I frequently am asked about the materials that are used for veneers, dental restorations that can rejuvenate a smile. There are some wonderful choices, each with its own characteristics, with porcelain dominating the field. Though composite plastic material can be used, it is not a common choice when the entire facial – or outside – surface on the tooth needs restoration; because it can chip and/or discolor when used as a thin covering, it is best used as a filling material or to restore a fractured tooth corner. This is why porcelain is the material of choice, as it is strong and color-stable.
There are a number of choices to be made among the various types of porcelain. Much like there are different types of countertops with unique characteristics – like Corian or quartz or marble – each has its advantages and disadvantages, though in veneer work the differences are subtle. Feldspathic porcelain is among the prettiest, though it is labor-intensive to fabricate and is a little less strong than the others. Other porcelains, like Empress or E-max, combine beauty and a little more strength. More recently, the use of Zirconium-type porcelain has increased; though it initially was known for its strength, recent incarnations of the material also allow it to be esthetic as well. The Lumineer, developed by a California laboratory, is also used on occasion; it is actually their own brand-name for their veneer, much like Kleenex is a brand name for facial tissue.
In any case, the choice of porcelains for veneers should be based on a number of factors, including esthetics, strength, and thickness required. Other influences include the colors of the teeth they are covering, the type of bite/occlusion the patient has, and the relative strength of the tooth underneath. Fortunately, we have a number of choices that should satisfy all these situations, resulting in veneers that are beautiful, natural, and long-lasting!