Composite Veneers: What You Need to Know

Written by Faiyaj | Featured Health | Last updated Feb. 11, 2023


What are composite veneers?

Composite veneers are a form of dental treatment given to patients with aesthetic concerns. Composite refers to the type of material used in this treatment option (composite resin). It is a form of resin which contains many microscopic filler particles. Veneering is the process of applying a thin layer of material over an object. In this case, a thin layer of composite resin is veneered over the surface of teeth to enhance aesthetic appeal.

Due the composite veneers being primarily for aesthetic purposes, the teeth that are veneered tend to only be ‘front teeth’. Put simply, teeth visible in the smile line. Composite veneers on any ‘back teeth’ is redundant because they are never seen in the smile.

Benefits of composite veneers

Composite resin is a very dynamic material, being available in many shades and colours. This allows composite veneers to have very good aesthetics when compared to other materials. Composite resin also has incredible handling qualities, this allows the dentists to construct, contour and shape the veneers to replicate the form of natural teeth.

However the biggest benefit to composite veneers is that they are economical. The material is relatively inexpensive when compared to other material choices. Composite veneers also do not require lab construction (which increases the prices of treatments such as porcelain veneers), they can be constructed by the dentist while the patient is in the dental chair. This allows the patient to achieve his aesthetic concerns of appealing front teeth at a much lower cost.

How are composite veneers applied?

Composite veneers are applied much like any composite resin restoration (or filling). First the front surfaces of the teeth in question are slightly shaved down. This creates a space for the composite to sit and bond to the tooth.

Once the surface of the tooth is shaved, it is prepared via the use of chemicals so that it can optimally bind to the composite resin. Then, the composite resin is applied to the prepared surface and carefully contoured by the dentist to create a good shape. Once done, the final step is to cure the composite resin with high energy blue light resulting in the material to harden over the tooth.

How long do composite veneers last?

According to the literature, a composite resin restoration (including composite veneers) have a lifespan of 5-7 years. However, this can be influenced by many factors such as the patients diet and oral hygiene resulting in a shorter or longer life span.

Comparison of composite veneers and porcelain veneers

When comparing composite veneers to porcelain veneers, there are many things to consider. As treatment options porcelain veneers are more permanent. They have life spans ranging from 10 all the way to 30 years. This is because they are constructed and prepared differently to composite veneers.

They require at least 2 appointments, the first appointment is to prepare the teeth for the veneer in a very similar fashion to composite veneers and to take a few moulds of the patients teeth. These moulds are then sent to a lab so they may fabricate the porcelain veneers. In the next appointment, the porcelain veneers are then cemented onto the patients teeth as a permanent aesthetic treatment.

Due to the lengthy treatment process and the requirement of lab work, porcelain veneers may be very expensive individually. Considering that you would likely need to veneer all of the ‘front teeth’ within the smile line, the cost can quickly become unaffordable.

Porcelain is however a very aesthetic material, labs are able to construct very natural veneers with it. The material retains its colour and structure for a long period of time, they are permanently cemented onto the tooth as a long term treatment. This is opposed to composite veneers which have shorter lifespans and require higher levels of maintenance for success.

Cost of composite veneers

The cost of composite veneers will vary depending on your location and the individual clinic. Although all dentists are able to provide this treatment, some clinics may specialise in aesthetic treatment. More specialised clinics/dentists will likely charge more for their work.

Get in contact with a few clinics in your area and ask for a quote for composite veneers.

Maintenance and care of composite veneers

Like mentioned before, composite veneers require a higher level of maintenance. Composite as a material is very susceptible to ‘microleakage’. What this means is the margins of the veneers which are bonded to the tooth, will slowly leak external products like saliva, bacteria and food into the underlying surface.

This allows bacteria to grow underneath the veneer where it can't be cleaned. Microleakage is unavoidable and thus why composite fillings need to be replaced every 5 to 7 years. However, as the patient there are some ways you can be proactive and increase the lifespan of your composite veneers.

Firstly, maintain a good oral hygiene routine. Brush twice a day (morning and night) with fluoride toothpaste, making sure to clean all surfaces of your teeth, front and back. Use a soft bristle toothbrush and apply gentle force on the surfaces of your teeth. Aggressive brushing will cause more harm to your teeth and may compromise the margins of your veneers. Even better use an electric toothbrush if you're able because they tend to do a lot of the work for you. Floss regularly at least once a day to clean in between your teeth.

Having a good oral hygiene routine prevents bad bacteria from building up on your teeth. This prevents tooth decay from occurring around your veneers.

Secondly, be weary of your diet. Certain foods and drinks may compromise the lifespan of your veneers (and even your natural teeth). High free sugar foods increase your susceptibility to tooth decay. High acidic foods can corrode the surfaces of your teeth, in turn disrupting the margins of your veneers.

Finally, attend the dentist regularly! Make sure you commit to routine dental appointments either 6 months or yearly. Doing so will allow your dentist to catch any problems before they become too big. In the long term this keeps you healthy and saves you money.

Candidates for composite veneers

Anyone wishing to change the shape and colour of their teeth can pursue composite veneers. However, make sure to consult your dentist before undertaking any treatment. Discuss your treatment goals and come to a decision with the dentist on the best treatment plan to achieve them.

Alternatives to composite veneers

Depending on your specific circumstances there are many alternatives to composite veneers. If the shape of your teeth are fine and you just wish to make them straight, orthodontic treatment may be more beneficial. If colour is your main concern, teeth whitening is a more affordable option. Again, make sure to book a consultation with your dentist to discuss your goals and treatment options.