Americans are known to have a preoccupation with the appearance of teeth, ever-striving for a dazzling white perfect (or near-perfect) smile. The many advances in cosmetic dentistry have made it nearly inexcusable to settle for chipped, stained, crooked or misshapen teeth. Porcelain veneers are an increasingly popular solution for correcting tooth irregularities and perfecting the smile. Porcelain veneers are custom-made wafer-thin "masks" bonded to the front side of the teeth, and can be applied to as many or as few teeth as necessary, from one tooth to all visible teeth.
The application of veneers requires one to three visits over the course of six to ten weeks. The dentist first examines the teeth, determines the quantity and placement necessary to perfect the smile (ultimately decided by the patient), and begins a tooth preparation process by reshaping the teeth, as necessary, to fit the veneers. Impressions are taken of the original teeth, and the teeth with the temporary veneer moldings that reflect the desired look. These impressions are sent to a laboratory where each veneer is custom designed for each tooth, based on the specs, such as thickness and diameter, from the impressions. Temporary coverings are attached to the teeth until the real porcelain pieces are returned from the lab and ready for application. The dentist then permanently bonds the porcelain veneers to the teeth in the final visit, which requires anesthesia.
The Consumer Guide to Dentistry reports the average cost of veneers as ranging between $900 and $2500 per tooth, as of 2009. This implies that the total cost can vary even greater, depending on the number of teeth to which a porcelain veneer will be applied. Patients pay upward of $12,000 to fix the entire front of the mouth with veneers, in order to achieve a perfect or near-perfect smile.
Factors Affecting Cost per Tooth
There are a number of factors that will determine the cost of veneers. Experienced, reputable dentists may charge higher fees than dentists who are more willing to compromise on costs in order to establish themselves. The ceramist used to craft the veneers also determines cost, as experience and technical skill will reflect higher charges to the dental office, thereby reflected in the patient's bill. The nearby competition also affects cost, since a larger population of dental offices that offer cosmetic dentistry exist in metropolitan areas and influence price competition, while availability of the procedure in smaller towns will show little price variation.
Future Cost Considerations
The bonded veneers are considered permanent, although dentists quote the life-span of the porcelain as approximately ten years, after which they should be replaced. This means that while veneers achieve effective cosmetic results much more quickly than than orthodontic solutions, like braces, the veneers also have the disadvantage of implying future costs. The amount of money spent on the initial procedure will equal the (relative) cost to replace them every ten years.
Sometimes the cost per tooth is not the only cost incurred with the porcelain veneer procedure. X-rays and intense teeth cleaning are required, and result in separate costs. Also, some teeth require extreme re-shaping, which can mean that the tooth needs to be extensively shaved down in order for the veneer to fit. If the tooth needs to be shaved close to the roots, the dentist may call for a root canal procedure to be completed before application of the veneer. Then, the patient incurs the cost of a root canal.
Because porcelain veneers are a cosmetic procedure, it is a rare occasion that dental insurance will cover even a portion of the cost, since it is not considered necessary for dental health. In some cases, however, chipped and cracked teeth are the result of an accident caused by some faulty or negligent party. In these cases, insurance companies may be convinced to cover the cost of repairing the teeth with porcelain veneers.