Veneers are designed to be tough, but they’re not indestructible. Like any type of dental restoration (or like natural teeth, for that matter), veneers can chip and break. The likelihood of a break depends on the type of veneers you have. Porcelain veneers can last 15 to 20 years and are extremely durable; composite veneers typically last less than 10 years and are more vulnerable to breakage.
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Whether you’re working with porcelain or composite, it’s important to understand a few things:
What causes veneers to break
What to do if your veneer breaks
How to prevent broken veneers in the first place
We’ll cover these topics in depth below, so you can understand how to protect your veneers and also how to address any unexpected emergencies.
What Causes Broken Veneers?
A veneer can break for numerous reasons. For example:
As a result of improper design or placement
As a result of persistently grinding your teeth
As a result of biting into hard foods like ice or jawbreakers (especially on a regular basis)
As a result of a sudden blow or impact to the face
As a result of tooth decay behind the veneer
Debonding (when the veneer separates from the tooth without physically breaking)
When you receive your veneers, your cosmetic dentist should provide you with detailed instructions for care, thereby ensuring the maximum possible lifespan for your new restorations.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that a broken veneer is relatively rare. A reputable dentist is extremely diligent about checking the condition of the teeth beforehand, applying a sufficient bond, and ensuring the integrity of the covering. In addition, porcelain is known for its extreme durability, which is why it’s a preferred choice for teeth, household fixtures, and even floor tile.
What to Do With a Broken Veneer
If your veneer breaks, the first thing you should do is call the dentist immediately. Ideally, you’ll want to visit within 48 hours, preferably sooner.
You’ll need to collect the dislodged portion of the broken veneer and wrap it in a clean cloth or other soft, protective covering. Then place it in a secure container and bring it with you to the dentist. They’ll be able to recommend the best course of action.
Composite Veneers Can Sometimes Be Repaired
If the broken veneer is made from a composite resin material, the dentist may be able repair it. It all depends on the amount of damage and how quickly you’re able to receive treatment.
In the event that your composite veneer is unsalvageable, the dentist will need to have a replacement created.
Most Porcelain Veneers Can’t Be Repaired
If the veneer is made from porcelain, you’ll usually need to have a replacement installed. The process for obtaining a replacement veneer is much like the process for the original veneer.
The dentist will need to take impressions and X-rays and prep your new restoration. If there haven’t been any significant changes to the tooth structure, you usually won’t need to have your tooth filed a second time. You’ll just need the initial fitting and the installation.
Porcelain Veneers Can Sometimes Be Saved
There are rare instances in which the original porcelain veneer can be saved.
For example, small chips can sometimes be smoothed out with dental contouring.
Also, if the veneer is still in one piece but comes loose, the dentist may be able to re-adhere it. This type of debonding can sometimes occur if a foreign substance (like sticky foods) gets lodged between the veneer and the tooth and weakens the bond. This may become a problem if the restoration wasn’t bonded properly in the first place.
How to Prevent Your Veneers From Breaking
To prevent your veneers from breaking in the first place, the most important thing you can do is work with a reputable, experienced cosmetic dentist.
Your dentist should have a strong track record of success and a lot of respect in their field. This is because a broken veneer is quite often the result of preventable errors on the part of the dentist.
For example, if the bite is done incorrectly on a porcelain veneer, you may end up placing an excess amount of force and pressure and the reconstruction each time you bite down. This can result in breakage over time. If the shell fits improperly over the tooth, this too can render it highly vulnerable.
Assuming your veneers fit properly and are of excellent construction, you can keep them in prime condition by following a few basic procedures:
Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups. At the very least, you should see your dentist twice a year: once for a general checkup and once for a deep cleaning.
Avoid hard foods. Crunchy foods like tortilla chips are fine, but things like hard candy and ice cubes should be avoided.
Avoid compulsive chewing behaviors like chewing on pencils. This goes hand in hand with the previous point.
Don’t grind your teeth. If you have a tendency to clench or grind while sleeping, you might benefit from wearing a mouthguard at night. Persistent grinding can damage the porcelain over time.
Brush and floss after each meal, or at least twice a day. Gum disease can cause the gums to recede, which in turn can damage the veneers. Make sure to use a soft-bristle toothbrush, preferably an electric brush. Your toothpaste should also be non-abrasive and preferably formulated for veneers. Your dentist may recommend a specific product.
It’s important to remember that, although porcelain is extremely durable and long-lasting, veneers aren’t quite as strong as natural tooth enamel. So treat them with a bit of extra care, and they’ll serve you well for years to come.