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The Difference Between Dental Veneers And Dental Crowns

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

Dental veneers and dental crowns are two flagship cosmetic dental treatments. What are the differences between veneers and dental crowns and which is the more popular or preferred treatment?

Firstly both veneers and dental crowns seek to achieve an aesthetic and natural result for your smile. Although the two treatments share the same goal of improving the patients smile, they do have some differences.

In this article we will explain the differences between dental veneers and crowns, and how these highly demanded treatments in dental aesthetics can be taken advantage of to improve the patients smile.

The main difference between veneers and crowns is that the crown has to encompass the whole of the tooth. It effectively goes on the tooth like a cap. In contrast, a tooth with a veneer treatment, the veneer is not placed on all 5 surfaces of the tooth. The rest of the tooth remains in-tact. It is less invasive and is usually done mostly for aesthetic, or rehabilitative purposes.

The picture shows the difference between a veneer and a crown. The veneer just places itself over the front of the tooth where as the crown is placed on all 5 surfaces of the tooth
Veneer vs Crown

Both allow you to improve the imperfections of your teeth and both can be used to design a beautiful smile, modifying its shape, color, size and position of the teeth and subsequently, the smile. Traditionally, veneers are seen as the more conservative treatment since the patient keeps the majority of their tooth structure, with only the space required for the thickness of the ceramic being drilled away of the tooth. The crown in contrast however, will cover the entire tooth, which generally means all 5 surfaces of the tooth need to be drilled to some degree.

Veneers are thin sheets (porcelain or composite) that adhere to the front of the tooth through a bonding process. The veneer itself can be as thin as 1 millimeter (mm) in thickness and acts as an aesthetic front to the tooth. The rest of the tooth however, is the patients own.

Crowns, on the other hand, are caps made of ceramic (e.g. lithium disilicate, or zirconia) or metals, (e.g. gold), that are placed over the whole tooth. The thickness of the material is often double that required from a veneer, coming in at 2 millimeters, and unlike the veneers, covers all parts of the tooth. As a result, the patient’s tooth must be ground down into a shape as to be able to fit the crown onto the tooth. Thus, there is less of the patients own tooth remaining in comparison to veneer treatment. Crowns, in addition to improving the aesthetics of your teeth, can also restore functionality to a damaged or heavily restored tooth.

Veneers or crowns? Which do I need?

Veneers traditionally had a purely aesthetic application. Nowadays we are seeing patients with a lot of wear and tear on their front teeth (from acid damage/ teeth grinding / habits such as nail biting etc) and we are able to prescribe dental veneers to rehabilitate the lost tooth structure. Crowns also seek to restore the functionality of the tooth. So which do I need? That will depend on the current structure and integrity of the tooth. If the rest of the tooth is in good order, but aesthetically does not look good or natural, or is worn down, then veneers may be the appropriate choice. If however there is structural damage to the whole tooth, or the tooth has many large existing fillings already, then a crown may be the appropriate choice.

The patient selects a veneer based on colour and shape for comparison to the rest of their smile
Checking the colour for the new veneers

When do I need veneers?

Veneers improve the shape, size, position and color of the teeth. Bonded properly to a tooth they do reinforce the structure of the tooth as well. Veneers are recommended if the patient wants to solve a slight color change or other aesthetic quality of the tooth, or if the patient wants to slightly modify its appearance through shape or size. Veneers can also be part of a wholistic treatment approach to build up worn down front teeth, and other treatments (including crowns, onlays etc) can be used to build up the back teeth.

When do I need crowns?

Crowns are applied to more worn and deteriorated teeth due to various causes, mainly if the tooth already has large existing restorations, or if the tooth has had root canal treatment. Also, if a tooth has been restored with a crown and has new decay underneath it, the only restoration it can be replaced with is another crown.

For this reason, they are recommended when it is necessary to rehabilitate the lost structure of a tooth. A patient will be advised to select a crown when an improvement in the functionality of the tooth as well as the aesthetics of the smile. Thus the goal of the crown is twofold, to give a tooth a beautiful appearance, as well as be functional. A dental crown will be advised to a patient, when the tooth itself can be saved, as structurally it is strong, but then is reinforced with a crown, providing the right shape, size and look of a beautiful and natural tooth.

