Veneers vs. Crowns: What Are the Differences?

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While veneers and crowns can be similar in their physical appearance, they serve different purposes. The main difference is that a veneer covers the front of the tooth and is used mostly for aesthetic purposes, while a dental crown covers the entire tooth and is used to restore a tooth's shape and improve its strength.

Here we will break down what to consider if you're looking to get veneers or crowns.

Veneers vs. Crowns - Illustration by Nez Riaz

Verywell / Nez Riaz

What Is a Veneer?

Dental veneers, also referred to as porcelain veneers, are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front surface of your teeth. This is done to improve your appearance.

The shells are bonded to the front of your teeth, changing the color, shape, size, or length of them.

It's important to consider the various types of dental veneers, which can be made from porcelain or resin composite materials. These can be referred to as porcelain veneers or composite veneers.

Veneers can be used to fix teeth that are discolored from:

Veneers can also be used to fix teeth that are worn down, chipped, broken, misaligned, or have gaps between them.

Porcelain Veneers vs. Composite Veneers

Composite veneers, in the long term, are the most cost-effective option. Of course, the cost of veneers can vary depending on where you live and your dentist's experience.

Procedure

It can typically take three trips to the dentist to apply a dental veneer; one visit for a consultation and two to make and apply the veneers. Your dentist will need to examine your teeth to confirm that dental veneers are right for you and discuss the full procedure.

To prepare your tooth for a veneer, the tooth surface will need to be reshaped. Next, your dentist will make a model or impression of your tooth. The model is then sent out to a laboratory. In the meantime, temporary dental veneers can be used.

Your dentist will check the veneer on your tooth to examine its fit and color. They'll remove and trim the veneer to achieve the proper fit before permanently cementing it to your tooth. The color of the veneer can be adjusted with the shade of cement being used.

Next, to prepare your tooth to receive the veneer, the tooth will be cleaned, polished, and etched. Etching roughens the tooth to allow for a strong bonding process. A special cement is applied to the veneer and placed on your tooth.

With the veneer properly positioned, your dentist will shine a special light beam on it to activate chemicals in the cement, causing it to harden very quickly.

The final steps include removing any excess cement, checking your bite, and making any necessary adjustments. Your dentist may ask you to return for a follow-up visit in a couple of weeks to check your gums and the veneer's placement.

Pros

There are multiple advantages when considering veneers.

  • They provide a very natural appearance similar to teeth.
  • Gums tolerate porcelain well.
  • Porcelain veneers are stain-resistant.
  • Color may be selected to make dark teeth appear whiter.

Cons

While veneers have their advantages, there are some risks to consider.

  • Once completed, the process can't be undone.
  • Since enamel has been removed, your tooth may become more sensitive to hot or cold food and drinks.
  • Veneers may not exactly match the color of your teeth.
  • The color of the veneer can't be altered once it's placed.
  • While unlikely, veneers can dislodge or fall off.
  • You can still experience decay, even with veneers.
  • Veneers aren't a good option for people with dental problems, such as gum disease or decay.
  • People who clench or grind their teeth aren't good candidates for veneers since this can cause the veneers to crack or chip.

What Is a Crown?

A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cap that's placed over the entire tooth. This is done to cover the tooth and to restore its shape, size, strength, and improve its appearance.

When crowns are cemented into place, they fully encase the entire visible portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line.

Crown Uses

A dental crown can be used to protect a weak tooth from breaking and to cover and support a tooth with a large filling when there isn't a lot of tooth left. Crowns can also serve the purpose of holding a dental bridge in place, covering a dental implant, or covering misshapen or badly discolored teeth.

Procedure

You'll usually be required to visit the dentist two times to prepare a tooth for a crown. On the first visit, your dentist may take a few X-rays to check the roots of the tooth receiving the crown and surrounding bone.  If there is extensive decay or if there's a risk of infection or injury to your tooth's pulp, a root canal treatment may need to be performed first.

Before the process of making a crown begins, your dentist will anesthetize (numb) the tooth and the gum tissue around the tooth. The tooth receiving the crown is reshaped along the chewing surface and sides to make space for the crown. The type of crown being used will determine how much of your tooth will be reshaped or removed.

If a large area of your tooth is missing, your dentist will use filling material to "build up" the tooth to support the crown.

After your tooth is reshaped, your dentist will use a paste or putty to make an impression of the tooth to receive the crown. Sometimes, impressions are made with a digital scanner. Your dentist will also make impressions of the teeth above or below the one receiving the dental crown to make sure the crown won't affect your bite.

