Porcelain veneers and composite veneers are the two most common types of dental veneers, but which is better? The main difference between composite veneers and porcelain veneers is that porcelain looks more natural and it is more durable. The other big difference is the cost - porcelain veneers are more expensive. Porcelain veneers are the premium option while composite veneers are the budget option.
Comparing Composite vs Porcelain Veneers
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Porcelain and composite veneers serve the same basic purpose: to cover a tooth imperfection and give you the beautiful smile you’ve been hoping for.
A veneer is a thin cap that’s cemented over the natural tooth to cover a chip, discoloration, misaligned teeth, or any other common aesthetic flaw.
Unlike crowns (which can repair more serious dental issues like damage to the tooth structure), they are a strictly cosmetic treatment option.
Porcelain veneers are thin shells made from a porcelain laminate material. They’re considered the gold standard for dental veneers because they’re the longest-lasting and most durable. A porcelain veneer is a permanent restoration, meaning that it can’t be removed once it is bonded to the tooth.
The porcelain veneers procedure usually requires two appointments. During the first appointment, the dentist removes a thin layer of enamel (about .5mm) so that the tooth can support the thickness of the veneer. The dentist makes impressions of your teeth, matches the color, and sends the information to a laboratory. It takes about a week or more for the lab to complete your custom restoration, during which time the dentist provides you with a temporary veneer.
Once the permanent veneer is complete, you return for your second appointment. The dentist uses a bonding cement to fuse the veneer to your natural tooth. He or she might then make a few final adjustments and send you on your way.
Composite veneers, or composite resin veneers, are made from a mix of organic and inorganic materials that include resin, fillers, and a coupling agent. The bonding material is the same type used for dental fillings. Like their porcelain alternative, composite veneers are a permanent restoration.
There are two types of composite veneers: direct composite veneers and indirect composite veneers.
Direct composite veneers are the least invasive type. The resin is applied directly to the tooth in a single appointment. The whole process is quick and easy.
Indirect composite veneers are structurally closer to porcelain veneers. The resin shell is formed inside a lab or dental office using composite material, and the tooth is prepped just as it would be for a porcelain veneer. Indirect composite veneers cost more and are more durable than direct composite veneers, but they still don’t compare to porcelain.
Pros & Cons of Composite and Porcelain Veneers
We commonly recommend porcelain veneers because they’re the premium option, made from a much stronger material. However, depending on your situation, you may find composite veneers to be the more suitable option. Consider the pros and cons of each.
Advantages of Composite Veneers
The biggest advantage of composite veneers is the cost. Composite veneers can cost between $250 and $1,500 per tooth while porcelain veneers typically run between $925 and $2,500 per tooth. If porcelain veneers are outside your budget, composite veneers may be recommended as a cost-effective alternative.
Composite veneers are also easier to repair in many cases. If your veneer chips or cracks, your dentist may be able to restore it in the office. This is seldom possible with porcelain veneers, which require total replacement in the event of a breakage. It’s worth noting, though, that porcelain is less prone to breakage in the first place, so it’s unlikely to become a concern.
Finally, composite veneers—especially direct composite veneers—usually require less prep work. Less (if any) of the tooth is shaved, so the dentist can often complete the preparation and placement in a single appointment. The dentist simply matches the resin to the color of the surrounding teeth and applies it to the tooth. The resin is cured and polished, and the patient is sent on their way.
Disadvantages of Composite Veneers
Composite veneers are less durable and don’t last as long as their porcelain counterpart. And while they look reasonably natural in the beginning, this can change over time as they’re prone to staining and discoloration.
Composite veneers can be an excellent cost-effective solution, but just know that they require an extra degree of care if you want to preserve their aesthetic and ensure the maximum lifespan.
Advantages of Porcelain Veneers
Porcelain veneers have become the industry standard because they’re stronger, more stain-resistant, longer-lasting, and more natural-looking. With proper care, a porcelain veneer will last 15 to 20 years. By contrast, composite veneers have about a 5-year lifespan on average. So while porcelain veneers do cost more up front, they often have a lower cost of ownership in the long run.
Because porcelain closely resembles natural tooth enamel, it provides the most flawless look you can achieve with a dental veneer. While composite veneers are designed to offer a natural appearance, they don’t compare to porcelain, which has a translucent quality that catches the light almost identically to natural tooth enamel. And because porcelain is virtually stain-proof, so you don’t have to worry about your veneer getting discolored over time.
Porcelain veneers are also extremely biocompatible, meaning that there’s virtually no chance of the material damaging surrounding gum tissue. And because they’re firmly cemented to the teeth, it’s almost impossible (with proper application) for plaque and bacteria to seep beneath the veneer and infect the underlying tooth. You still need to be diligent with your oral care, but porcelain veneers offer unparalleled protection.
Disadvantages of Porcelain Veneers
The higher cost is the biggest deterrent for people considering porcelain veneers. Ultimately, though, you’re paying for a product that looks more natural and lasts much longer. If you’re concerned about the cost, financing options are available. Please refer to our guide on how to pay for cosmetic dentistry.
While porcelain veneers don’t require as much care and caution as composite, you still have to follow the common veneer care procedures to prevent physical damage. Porcelain veneers can be removed and replaced in the unlikely event that one breaks or cracks.
Other Types of Dental Veneers
For those seeking a less invasive option, there are no-prep veneers and removable (temporary) veneers.
No-prep veneers, such as Lumineers, are the least invasive permanent option. They’re made from a flexible, razor-thin material that fits over the tooth without any alteration to the tooth itself.
Lumineers and other no-prep veneers are preferred by some patients because no tooth shaving is required. Lumineers also cost less than porcelain veneers (about $800 to $2,000 per tooth) but may still be costlier than composite veneers in many cases.
No-prep veneers can last about as long as composite veneers, but they’re not likely to last as long as porcelain veneers. Because of their ultra-thin ceramic construction, they’re more prone to damage and less durable over time.
Removable veneers, also called temporary veneers, instant veneers, or (in some cases) clip-on veneers, are a newer option to hit the market.
Traditionally, temporary veneers have been used to preserve a patient’s smile between the prep (shaving) appointment and the permanent veneer placement appointment. However, some manufacturers are now developing temporary veneers that can be worn as an alternative to the permanent kind.
These pseudo-veneers are tempting because they’re extremely cheap (often as low as $20) and completely non-invasive. However, these products are not recommended for daily use. They don’t provide the smooth, natural look of permanent veneers, they can trap plaque and bacteria, and they can harm your gums over time. At best, these products should be regarded as an occasional emergency solution and not as a suitable alternative for traditional veneers.
Composite vs Porcelain Veneers - The Final Verdict
To break it down as simply as possible, see this side-by-side comparison:
Repairable After a Break?
Number of Appointments
Close to natural
$250 to $1,500 per tooth
1 or 2
$925 to $2,500 per tooth
If cost isn’t an issue, porcelain veneers are the way to go. They’re simply a better-quality restoration across the board. However, if you’re concerned about the cost of porcelain veneers, you can speak with your dentist about financing options or alternative cosmetic dentistry solutions. Whether you have crooked teeth, discolored teeth, or you just want to look your absolute best, don’t put off your smile makeover any longer.