There seems to have always been a stigma against the process of getting porcelain veneers. One of the most common questions patients tend to ask is: Will my teeth be shaved into tiny tic tacs? Well thanks to modern advances in technology, this is not necessarily the case. In this article, we’ll delve into whether teeth need to be shaved to prepare for veneers, and what that general veneers prep may look like.
When veneer prep may be needed
First, let’s answer the question of ‘do teeth need to be shaved down for veneers?’. The answer is that it depends. However, if you do need to have your teeth grinded down, it’s not going to be to the same extent that you might see in those online videos!
Let's discuss why grinding down natural teeth is needed in the first place. There are several reasons that teeth may need to be shaved down.
- To make space: The number one reason is to make space for the veneer. The minimal thickness of a porcelain veneer is realistically 0.5mm. (1) While thinner veneers can be made, their translucency becomes a factor. That leads us to reason number two ...
- Desired aesthetics: We find that to achieve a natural look involves hand-layering porcelain which varies its thickness, just like natural teeth. In addition, to achieve incisal translucency (those translucent wisps at the bottom edge) which mimics natural teeth, a strategic incisal reduction is required. (2)
- Placement: Finally, teeth shaving may be needed to make space for precise placement. (1) We've all seen veneers that are just a little too bulky, touching each other at the wrong place, with an unnatural gum line. The placement of veneers is crucial and incredibly precise. Sometimes, space needs to be made to achieve a precise result.
Common scenarios that determine how much teeth needs to be shaved
These three factors are, of course, very dependent on your individual smile and aesthetic goals. People often believe that in order to get the porcelain added their teeth will need to be trimmed back into fangs, which may not be true. Well I’ve put together a little guide on what the contributing factors are to how much teeth needs to be shaved:
Straight teeth / Small gappy teeth / Teeth that sit back
Patients with straight or small gappy teeth or teeth that sit back, often don’t need to have any shaving done and the veneers will sit successfully onto your existing teeth. The surface of your tooth, however, will be prepped in order to allow the veneers to grip securely on.
Sandor, for example, did not need teeth filing for his Picasso Porcelain Veneers®. Ten veneers were placed in total to achieve his smile makeover.
His teeth were already relatively straight, and where there was variation, the teeth were sitting back. This allowed veneers to be placed with minimal prep.
Slightly crooked teeth
If your teeth are slightly crooked then there is a chance you will need minimal shaving for the veneers to sit flush and straight on your smile line. The surface of your tooth will also be prepped in order to allow the veneers to grip securely on.
Big Teeth / Crooked teeth / Teeth that sit forward
If you have bigger teeth and want the size of your teeth reduced, it goes without saying that your teeth will be prepped more than others.
If you have crooked teeth or teeth that sit forward, we would always offer an alternative option before considering veneers. These options (such as braces, Invisalign or even jaw surgery) will be presented to you first as the recommended solution for your smile. If you’re still adamant that you want veneers because you don’t like the shape or colour of your teeth (which, unfortunately, braces cannot fix), then we can further explore that route. The dentist will ensure that you are made fully aware that if you have crooked or protruding teeth, your teeth will require some shaving.
Even when this is the case, the amount of prep is different for each tooth, depending on its initial shape and position and the desired shape and position. Below, we have a patient who had already undergone Invisalign to straighten her teeth, then electing for 4 porcelain veneers to reach her desired smile line. In the middle row, the left half of the smile shows prepped (or shaved) teeth, and the right half shows the final placement of the porcelain veneers. As seen, the amount of prep defers between each tooth. The final shape of the chosen veneer also played a factor, especially the desired amount of incisal translucency.
Despite what type of smile you currently have, porcelain veneers is an invasive procedure and often irreversible. We generally advise that you go to many clinics, get different quotes and do extensive research on what you want. The dentist you see should also have an array of before and after photos for you to reference as well as the knowledge and experience to give you the result that you’ve always desired.
What does veneer prep feel like?
So what does veneer prep actually feel like? More often than not, for your comfort, your will be numbed up during the procedure. Having gone through the journey myself, you usually don’t feel anything during the prep when you have local anaesthetic. If your temporary veneers happen to fall off after you leave the surgery (see my guide on what not to eat when you have temporary veneers), you are most likely going to experience some teeth sensitivity or nothing at all. There shouldn’t be any pain, just minor discomfort and annoyance. Some patients do not require any numbing at all in which case. If you fall into this category, it is because the dentist believes you will be in any tenderness or discomfort.
So yes - it is true, that for some, some minor shaving will be required for veneers. However, it is possible to have veneers without any shaving, or minimal prep. Many factors will contribute to the duration of your prep appointment. This includes what type of smile you have to begin with, how many teeth you want veneered and if you already have restorative work done (veneers or crowns done elsewhere). If you have existing veneers or crowns, the length of your prep will be much longer as it does take a while to meticulously remove the existing porcelain or composite.
As with many of my blogs I end with some classic advice: do your research. You wouldn’t by a car without some indication of what brand you want (say, a Mercedes or a Toyota), what type (a convertible or SUV), how much you can spend and more importantly if you wanted to buy from a dealership or off gumtree. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and as always, seek a second opinion from a qualified health care professional. As with results, preps can vary from patient to patient. All minor and major procedures have their risks and benefits. Good luck!
An appreciator of art, novels and high intensity sports. With a passion for work and a dangerous addiction to tea.
Clinical Photos, clinical content, cosmetic and restorative dentistry by Dr.Deepan Duraisamy (Dr Dee) BDS., MSc., FICCDE , FICOI , Vogue Dental Studios.