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10 July 2014

What is the difference between a crown and a veneer?

A dental crown and porcelain veneer are two types of restorations done for the teeth. Although both show an identical cosmetic end result, these two types are quite distinct from each other and have different applications.

The fundamental difference between a crown and a veneer has something to do with coverage—how much of the tooth they can cover. Typically, crowns cover an entire tooth. On the other hand, porcelain veneers only cover the front surface of the tooth, which is the part that’s immediately visible when a person smiles. A second major difference between these two types is that crowns are much thicker than veneers. Crowns typically measure two millimetres or more in thickness. On the other hand, porcelain veneers are wafer thin. They typically measure one millimetre or less when it comes to thickness.

The purpose of applying dental crowns include the following: creating major shape changes for the tooth, producing a large colour change for the tooth, and rebuilding plus strengthening badly broken or damaged teeth. Crowns are typically guaranteed to be durable and strong. A crown is best recommended for situations where the tooth is often exposed to heavy chewing or biting forces, as well as extreme tooth clenching and grinding. Take note that once a crown is in place on a tooth, that tooth will always require a crown from that moment on.

To get into more detail, crowns are thicker than veneers because dental crown placement requires more tooth trimming. When the dentist prepares a tooth for crowning, the tooth is reduced in size and shape first and then tapered to a nub. The amount reduced is typically at least two millimetres or equivalent to a little past one sixteenth of an inch. The dentist may determine if there’s a need to trim more than that amount. This typical measurement is based on the fact that crowns generally need to be at least 2 millimetres thick. When the crown is cemented around the tooth, it now becomes the new exterior of the tooth. To this effect, crowns can be used to give teeth a new colour or shape.

The purpose of applying porcelain veneers include the following: creating minor shape changes for the tooth, producing a colour change for the tooth, covering teeth with relatively healthy and intact structure for mostly cosmetic purposes. Porcelain veneers are typically strong but brittle, and look more realistic. They require less tooth trimming than crowns. A veneer is best recommended for tooth used to relatively light and passive forces placed upon it. Take note that once in place, a tooth with porcelain veneer would always need a cover. In some special cases, porcelain veneer placements are reversible.

Since porcelain veneers only cover the front surface of the teeth, they require less grinding, and therefore, less reduction in size and shape. The trimmed part is only the front side of the teeth, where the veneer is bonded. The back side of the teeth doesn’t require trimming. Some veneering techniques do not even require tooth reduction.

Less trimming and reduction means that less healthy tooth structure is compromised. This also means less risk of trauma for both the tooth being treated for veneering and the patient.

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