What treatment is the most suitable for my particular case?

The key to knowing which treatment is more optimal is decided by the needs of the patient’s particular case. That is, depending on the state of conservation of your tooth and the objectives you want to achieve.

In the case of veneers, it may not be necessary to cut the teeth for their adhesion. Cements are generally used and the shape, size, color of the tooth as well as the aesthetics of the smile can be improved.

On the other hand, crowns require cutting the tooth up to 2 mm to achieve natural results. The crown is then fitted and fixed on top of your tooth, so that it can be rehabilitated to restore its functionality and aesthetics.

How do I know what aesthetic treatment I need?

Veneers and crowns are two aesthetic treatments that seek to improve your smile. Although they allow similar results, they have some differences. How do I know if I need veneers or crowns?

What are the characteristics of veneers?

Dental veneers are thin sheets, made of composite or ceramic, that are adhered or placed on the teeth in order to improve their aesthetics of the tooth and smile in general.

This is a personalized treatment that will fulfill an aesthetic and functional purpose, that is, to improve the looks and bite design of the patient’s smile. There are certain limitations to what veneers can achieve – they can be used to improve small defects of the patient’s teeth such as their color, shape, size.

Likewise, dental veneers can improve the position of our teeth as long as the discrepancies are slight. An example of this can be small diastemas, that is, small spaces between the teeth.

What are the characteristics of crowns, caps and bridges?

The dental crowns or fixed prostheses are placed over the tooth as a whole, completely covering the tooth itself, or if there is not the ability to use a tooth, then a dental implant.

The crown will be placed after drilling the patient’s tooth down to a size and shape where the dental crown can adequately fit over the tooth. It is common to perform crowns on teeth with large fillings, and teeth which have had root canal treatment.

The main differences between veneers and dental crowns are:

Drilling required of teeth

Drilling a tooth consists of reducing its anatomy or natural volume in order to subsequently adapt to the shape and size of the crown prosthesis. The drilling of a tooth is essential for the placement of a crown cover, dental bridge or a fixed prosthesis.

On the other hand, in the case of veneers, it is not always necessary to drill the teeth, and in cases where that it is case, the amount needed is much less and therefore it is a less invasive treatment. This is to say that, in the event that the tooth must be drilled for the placement of a veneer, this dental drilling or filing will be between 0.3 and 1mm approximately.

This is contrasted with the placement of a crown where the drilling will be approximately 1.5- 2 millimeters. Therefore the treatment of dental veneers is more conservative in comparison to the treatment of dental caps or crowns.

Teeth where these treatments are placed

As we have said, veneers have an aesthetic function and therefore they will normally always be placed on the anterior teeth. That is, the veneers will be placed over the teeth that are visible when you smile.

On the contrary, the crowns can be placed on any tooth, including the posterior teeth. If a front tooth requires an improvement in aesthetics, but already has many large fillings, then a veneer will not be suitable, and a crown will be necessary.

Likewise, the posterior teeth are the teeth that receive the most chewing load, therefore, the most common functional treatment in these will be the crowns.

Materials used in its manufacture

Veneers can be made of composite or porcelain. Composite material generally is less durable and resistant than ceramics since they can stain over time, chip and wear out.

The crowns can be metallic, metal-ceramic and zirconia. Zirconia crowns are used in dental aesthetics on anterior teeth with excellent results.

Indication of treatment

Depending on the purpose of the treatment to be carried out, and most importantly the condition of the tooth to start with, will determine which is more appropriate – the veneer or the crown.

If what you want is to improve the color of your teeth and / or shape or slightly their position, the indicated treatment that is suggested from this article is dental veneers.

If, on the other hand, a patient needs to protect a fractured tooth or has had a large restoration, or with an root canal treatment, the suggested treatment from the article would be that of a crown.

At Dentista we carry out a customised treatment plan and adapt each aesthetic treatment to the needs of your smile. If you want to correct those small imperfections, or have a functional issue that you would also like to be aesthetically pleasing, then do not hesitate to make an appointment at the clinic in the Morley and Noranda area.

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