You’re looking to get a smile makeover to achieve the sparkling, white smile of your dreams, but what can you expect from the process?

Why might your dentist recommend veneers over whitening treatments if you are just looking to brighten your smile? Or why might they choose whitening treatments as a part of your treatment instead of a total makeover?

Here is what whitening treatments and veneers are and the best uses for both.

Whitening Treatments: What they are

Whitening treatments are the application of a bleaching agent (either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide) to the surface of the teeth to remove stains that give the appearance of aging. 

The formulation of the whitening gel used in the office is stronger than those in at-home kits found on the shelves of the drugstore. Under the supervision and direction of your dentist, these formulas are faster, safer, and more effective. 

In the office, your dentist will take an impression of your mouth to create a custom-fit whitening tray. When the tray is made, you will be shown how to properly apply the whitening gel and fit it to your teeth. You can then carry out treatments from the comfort of your own home per your dentist’s instructions. 

Whitening treatments are best used for surface stains that have occurred from eating, drinking, aging, or smoking. Staining and discoloration from fluorosis, trauma, or tetracycline staining cannot be removed with whitening treatments and can even be worsened by them. Whitening is also not a treatment option for those with sensitive teeth and gums or transparent teeth.

Natural teeth are porous, so whitening isn’t a permanent solution to maintaining a white smile. After treatment, they need to be properly cared for and maintained to prevent staining. Some patients may find they need treatment each year to maintain results.

Dental Veneers: What they are

Dental veneers are thin, shell-like pieces of porcelain that are bonded to the surface of front-facing teeth. They are used to correct discolored, misshapen, misaligned, cracked, chipped, or gapped teeth. Before placement, a minimal amount of enamel is removed from the tooth. 

Veneers are used to restore discolored teeth that cannot otherwise be treated by whitening treatments. They are also used to reshape teeth to close gaps, hide chips or cracks, and even out a smile. Unlike with whitening treatments, veneers allow you to select the precise shade of whiteness for your teeth. Due to the nature of ceramic, they are also highly resistant to staining. 

After removing a thin layer of enamel from your teeth, your dentist will take impressions of your bite to get precise measurements to use when fabricating your veneers. Once they have been created, the dentist will apply a bonding agent to the surface of the tooth, place the veneer, and secure its placement by hardening the bonding agent with a curing light.

Dental bonding, also commonly referred to as composite veneers, is another treatment option for smile makeovers focused on achieving a whiter shade for teeth. Considered to be more conservative than veneers, bonding requires minimal tooth prep before being applied. 

Your dentist will prepare the tooth by etching it at a microscopic level to give the resin a surface it can grip onto. A resin shade is selected to seamlessly match that of the other teeth in your smile. The resin is then expertly shaped over the tooth and hardened using a curing light. Small tweaks may be made to the shape to ensure a proper fit before the procedure is finished by polishing the final product to a shine. 

Best Uses for Whitening Treatments and Veneers

Whether whitening treatments and veneers are a part of your smile makeover treatment plan greatly depends on the extent of your staining and overall smile goals.

Those suffering from decay or gum disease are not candidates for whitening or veneers. They will first need to receive treatment to restore dental health before they can consider cosmetic treatments. 

When discussing a smile makeover, it is very important to understand a patient’s expectations of the final result. Sometimes a patient will expect whitening treatments to give them that “movie star smile” they’ve been dreaming of attaining but end up disappointed with the final results. When a Hollywood smile is referenced, it’s often only in terms of creating a white and sparkling smile. 

However, the shape, spacing, and balance of the teeth all play as much of a role in achieving that perfect smile as achieving a brighter shade of white does. Depending on the current state of a patient’s smile and their goals, veneers may be recommended to effectively meet their desired results for this reason.  

It is always ideal to preserve as much dental tissue as possible in order to maintain optimum oral health. If cosmetic concerns can be best remedied with a conservative procedure, it will be the first recommendation in your treatment plan.

When discolored teeth are already ideally shaped and make up a well-balanced smile that is in harmony with a patient’s face, whitening treatments are the ideal treatment option.