Dental implants and dental veneers are two of the most common treatments for restoring a compromised smile. In some cases, you might have a choice between these two procedures. In other cases, only one of these treatments will be possible. If you are looking into options for restoring a healthy smile, it’s important to inform yourself about dental implants vs. veneers, how they work, and the issues that each can address.
A titanium post attached to the jaw bone
An abutment upon which a crown can be placed
A porcelain crown that looks and functions just like a natural tooth
As a restorative procedure, dental implants offer benefits for your oral health as well as restoring a beautiful smile. Implants allow you to eat and care for your teeth normally while preventing the problems that can come with missing teeth, such as:
Causing other teeth to shift
Jaw bone loss
Bite and alignment problems
Furthermore, because the replacement teeth are made out of inert materials—porcelain and titanium—they are not susceptible to decay and don’t increase your risk of gum disease.
When You Should Choose Dental Implants
The dental implants vs. veneers decision is made for you if your entire tooth or teeth are missing. Veneers can only be placed over your existing teeth—they can't replace a tooth that isn't there. However, if it's damaged teeth that you're worried about, you may have a choice between the two procedures. Generally, teeth that are cracked from the tooth root upwards will need to be replaced with implants while superficial cracks can be masked with veneers.
How the Implant Procedure Works
In your initial appointment, your cosmetic dentist or oral surgeon will assess your dental health with an X-ray and indicate whether you are a good candidate for dental implants. If you have significant bone loss, you may need bone grafting before the implant procedure can take place. Once the jaw bone is ready, you will visit the dental office three times over a few months to complete the implant process.
The dentist will place artificial tooth roots (titanium posts) in the jaw.
Once the posts have fused with the bone—a process known as osseointegration—an abutment will be attached to each post.
Once the gum has healed around the abutment, a crown can be placed over the abutment. In the case of several missing teeth in a row, your dentist will most likely use two titanium posts with a bridge rather than individual crowns.
From the initial procedure to completed implants, you are looking at a period of several months before you can use your brand-new dental implants. Sometimes, dentists can combine several procedures in one to make the process more efficient.
Porcelain veneers or dental veneers can give you a beautiful smile in weeks. Veneers improve the appearance of teeth by covering your natural teeth with custom-made porcelain shells that are bonded permanently onto the surface.
Typically, veneers are used to improve the appearance of:
Gaps between teeth
As a cosmetic dental procedure, veneers improve the look of your teeth rather than resolving any structural issues. In order to be a candidate for veneers, you need to have healthy teeth with no (or minimal) tooth decay or periodontal disease.
When You Should Choose Veneers
If your goals are primarily aesthetic, the choice between dental implants vs. veneers is simple. Veneers don't require the removal of the tooth and can be placed more quickly and cheaply than implants. If your teeth are simply discolored, misshapen, or slightly chipped on the biting surface, veneers are sufficient to solve the problem. However, if you're dealing with infected or heavily decaying teeth, consider dental implants instead.
How Porcelain Veneers Are Placed
Just like the process with dental implants, your dentist will first assess your oral health to see if you are a candidate for veneers. If you have gum disease or active tooth decay, your dentist will treat those problems first to prevent your veneers from failing.
Then, after shaving a small amount of enamel from your teeth to make room for the veneers, the dentist will take an imprint of your teeth to send to the dental lab for your custom veneers. Finally, once the veneers are ready, your dentist will cement the porcelain shells to your teeth. Your brand-new smile is ready to go!
Other Factors to Consider
We've looked at dental implants and veneers and when these treatment options might be recommended. However, when you have a choice between veneers and implants—such as with mildly cracked or broken teeth—you will need to weigh the benefits of dental implants vs. veneers.
Veneers cost less than implants simply because they are smaller, use fewer materials, and take fewer steps to place. Dental implants are the more costly option for the reasons mentioned—and because they’re extremely tough and last a lifetime. There are some instances when implants might be covered by insurance (though insurance providers will often try to get you to opt for the more cost-effective dentures instead). Veneers—as a strictly cosmetic solution—are almost never covered by insurance.
Tooth implants are a lifelong solution for missing or severely damaged teeth and can restore full functionality to your bite. Because they are such a long-term solution, many patients find it worth the higher upfront cost and the longer timeframe to complete the procedure. Veneers, when made from high-quality materials, should last for at least a decade. However, they will eventually need to be replaced.
Because of their three-part structure, dental implants are more durable than veneers. You won’t need to take any of the special precautions that you do when you have veneers (for instance, there are certain foods you can’t eat with veneers). This is an important consideration for patients who grind their teeth or play contact sports but might not be an issue for others.
If you need dental solutions fast, consider getting porcelain veneers. As a cosmetic solution, veneers can brighten your smile in weeks, as opposed to implants which can take several months. Whichever of the two procedures you choose, your dentist can provide temporary crowns for your implants or temporary veneers for your teeth. You will be well looked-after until the entire dental procedure is complete.
Dental Implants vs. Veneers: The Takeaway
As two of the most popular dental treatments available, dental implants and veneers can improve your smile, boost your confidence, and help you make a great first impression.
The more permanent solution, dental implants are indicated for missing or rotting teeth, while veneers are indicated for healthy teeth. The best way to choose is to visit an experienced dentist who can assess your mouth and create your path to a flawless smile.