What are dental veneers?

A woman reclining in the dentist's chair smiles as the dentist holds one of her new veneers up to her mouth for approval.

Lots of things can make us feel self-conscious about our smile. For example, if we are missing teeth due to an accident or necessary extraction, we may hide our smile behind our hands, or even try not to laugh. But it’s not just missing teeth that can make us feel this way. A crooked, misshapen, damaged or discoloured smile can make us feel just as uncomfortable.

Luckily, there are solutions available for all of these common dental problems. One such solution is dental veneers. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about veneers, from what they are and how they could help you, to how they stack up against dentures.

What are veneers?

Veneers are to teeth as false nails are to fingernails – except veneers can last for many years.i They fit over the front surface of a tooth, and are used to improve the colour, shape, or position of your teeth.i They are an excellent solution for discoloured teeth, and can make a chipped tooth look whole again.i

Veneers are made of either composite materials (the materials used to make white fillings) or porcelain.ii Porcelain veneers have a natural looking surface and are longer-lasting than composite veneers, but they’re also a lot more expensive.ii

What are dentures?

Dentures are removable false teeth.iii They are used to replace missing teeth (which you may have lost through an accident or extraction, for example) and eliminate any potential problems caused by the gaps left behind.iii These can include problems with eating and speech, or teeth either side of the gaps growing into the space at an angle.iii

Depending on whether you’re missing all or just some of your teeth, the kind of dentures you are fitted for will vary. There are two types of dentures: complete dentures and partial dentures.

Complete dentures

Complete dentures (also known as full dentures) are used to replace a full row of upper or lower missing teeth, and rest directly on your gums. Complete dentures usually have bases made from a rigid acrylic (a kind of plastic), and are made using moulded impressions of your mouth taken during visits to your dentist. This ensures a snug, comfortable fit.

The teeth on dentures are usually made from acrylic or another type of plastic. You may prefer to have them made from porcelain, although – as with veneers – this may be a more costly option.

Partial dentures

If you still have some healthy teeth left, your dentist will probably recommend partial dentures. Designed to fit around your remaining teeth, they help to prevent tooth loss or extraction, and can be removed between meals and while you sleep.

Partial dentures are made from a mix of acrylic and a small amount of metal, which is used to help clasp the denture in place inside your mouth. The bases of some partial dentures are made from a more flexible type of thermoplastic (e.g. nylon). This can be more expensive, but may ensure that your dentures look and feel more natural.

Learn more about complete dentures, partial dentures, and temporary dentures.


What’s the difference between dentures and veneers?

Basically, dentures and veneers are designed to address different oral issues. While dentures are meant to replace missing teeth, veneers are adhered to your existing teeth, and are designed to address issues with their appearance.

Also, while dentures are readily available through the UK’s National Health Service, veneers often aren’t.iv Veneers are only available on the NHS if there’s a clinical need for them, not just for cosmetic purposes.iv

Other cosmetic treatment options

If you’ve been researching veneers because you have concerns about the appearance of your teeth, chances are you might be wondering what other options are available to improve the look of your smile.

Cosmetic dentistry (or ‘aesthetic dentistry’) is a type of dentistry that is completely dedicated to helping you improve your smile’s appearance, and it covers a range of treatments that can be used to straighten, lighten, reshape and repair your teeth.v

These treatments include:v

  • Crowns
  • Bridges
  • Tooth-coloured fillings (known as ‘white fillings’)
  • Implants
  • Tooth whitening

You will have to pay privately for any cosmetic dental treatments,iv so that’s something to keep in mind. However, if your smile bothers you so much that it holds you back or keeps you from enjoying your life, it may be a worthwhile investment.

Always talk to your dentist about any concerns you have about your smile, whether medical or cosmetic in nature. They are best placed to discuss any oral issues and advise on potential next steps.

  1. Veneers. Oral Health Foundation. https://www.dentalhealth.org/veneers. Accessed 27/08/2021. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
  2. ADA Patient Smart. Dental Veneers. http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/ADA_PatientSmart_Veneers.pdf . Accessed 16/09/2021. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
  3. Dentures (false teeth). NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dentures/. Accessed 27/08/2021. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
  4. What is included in each NHS dental band charge? NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/dental-health/what-is-included-in-each-nhs-dental-band-charge/. Accessed 27/08/2021. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
  5. Cosmetic treatment. Oral Health Foundation. https://www.dentalhealth.org/cosmetic-treatment. Accessed 27/08/2021. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.