The impressions or scans are sent to a dental lab where the crown will be manufactured. This process can take two to three weeks. If the crown is made of porcelain, your dentist will also select the shade that most closely matches the color of the neighboring teeth.

During the first visit, your dentist will make a temporary crown to cover and protect the prepared tooth while the crown is being made.

At the second visit, your dentist will remove the temporary crown and check the fit and color of the permanent crown. If everything is acceptable, a local anesthetic will be used to numb the tooth and the new crown will be permanently cemented in place.

Pros

Dental crowns provide solutions to a number of dental problems, including:

  • Supporting a tooth that has been significantly damaged by decay
  • Covering a dental implant
  • Holding a severely cracked or broken tooth together
  • Improving the appearance of a tooth by changing its shape or color

Crowns are long-lasting and can hold up for five to 15 years, depending on maintenance.

Cons

There are risks and complications to be considered when getting a dental crown, including:

  • After receiving a crown, your teeth may be sensitive to heat or cold.
  • Certain types of crowns, specifically porcelain crowns, can be more vulnerable to chipping.
  • If there isn't enough cement keeping it in place, a crown can get loose or even fall out.
  • While uncommon, some people may experience an allergic reaction to the metal used in some crowns.
  • If the gums around your crown get sore, irritated, or start bleeding, you could be developing gingivitis or gum disease.

Costs

When considering veneers or crowns, it's important to keep in mind the costs for each procedure.

Veneer

The cost of a veneer can vary depending on what type of veneer you plan on getting. Composite veneers can cost between $250 and $1,500 per tooth, while the cost of porcelain veneers run between $925 and $2,500 per tooth. Of course, the cost of veneers can vary depending on where you live and your dentist's experience.

Insurance

Since veneers are considered a cosmetic procedure, it's important to note that they're usually not covered by insurance. Crowns can be covered by dental insurance when the procedure is necessary for the maintenance of good dental health.

Crowns

Generally, crowns can range from $800-$1,700 per crown. Once again, the cost of veneers can vary depending on where you live and your dentist's experience.

Aftercare

If you're considering either veneers or crowns, it's important to keep in mind maintenance after either procedure.

The recovery process after receiving veneers is fairly short. Once the veneers are cemented and the anesthesia wears off, you can eat and chew as you normally would.

Traditional porcelain veneers typically last 10 years. Taking certain precautions can help make sure that you get the longest use out of them as possible. These precautions include:

  • Avoiding chewing on hard objects
  • Avoiding using your teeth to open a package
  • Avoiding chewing with your front teeth
  • Getting a mouthguard if you play sports

For the first 24 to 48 hours after receiving a dental crown, you should avoid sticky and hard foods. Beyond that time, you may start to treat your crown as though it's a natural tooth.

While a crowned tooth doesn't require any special care, please keep in mind that just because a tooth is crowned, that doesn't mean that the tooth is protected from decay or gum disease.

Oral Hygiene

With either veneers or crowns, it's important to practice good oral hygiene, such as brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing daily, and rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash.

Summary

When making the choice between veneers and crowns, keep in mind that the goal is to improve your smile and the function of your teeth.

Veneers can typically be used when considering a cosmetic improvement, such as a chipped tooth. Crowns should be considered when the tooth has experienced a lot of decay.

Consult with your dentist to weigh your best options taking into consideration your dental health, desired end result, and budget.

A Word From Verywell

When considering between veneers or crowns, take the time to sit down with your dentist and discuss what you feel are your best options. Keep in mind what you are looking to achieve long-term, while also considering maintenance, and cost.

It's also very important to keep in mind how vital dental hygiene is to your well-being. Getting regular dental check-ups and practicing good dental hygiene are essential when it comes to maintaining your veneer or crown and the rest of your teeth.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which is better, veneers, or crowns?

    Veneers and crowns each have their advantages and disadvantages. If your tooth has a large filling, root canal, or is very worn or cracked, a crown is likely the best option. If your tooth is mostly intact and the restoration is for cosmetic purposes, a veneer may be the best option.

  • Which lasts longer, veneers or crowns?

    Veneers can typically last anywhere from five to 10 years, whereas crowns have an average lifespan of around 10 to 15 years. However, with proper care, good dental hygiene habits, and regular dental check-ups, some crowns may last for decades. Depending on the material used and your dental habits, the lifespan of a veneer compared to a crown is similar, but veneers may not last as long because they're thinner.

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