I’ve had the same porcelain veneers on my front teeth forever. I think it was about 20 years ago that I fell and chipped my teeth and had to have the restorations done. They’ve fallen off a few times over the years, but my dentist has always been able to stick them back on. Now he says that he’s worried about decay, and that I should think about having them replaced before it happens. Not only that, but he says there’s probably not enough tooth left to be able to reshape it so the new ones fit well, and he wants to do crowns instead. Is this really necessary? I don’t understand why he can’t just make new ones that fit better without having to reshape my teeth. I’m suspicious!


Maura in Florida

Dear Maura,

It is always good to be cautious about recommendations, even if they come from a trusted source. The average lifespan for porcelain veneers is usually between 10-15 years. Aside from them coming off a few times, it sounds like you’ve had an optimal experience so far. Over time, restorations can crack, stain or chip, which can give a cosmetic reason for replacement. Gum recession also occurs as years pass, and that can leave the area difficult to clean, which makes decay more likely. For aesthetic reasons, and to avoid cavities forming at the gum line, it’s a good idea to have it replaced.

The older methods of preparing a tooth for a porcelain veneer involved removing substantial tooth structure, so your dentist might not have a lot to work with. However, there are a number of materials on the market, as well as alternate procedures that can be performed, which can generally save a tooth from needing a porcelain crown. Without x-rays and a full exam, it’s impossible to say whether you’re a candidate for them, though. The amount of tooth structure that is necessary to be able to do a less invasive restoration is often dependent on the skill-level of the dentist. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion, preferably from a doctor who specializes in cosmetic dentistry. Search out the best cosmetic dentist in your area if you are at all apprehensive about your dentist’s ability. It truly takes an artistic eye and much extensive training beyond dental school to do cosmetic dentistry work well. Seeking another opinion provides a completely independent recommendation to either confirm the treatment or confirm your suspicions.

This post is sponsored by Atlanta cosmetic dentist Flax Dental.