If you’ve given any thought to getting dental veneers, you may have heard that your teeth need to be filed (or shaved down) as part of the procedure. This is understandably a source of apprehension for many patients, but the process isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds. We’re here to separate the facts from the myths and help you understand what it really means to have your teeth filed for veneers.
Overview of the Veneers Procedure
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Short video explaining how teeth are usually prepared for veneers
Dental veneers can work wonders for your smile. These thin coverings are placed over your existing teeth to cover stains, discolorations, chips, and other cosmetic imperfections, and they can last up to 20 years with proper care.
Veneers are most commonly made from a porcelain or composite-resin material. We always recommend porcelain veneers because they are the most durable option, they’re virtually stain-proof, and they closely resemble natural tooth enamel. Quite simply, they’re the gold standard for dental veneers.
Your veneers are custom-designed for you, each one meticulously crafted to match the size, shape, and color of the surrounding teeth. Each veneer is cemented to its respective tooth for a firm, long-lasting hold.
Are Teeth Shaved Down for Veneers?
With standard porcelain and composite veneers, a bit of filing is usually necessary to ensure that the veneer blends naturally with the surrounding teeth. If the veneer is fused to the front of the tooth without filing, it may stick out and look unnatural or asymmetrical. By filing the front of the tooth just slightly, the dentist can ensure that the veneer blends naturally with the surrounding teeth.
Only the front of the tooth is filed down. The process is quick, and it’s typically handled during a preliminary appointment before the veneers are fused to the teeth. For patients who do not wish to have their teeth filed for veneers, other options are available.
Do Not Over-File Your Teeth for Veneers
The so-called “shark teeth phenomenon” has been gaining a lot of attention, particularly as it relates to influencer (and particularly TikTok) culture. In the quest for absolute beauty, some young people are shaving their teeth essentially down to nubs in order to accommodate extreme cosmetic treatments. The headlines are indeed scary, but this is not how a professional veneers procedure works. The problem usually occurs when a person opts for a full set of dental crowns, a dramatic process that’s seldom necessary.
Prepping for veneers is much simpler and less invasive. Granted, in previous decades, dentists had to work with inferior tools and materials. That meant that it was often necessary to shave a lot of enamel from the teeth before implanting veneers. Thankfully, the technologies have advanced considerably, and dentists can now achieve superior results with a much lighter touch.
It’s very important to go with a reputable cosmetic dentist who understands how to apply light, subtle shaving techniques that preserve your natural teeth. A skilled cosmetic dentist will typically shave no more than .5 millimeters (about the thickness of a fingernail) from any given tooth, but every patient’s situation is unique. Your dentist will perform an evaluation and brief you on what you can expect.
Does it Hurt to Get Your Teeth Filed?
In most cases, the discomfort is very mild. The process can even be completed without anesthesia as the dentist removes just a thin layer of surface enamel. In some cases, the dentist will use a local anesthetic or inhalation sedation to ensure maximum comfort. Speak to your dentist about any discomfort you’re having, and they may be able to accommodate you.
Once the filing is complete, you may feel some mild soreness. The discomfort can usually be managed with an over-the-counter drug like Advil or Tylenol. This discomfort should only last a couple of days.
Can You Avoid Getting Your Teeth Shaved Down?
If you want veneers but you’re still not comfortable with having your teeth filed, other options are available. No-prep veneers can be fused over natural teeth without the need for filing in most cases.
Lumineers are perhaps the best-known example of no-prep veneers. They’re thinner than standard porcelain veneers, which means that they won’t noticeably stand out when placed against natural teeth. The downside is that, because they’re so thin, they tend not to last as long. A no-prep veneer may last just 5 to 7 years with proper care. Also, not everyone is a good candidate for no-prep veneers. These ultra-delicate coverings require a specific mouth shape and extremely healthy teeth.
If you decide to go with Lumineers or another type of no-prep veneer, make sure to work with a reputable cosmetic dentist who is experienced with these installations. Lumineers require an especially advanced level of skill due to their thin, delicate construction.
Are Veneers Right for You?
If you’re considering veneers, ask yourself the following questions:
Do your teeth have cosmetic imperfections that whitening alone can’t remedy?
Are your teeth structurally sound? (If not, you may want to consider crowns instead of veneers)
Are you looking to achieve a brighter, more luminous smile?
If you answered yes to all of the above, you might be a good candidate for veneers. The teeth filing portion is a quick and easy part of the preparation, and you shouldn’t let it dissuade you—just make sure to work with an experienced cosmetic dentist.
Still, if you’re apprehensive, tell your dentist. A quality dental professional will always make accommodations for nervous patients. For instance, at our practice, we go to great lengths to promote maximum patient comfort. We do it by listening to our patients, by maintaining a luxury spa-like environment, by offering an array of audio and visual streaming services, and by taking active steps to mitigate discomfort during our procedures.
Finally, remember that the discomfort is only mild and temporary, but a high-quality veneer can brighten your smile for years to come.