygiene and some extra special care like a water pik and an electric toothbrush (I bought a combo), they can last much, much longer, even up to 30 years.
Porcelain veneers pros and cons
Porcelain veneers cons:
- Cost – veneers are not cheap, and it may be something you have to pay off over time
- There is no going back – veneers are permanent in that you can never get your existing teeth back once they are prepped.
- They don’t last forever – veneers can last a very long time if you take care of them but the reality is that they are not your real teeth and there is a always a chance you can have a problem.
- Time in temporary veneers – the 2-3 weeks you spend in temporary veneers could be a pretty miserable experience.
Porcelain veneers pros:
- They look like real teeth
- They don’t stain
- No special maintenance required
- Smile with confidence
For me, the confidence porcelain veneers have given me with my smile far outweighs any cons. In just a few short days I have noticed a huge difference in my confidence level which has increased my overall happiness as well.
Porcelain veneers before and after
It’s only been a week or so, but so far, I would absolutely do this again. To go from embarrassed to smile to looking for a reason to smile has a huge positive impact on one’s self-esteem. I do have a weird fear of them falling out, and it is possible, but not likely. And my happiness with my new smile far outweighs any irrational fears.
If you are in the Chicago area and considering porcelain veneers, my veneers were done by Dr. Wolff. He has offices in Mokena and Homewood, Illinois.