Braces or Veneers [Checklist 2017]

A nice smile is often the first thing people notice about you. Crooked, chipped or stained teeth detract from your appearance and may have health implications as well. Once you decide it’s time to do something about your smile, you may be unsure whether braces or veneers are the best choices. Here’s some information to help you make a choice, courtesy of Dr. Patricia J. Panucci of Beach Braces, in Manhattan Beach, California.

 girl with braces

A Bit About Braces

These tooth-straightening systems come in several varieties. There’s the traditional stainless steel wire version in which brackets are cemented to the outside of the teeth and connected with wires which are tightened or loosened to move the teeth. The lingual version is applied to the inside of the teeth. Either of these may also have ceramic rather than metal brackets.
There is also a self-litigating system called Empower, which has a single adjustable metal wire that connects all the brackets, rather than individual wires to connect each bracket. Invisalign is a removable tooth-straightening system that consists of a series of plastic aligners that fit over the teeth. Unlike traditional systems, Invisalign is removable, which means it’s easier to keep the teeth clean and you don’t need to restrict your diet – just take the aligner out for meals.

Veneer Basics

Although you wouldn’t normally compare your teeth to furniture, it makes sense when talking about a veneer. Just like the thin layer of expensive wood used in a furniture veneer, these are wafer-thin shells that cover the tooth. The shell may be made of porcelain in a dental lab and attached to each tooth. They can also be created and molded chair-side of resin composite, which is a type of plastic.
A veneer can be color-matched to your existing teeth. If you are having all your teeth covered, you can have all the shells made in a lighter color, gaining the same effect as tooth whitening treatments. By the way, an orthodontist doesn’t usually provide veneer applications.

Tooth Treatment

When considering ways to improve your smile, it’s important to recognize that there are cosmetic improvements, functional improvements, and combination treatments. For example, getting your teeth whitened is purely cosmetic – it does nothing to affect the function of the teeth. If you have a severe overbite or underbite, the primary reason for treatment is to correct a functional problem. Overbites and underbites affect your ability to chew and talk and can cause problems like headaches or uneven tooth wear.
However, straightening the teeth has both cosmetic and functional effects. Many treatments offer both cosmetic and functional improvements even though the primary purpose leans in one direction or the other. A veneer, like tooth whitening, is strictly cosmetic. It does not affect function as long as the veneer is properly made and fitted. If a veneer affects function, it usually is on the negative side and means there’s a problem.

Why Do I Need Treatment?

Crooked teeth, teeth with noticeable gaps and teeth that are too close together can all create functional problems. Oral hygiene such as brushing and flossing can also be more difficult in these situations, which increases the risk of inadequately cleaned teeth and may promote tooth decay. Misaligned teeth can wear unevenly and contribute to jaw pain or headaches. Teeth that are stained, yellowed or grayish cause aesthetic issues, and may make you look older, as the teeth typically become more yellow with age.
However, the color of your teeth don’t affect function – this is a cosmetic issue. That’s not to say cosmetic issues aren’t important – how you look can affect how you feel about yourself. Your looks can also affect your success at work, especially in high profile jobs or those where appearance is a major issue such as the media or entertainment industry.

What Are the Treatments Like?

A veneer can be used only on individual teeth or all the teeth can be veneered. In either case, the tooth must be prepared. The teeth are cleaned and buffed, which removes a thin layer of the natural tooth. The resin composite veneer is then built right on the tooth or the porcelain shell is glued to the tooth. In either case, a veneer can be used to cover stains or chips, make the tooth look straighter or hide gaps between the tooth.
You’ll typically need at least two appointments. Orthodontic treatment takes at least a year and may take longer depending on what the actual problem is. Multiple visits are necessary to apply, fit or adjust brackets and wires or create the Invisalign aligners (although you need less frequent visits with Invisalign). You’ll also need to continue to wear a retainer after the initial treatment is completed to keep the teeth in their new position.
confused woman

So How Do I Choose?

It really depends on your goal, dental problems, and financial situation. Orthodontics resolves any issues of crooked teeth, moves the teeth into alignment so they don’t gap or crowd and improves the function of your bite. Orthodontia also improves the appearance of your smile, although that isn’t its primary purpose. Orthodontic treatment does not affect stains or discoloration. Veneers can improve the appearance of your teeth by making them look straighter. Also covering up stains, but they don’t affect function.

It’s difficult to compare the costs because of the different treatment systems for orthodontic treatment and other issues such as whether you choose to have a veneer placed on part or all of your teeth. Again, remember, if you need to improve the function of your mouth, bite and teeth, a veneer can’t achieve your goal. Have a frank discussion with your orthodontist so you can be sure you understand all of the risks, benefits, and costs involved.

You can improve your smile and appearance. You can also improve the function of your mouth and prevent problems later in life. Please contact us for questions or to schedule an appointment.


Beach Braces Orthodontics
220 N. Aviation Blvd
Suite A
Manhattan Beach
CA 90266
Phone: (310) 379-0006

Braces or Veneers Checklist 2017


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