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What Are Teeth Covers and How Do They Work?
Most people are not 100% satisfied with their smiles. Sometimes, damage like cavities, cracks, or injuries has caused a noticeable difference in their natural teeth. Possibly natural movement and age have caused gaps or yellowing. In many cases, people have multiple reasons to not be totally confident in their smile. Because of this, there is an entire subsection of dentistry devoted to cosmetic and structural fixes that can help remedy these situations. For example, the whitening industry has exploded in recent years with plenty of products that can be used either at home or exclusively in a professional office.
There many types of dental and orthodontic procedures such as the snap-on smile that can improve the appearance of teeth by covering them up instead of truly modifying what is already there. These teeth covers fall into two main categories: crowns and veneers. While both change the appearance of the tooth, they are used for very different reasons.
A crown is not exactly something that people look forward to getting. This is less of an elective cosmetic device and more of a restorative installation. The primary reason for getting a crown is that too much damage has been done to the enamel and the underlying dentin has become exposed or is at risk. Dentin is the section between the enamel and the inner pulp, which is where the nerve lies. The dentin is responsible for sending sensation feedback from the enamel to the pulp, so when it becomes exposed, the sensations are amplified and received as ache or pain. Someone who is in this situation, would most likely rather have the crown procedure done than live with the daily pain whenever they eat or drink.
The crown is a cover that goes around the entire tooth and fits snugly. Preferably, when the crown is installed the resulting tooth and crown combination should be the same size and shape of the original tooth. The crown material must also be strong enough to last for years of use, so it must be sturdy and of some thickness. Therefore, to install a crown the enamel of the tooth must be shaved down an equal amount of thickness. This tends to be around two millimeters but can vary based on the tooth and location. The amount of enamel removed in preparation for a crown is around 60–80%, which can seem quite daunting and invasive, hence not being a desirable procedure.
Once the enamel of the tooth has been trimmed away, a temporary crown may be placed while a permanent crown is professionally made. Eventually, the permanent crown will be cemented over what is left of the tooth and will stay there permanently unless a problem occurs. Ideally, the installed crown cover will look close to the original tooth and therefore not stand out.
While many want to have perfect teeth, or as close to perfect as they can get, there are plenty of people who are adverse to work being done on their teeth and are looking for as painless of a solution as possible. Straightening or closing gaps can be a long and semi-painful process while whitening comes with the risk of increased sensitivity in the teeth and damaging gums. For those who wish to improve their smile with a minimal amount of work, there are cosmetic veneers.
Veneers are basically a thin cover that goes over some or all of your teeth. Professionally-installed veneers tend to be made from porcelain so that they are durable and long-lasting. To install permanent veneers the dentist may do some shaving of the surface of the tooth, but since these covers are extremely thin it will not be near as much as with a crown. The veneer is then bonded to the tooth with an adhesive, such as dental cement. Once a veneer has been installed the person will likely always need some sort of dental cover. Porcelain veneers tend to be used for purely cosmetic reasons, but are often the choice for those who have more serious issues like gaps or chips that do not pose any other damaging threat.
“Mail order veneers or ‘Snap-on Smiles’ are a short-term fix for a permanent problem. They can temporarily improve your appearance and show you what you would look like with an improved smile. But make no mistake about it: even the prettiest Snap-on Smile is no substitute for well-fitting dentist-fabricated permanent veneers and crowns.”
Because the demand for cosmetically enhanced teeth has been growing, there is also a growing industry of snap-on type veneers which are made of cheaper materials like resin. These snap-on veneers can come either from the dentist or even some mail-order services. Since they are made of inexpensive material and can be obtained without the aid of a dentist if desired, this tends to be a popular choice for those who want something that is as non-invasive as possible. It is also more appropriate for people who have purely cosmetic issues with their smile.
The process for getting snap-on veneers is similar to what the dentist would do to make professionally fitted veneers. First, a mold is taken of the teeth. If one is carrying this out themselves at home, then the company making the veneers will have sent a kit with molding material and instructions for both taking the molds and returning them to the lab. Once the molds have been received, the veneers will be made and shipped to the customer. If this is done through the dentist office they can make any necessary adjustments immediately. If the veneers were ordered through a mail order company, they also will likely be willing to make adjustments if the fit is off, but it may take longer and several trips through the mail to get things right.
Though there are different reasons to get them, crowns and veneers are both dental covers that aim to restore teeth to a more pleasing aesthetic. Crowns have the added purpose of protecting the interior of the tooth from further damage and a more intense installation process. In either case, your dentist should be involved in any modifications that you are making to your teeth. While a mail-order veneer service may seem like a quick and inexpensive way to get a bright smile, a set of professionally made veneers from the dentist office will always fit better and likely last longer.
Medically Fact-Checked & Written by Our Dental Editorial Team
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