Crowns vs. Veneers for Dental Restoration
What are the factors you should consider when weighing the benefits of crowns vs. veneers? These treatments have some similarities, but they aren’t equally suitable for all tooth restorations. Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons of each treatment that you can discuss with your dentist.
How Are Crowns and Veneers Similar?
Both types of dental prosthetic can be used to correct the following smile imperfections:
- Slight crookedness
- Small gaps between teeth
- Minor chips and fractures
- Staining or discoloration that doesn’t respond to tooth whitening
- Teeth that look misshapen or too short
Veneers are not suitable for:
- Back teeth that must withstand the stress of chewing
- Teeth that have moderate-to-large cavities or pre-existing fillings
- Teeth that are deeply cracked
- Teeth with thin or inadequate enamel
- Teeth that have been treated with a root canal
Crowns are the preferred option for restoring teeth in these scenarios. Sometimes, a partial crown called an inlay or onlay may be used instead of a full crown. Unlike veneers, these restorations can strengthen the tooth and restore lost function. Veneers only offer cosmetic improvement.
How do crowns vs. veneers measure up when it comes to creating a beautiful smile? A porcelain crown and a porcelain veneer look the same from the front. This means your restored smile will look equally attractive with either option. Porcelain veneers and crowns are made of similar ceramic materials and can be matched to the rest of your teeth. Artistically crafted ceramic restorations from a master ceramist have a semi-translucent appearance that seems very natural.
The only exception is ultra-thin veneers like Lumineers. They are so thin that they may not cover up dark discoloration quite as well as traditional veneers. So, they may not be as suitable for teeth that need significant color-correction. A porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crown may create a dark shadow at the gum line and may not be suitable for highly visible teeth if you want a fully natural look. The added strength of a metal base is usually reserved for back teeth which aren’t suitable for veneering anyway.
Cost and Insurance Coverage
This is one of the most important factors for many patients considering crowns vs. veneers. In some cases, a porcelain crown may be more expensive than a veneer (both usually cost over $1,000 each). However, that’s not the whole story. Crowns are considered necessary for restoring damaged teeth. This means the cost may be partially covered by dental insurance. Veneers are considered cosmetic and are not covered by dental insurance. If you are paying out of pocket, a veneer might makes more sense if you don’t really need a full crown. However, if you do have insurance that will defray the cost of restoration, a full crown may seem like a more attractive option.
The price of crowns vs. veneers varies a lot from one dentist to the next. For example, most dentists offer a discount for patients getting multiple veneers. So, you may find that the price difference is negligible once you start shopping around. The most important consideration is finding a dentist who is an expert at the type of restoration you want. The tooth preparation process, planning, aesthetics and installation techniques are very different for these two procedures.
Procedure Comparisons for Crowns vs. Veneers
In general, dentists discourage the use of crowns for capping teeth for purely cosmetic purposes. That’s because the placement of a crown requires the removal of a substantial amount of healthy tooth structure. A veneer typically entails shaving down a very small portion of enamel on the front of the tooth, leaving the rest of the tooth intact. If the veneer fails, the tooth won’t look good anymore. But it will still be functional.
In contrast, enamel is removed from all four sides of a tooth in preparation for a crown. If the crown fails, you’ll be left with just a nub of tooth. If a tooth that is veneered gets a cavity or experiences other damage, it can always be crowned later. In contrast, you can’t switch from a crown to a veneer. It’s usually a good idea to choose the most conservative treatment to achieve the look you want for your smile.
Many smile makeover patients have veneers placed on teeth that just need aesthetic correction and crowns on those that need functional restoration. There’s no problem with mixing and matching veneers and crowns in the same mouth.
Long Term Results for Crowns vs. Veneers
As with all dental restorations, it’s impossible to predict how long a specific crown or veneer will last. Some of the factors involved may include:
- Whether the restoration was installed correctly (early failure is sometimes a sign of poor placement technique or weak bonding)
- If the patient has a tooth grinding habit
- If the patient eats hard or sticky foods that damage or break the restoration
- Whether cavities continue to form, weakening the tooth and the restoration
- If gum disease compromises the restoration
Porcelain crowns are not known for lasting as long as metal crowns. However, both porcelain veneers and porcelain crowns often last for five to 10 years. Some may last twice that long. With either option, you can expect to require replacement from time to time. This may involve re-attaching the existing crown or veneer or creating a new one.
Caring for Veneers vs. Crowns
There are typically fewer food restrictions with veneers than with crowns. Many patients can eat crunchy and sticky foods with no problems after the veneers have had time to fully cure. It’s still smart to avoid biting down on very hard items (or opening bottles with your teeth).
While porcelain used in these restorations is resistant to staining, the dental bonding material that attaches the veneer to the tooth can stain over time. If you notice discoloration along the gum line, you will need to visit your dentist to have the margins of the veneer polished to remove staining.
From a daily hygiene perspective, the care of crowns and veneers is similar. You’ll need to brush at least twice a day with a non-abrasive toothpaste and floss at least once a day. You may need to exercise extra care when flossing around the base of a crown to be sure there is no food debris trapped along the edge. Good gum care is absolutely critical with crowns and veneers. Gum disease will cause your gums to pull away from the edge of the restoration, leaving part of the tooth root exposed. This looks unattractive and also exposes more of the tooth to bacteria. Untreated gum disease can lead to tooth loss, wasting your investment in a crown or veneer.