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From Pain Level to Longevity — Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Veneers, Answered

Photographed by Kat Irlin

Thanks to Hollywood and social media, beauty standards are growing higher and higher, and so is the pressure to achieve a perfect smile. Over the years, studies have shown that a spotless smile can improve self-confidence, influence how others perceive us, and directly increase our success within any working or social environment.

Naturally, the demand for an Instagram-ready smile motivated the cosmetic dentistry to increase the studies and technology in this area, resulting in sophisticated treatments that can trick the untrained eye. Veneers – the fastest route to a “celebrity smile” – seem to be here to stay. But the more this field develops, the fairer the potential users’ questions become, as veneers are a costly and non-reversible treatment. In this interview, Dr David Montalvo Arias, one of the resident specialists at Apa Aesthetic in Dubai, responds to all our real questions, from understanding the pain level associated with this procedure to its actual longevity, and other practical doubts.

Dani Miller for Gucci Beauty. Photo: Courtesy of Gucci

If on one hand, we can choose to perfect our look, the recent fashion seasons have also taught us to love our bodies and celebrate our true selves. Remember, for instance, the groundbreaking Gucci Beauty launch, where model and singer Dani Miller was chosen to promote the brand’s first range of 58 lipstick shades, with her untamed but charming smile? As Dr Arias states, “If you are happy with your smile, don’t do anything.”

Are veneers a reversible procedure or once you do it, it’s forever?

“Anytime you bond a restoration to your teeth, it is a non-reversible treatment, and it doesn’t matter if it is composite or ceramic, or one of those so-called non-prep veneers. If you ever want to remove them, the surface of the tooth will never be the same; therefore, it is not a reversible treatment. However, it is a treatment that should last between 15 and 20 years in good condition. After that time, usually, you need to have them redone so they look perfect again.”

What are veneers made of?

“There are many different materials that can be used for veneers. Sometimes we can use composite, which is a plastic material that will look good for some time but unfortunately, tends to discolor and stain with time. When we are looking for a more durable solution, my first option is always hand-made feldspathic porcelain due to its capability of absorbing, reflecting, and transmitting the light similarly to real teeth, making it the best material to achieve natural and durable results.”

Do veneers affect the health of the teeth or make them stronger?

“Veneers do not negatively affect the health of the teeth if they are done when indicated. That includes restoring teeth that have been previously damaged by cavities, wear, or fractures, or in cases where you want to improve their color or shape. In those cases, you are actually enhancing your teeth.”

Is there any pain involved in the process?

“Sometimes patients can feel some discomfort or sensitivity after inserting the veneers due to the bonding procedures, and that will last for about four hours. However, most patients are impressed by the fast, pain-free, and efficient treatment.”

Can veneers fix teeth that are not aligned?

“Definitely! They are indicated for patients with minor to moderate crowding who don’t want to go through orthodontic treatment. In fact, many times, when we know that the patient will end up needing veneers even after having braces or Invisalign [invisible aligners], we recommend they avoid that extra step to create a more stable situation due to the potential relapse that tends to happen after moving their teeth, if retention instructions are not thoroughly followed. For severe crowding or some malocclusions [crooked teeth], we always recommend exploring the possibility of combining both restorative and orthodontic options.”

Julia Roberts, known for her iconic smile. Photo: Courtesy of Chopard

What happens if you break one veneer?

“It is not a common situation, although it can happen. Most of the time it can be fixed by polishing the sharp edges of the small chip. If it is a big fracture, like trauma or a bruxing [teeth grinding] patient not wearing a nightguard, we will have to replace it with a new one. In our clinic, when we have one of those fractures, it helps to have an in-house ceramist who knows the exact formula of the ceramic that was used for that specific case.”

Is there any particular maintenance of the veneers?

“Nothing different than what you would do with your own teeth. Brushing and flossing regularly, having a professional cleaning and a dental check-up every six months, and making sure you don’t use your teeth for things that you are not supposed to, like biting your nails or opening plastic bags.”

Can you still get cavities when you have veneers?

“Yes, you can. You still have your own teeth underneath, and cavities can still appear. In case that happens, you will treat them the same way you would on a tooth without veneers.”

How do you know what is the right shape, size, and color for your teeth?

“Aesthetic dentistry is a combination of science and art. There is plenty of scientific literature that helps us understand what the normal parameters are to create something that looks beautiful for the majority of people. However, it comes down to the artistic vision of the aesthetic dentist who is treating you to give that final touch that will make the veneers disappear within your face and blend with the rest of your anatomical features that will create the aesthetic composition of your facial beauty.”

Dr David Montalvo Arias. Photo: Supplied

What are the most common mistakes you see associated with veneers?

“There are two major problems I see very often. The first one would be bulky and over-contoured restorations that don’t respect the health of the gingival tissues, creating bleeding and swollen gums that will produce bad breath for the patient. That happens very often when non-prep veneers are used in cases that were not indicated, which is the majority of them. The second is more related to the quality of the ceramic, which has to reflect and absorb the light the same way natural teeth do in order to look real. However, although that might sound obvious, achieving that is a very complicated craft, and only experienced master ceramists can create those results by hand-layering the ceramic. Unfortunately, that’s not what most dentists are using nowadays, ending up with very opaque and dense veneers that look completely fake.”

Who should not get veneers?

“If you are happy with your smile, don’t do anything. But if you are looking for a smile enhancement, custom-made porcelain veneers are the best option you have in most cases.”

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