Dental Veneers vs. Crowns: How Are They Different And What Are They For?

Cosmetic dentistry treatments have come increasingly in higher demand in recent years. Within this dental specialty, patients can choose from a variety of treatments including dental implants, anti-aging injections, laser gum recontouring, teeth whitening - and of course, dental veneers and dental crowns

If you think dental veneers, dental crowns, or another cosmetic dentistry service could beautify your smile, call Hornbrook Center for Dentistry to schedule a consultation. Our San Diego dentists have been placing cosmetic veneers and dental crowns for decades. In fact, our patients travel from far and wide to get the luminous smiles they deserve!

What Are Dental Veneers?

Aesthetic veneers are thin sheets that adhere to the vestibular - external - face of the patient's natural teeth in order to achieve a more harmonious appearance. The function is merely aesthetic and it is a highly customizable treatment, allowing patients to modify small defects related to the shape, color, size, or position of the teeth. Of course, these small flaws must be slight, otherwise, orthodontic treatment would be necessary instead of veneers.

Composite veneers are made of composite resins mixed with ceramic particles and are directly placed on the teeth to later harden using an LED light. These can improve the appearance of the teeth significantly. The fact that they are more porous than porcelain veneers makes them stain, which is why their price is lower.

Porcelain veneers do not change color or fade over time, making them an excellent solution to achieve a truly aesthetic, natural, and long-lasting goal. Although the price is higher than composite veneers, the results and durability are better.

One of the most frequently asked questions regarding this treatment is whether veneers can be placed on teeth with caps. The answer most coined by professionals is that although this technique is possible, it will always be better to place a new cover since the adhesion will not be the same and we run the risk of not obtaining the expected result.

What Are Dental Crowns?

Dental crowns are covers that are placed on a real tooth or an implant. The cover acts as a new and renewed dental piece, tailor-made to simulate the natural tooth and replace it for all purposes. That is, it performs its function in everything related to appearance and chewing since it also supports occlusal forces.

As with the veneers, there are two types of dental crowns as well:

  • With metal base. Aesthetically, they are not as beautiful as porcelain ones, but sometimes they are necessary depending on the situation of the piece, placing them so that the result is much more resistant. When we talk about aesthetics having less striking results than porcelain crowns, it is because the metal feels more opaque and therefore the light does not reflect on the tooth as naturally as porcelain.
  • Porcelain. Porcelain crowns have much better aesthetic results than those with a metal base, however, despite having great resistance and very good results, this is always less than that of the metal base.

The most frequent question regarding this treatment is its durability. Do they last forever? Is special care necessary? What does the deterioration depend on? The answer depends largely on the type of crown since there are permanent and temporary crowns.

There is no rule on the duration, but in principle, if we maintain proper hygiene and do not suffer mishaps, they can last decades.

Main Differences Between Dental Veneers & Crowns

Veneers and crowns are two aesthetic treatments that seek to improve your smile. Although they allow similar results, they have some differences. 

1. Area covered

Dental veneers, having only a functional purpose, are limited to covering the external face of the pieces to improve their appearance. 

On the contrary, the cap must completely cover the remaining tooth, only then will it also have the necessary adjustment to perform the chewing function and support occlusal loads.

2. Carving

Carving the tooth consists of reducing its natural volume so that the prosthesis to be placed, be it a veneer or a crown, adapts correctly. Carving the tooth is essential before placing a cover, reducing this by about 2 millimeters. However, this is not always necessary in the case of veneers. Advances in the technique have made it possible to make very thin sheets, such as a contact lens, and ultra-thin porcelain veneers allow them to be placed without carving.

Even so, if the real piece had to be carved to adhere to the aesthetic veneer, it would be minimally reduced: only between 0.3 and 0.7 millimeters. This is because we must decrease your thickness to be able to adjust the cap to the natural tooth. As we have pointed out, not making this reduction would lead to a less harmonious result, with an excessively thick piece. At this point, we want to comment that no matter how the carving process is: local anesthesia is always applied to the patient to avoid discomfort and pain.

3. Purpose

In addition to what we have already explained previously, crowns are also used in dental bridges. Bridges are structures made up of several covers whose purpose is to make up for the absence of one or more teeth. In addition, crowns are worn after dental implant surgery or to protect a tooth that has been damaged for various reasons. For example, a diseased tooth due to cavities, a breakage, wear, or a root canal.

Dental veneers, on the other hand, allow the modification of the shape, size, color, or position of a tooth. They allow, as it were, to personalize and redesign the smile according to the tastes of the person, always taking into account the original characteristics of the natural tooth.

4. Teeth on which they are placed

Due to the aesthetic purpose of veneers, it seems logical that they only adhere to the teeth visible in the smile: the upper central and lateral incisors.

However, as crowns have a functional objective, they can be placed in any piece. It is common for the caps to be located in the place of the premolars and molars since they are the teeth that tend to accumulate more cavities. In addition, they are at greater risk of requiring root canal treatment or that they are lost since it is more difficult to reach these teeth with the brush.

5. Material

Veneers can be made of porcelain or composite. Those made of porcelain or ceramic have the main advantage of being more aesthetic, resistant, and durable, as well as not losing shine or staining over time. With proper care, this type of veneer can last up to 30 years. 

Composite veneers, on the other hand, need periodic reviews for the dentist to polish and reinforce them. But their main benefit lies in being substantially cheaper than porcelain veneers. Although the crowns can also be made of different materials - porcelain and metal-porcelain - the most aesthetic ones are zirconia. It is this type of caps that are therefore placed on visible teeth. But for a matter of strength and functionality, metal-porcelain caps are almost always used for molars, as they are not visible when smiling and are cheaper.

The Best Treatment For You

The key to knowing which treatment is more optimal is in the needs of your particular case. That is, depending on the state of conservation of your tooth and the objectives you want to achieve.

In the case of veneers, it is not necessary to wear the teeth for their adhesion, cement is used and the shape, size, color of the tooth as well as the aesthetics of the smile can be improved.

Crowns require cutting the tooth up to 2 mm to achieve natural results. The crown is then fitted and fixed on top of your tooth so that it can be rehabilitated to restore its functionality and aesthetics. You already know in which cases the placement of dental veneers or crowns is indicated, but even so, it is important to emphasize that they are not exclusive treatments. Each tooth requires an independent approach and a personalized study, so depending on the person, the combination of veneers and crowns may be recommended.

If you want to improve the look of your teeth, you should consult a dentist who specializes in dental aesthetics, like Dr. Hornbrook and Dr. Souza of Hornbrook Center for Dentistry. You deserve to have the smile you've always wanted - and our team is here to help! Call us today to schedule your consultation. 

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