On smiling and sunken costs: trying to improve my smile-- help me navigate the costs and options of veneers and a botched first attempt at pretty teeth.
November 18, 2008 5:58 PM   Subscribe

What are your experiences with thin porcelain veneers? I just spent $1200 on a Snap-On Smile and don't like the result. Should I take my dentist up on his offer to apply that cost towards a $5900 veneers procedure, or just give up and get stuck with the $1200 piece of plastic I won't use?

I spent many of my younger years in braces, but my teeth have all gone their separate ways again and I have a gap between my front two teeth and a "baby tooth" that is a lot smaller than the others, creating a big open space on the left side of my mouth and just making my smile look asymmetrical and gappy. After doing some research on the Snap-On Smile, I went to a pretty good dentist in CT and decided to go ahead and do a $1200 Snap-On with the understanding that it was an affordable alternative to veneers, and though I'd have to take it out at night and treat it/clean it like a denture, I could wear it for a year.... and if I liked how it looked then I could go ahead and do veneers. It was sort of a "preview" to a permanent treatment that I could possibly decide to do in the near future.

That didn't turn out so well-- a normal day's use left my mouth hurting and gave me a headache, I couldn't chew right with it, my teeth didn't fit together when I bit down anymore, and in one mortifying moment, one of my coworkers instantly identified the "fake teeth" and said they look pretty bulky and plastic because... they're plastic, and all connected together, unlike natural slight spacing in real teeth. Also, the plastic made it impossible to wear lipstick (staining and really hard to scrub it off) and I was pretty lispy which is no good because I talk to clients and coworkers all day at my job.

So, it was a bust. The dentist has graciously offered to apply that cost toward getting the more realistic looking thin porcelain veneers. The cost of 4 veneers at ~$1500 a pop will come to about $6000. That's a LOT of money for me right now. And I'm so nervous about the result, because even though they showed me hypothetical "after" pictures, I'm afraid I won't like it and it's not reversible. The thin-veneers require some prep in my case-- a slight prep on the front surface of my four upper front teeth, but also they need to create spaces between them by shaving a little bit of it away. That means, if I don't like it, I can't exactly take them off-- I'll have bigger spaces between my teeth than what I started with.

So, what have Your experiences been with veneers? Chipping, breaking? Do you feel comfortable with thin veneers? I read a related post about cosmetic dentistry and some folks had horror stories, but are there any about the thin veneers?

MetaFilter, should I just chalk it up to a $1200 loss and walk away or should I try to get the result I want (a beautiful smile that will make me confident about smiling and talking and taking pictures) and brace myself for the huge additional cost?
posted by potatopeople to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to an orthodontist? Maybe you can get braces to close the gaps? Something else to look into.
posted by Jahaza at 6:05 PM on November 18, 2008

I know people who got veneers and they all seem to be happy. from what they told me, though, it was more expensive than six thousand dollars. maybe the dentist that fucked up your snap-on thing will fuck up the veneers as well. maybe your dentist is not that awesome to begin with. worth thinking about.
posted by matteo at 6:17 PM on November 18, 2008

Everyone I know who has veneers (several of them due to accidents where their teeth underneath are permanently messed up) is happy with them and in most cases, you can't tell at all. One thing, though, they don't yellow as fast as your real teeth, so there can be a slight difference in color.
posted by fructose at 7:02 PM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: I'm happy with mine. You can't tell they're fake. Just take good care of them. I got my first set when I was in high school, paid for by my parents. At 25 I was paying $6500 for a new set because I had terrible dental care habits all through college. The thought of another huge bill a few years down the road is all the motivation I need to brush, floss, and rinse twice a day.
posted by indyz at 7:17 PM on November 18, 2008

and in one mortifying moment, one of my coworkers instantly identified the "fake teeth" and said they look pretty bulky and plastic

If there were "tactless comment of the year award" at your workplace, surely this would be a strong contender.
posted by jayder at 7:21 PM on November 18, 2008

So reading your post - your bite has changed, you are lisping and the SnapOns are giving you a headache.

You need to have them adjusted! They might be too high, and the dentist may need to do some drilling (of the veneer substitutes) to adjust them correctly to your mouth. Be firm - you are their client.

$1200 is not pocket change. At that price you should be completely satisfied with the product in terms of fit, leaving aside the issue of looks.

As others have indicated, this dentist might not be the best for cosmetic purposes (sure he's good a filling a cavity or refering an endodontist, but people all have their strengths - and weaknesses). So go look for another one, who will make your smile worth a big smile.

Ask around for references. Ask your GP. Ask that friend who has the killer smile you envy. Call the cosmetic surgery department at your university if it has a med school (ask for three names). Ask the state/provincial medical association. Then interview- and ask for references and testimonials. I have considered veneers but went with crowns instead. It's a big expense, but when done right it's completely and absolutely worth every penny. But it took me five years, from initial idea to asking around to sitting in the chair for the treatment. It's a BIG investment in looks, in a smile (forget about the money - you show your teeth every time you smile!!!) - so tread carefully.

Take your time. And in the meantime, return to the dentist and ask for an adjustment to the product you just bought. He should be bending over backwards to make you happy.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:31 PM on November 18, 2008

I'm happy with the way mine look, but I've had problems with some of them coming off or cracking (partly because my teeth were small to begin with, and partly because I have some bite issues that aren't treatable). I've replaced several (3 of 8? 4 of 8?) with crowns, which are supposed to work better. So ask about durability.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:32 PM on November 18, 2008

I've had my veneers on the front four upper teeth for over 12 years now, and they are wonderful. I don't know the original cost, but I only had one crack after 8 years or so. I am always just a tiny bit paranoid when I bite into an apple, but other than that no problems. People don't even think about them being fake, as they were matched to the color of my existing teeth. I still go to the same dentist that put them on, and he told me when the one broke that they were already past their lifespan, but keep them as long as they're still intact.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:01 PM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: I have 100% replaced all my teeth with veneers and crowns, 32 of them I think. I grind my teeth and basically ground my original teeth flat. My dentist originally wanted to put porcelain crowns on my molars and then bleach my front teeth to match. I decided to have them all done instead so I wouldn't constantly be bleaching my teeth to keep them in sync with the crowns. I wore a set of plastic temps that seem similar to what you are talking about, while I waited for the porcelain veneers. The porcelain ones look much much better than the plastic teeth.

You would never guess my teeth were veneers, no one ever has. The key to porcelain veneers if you want them to look like real teeth is to not go "Hollywood White", especially if you are male, like I am. Personally, I think women can pull off gleaming white teeth better than men can. I went a few shades less white than even my dentist recommended in the interest of not looking like a game show host. My teeth look very white, healthy, and not quite perfect (my dentist straightened almost everything out but left some small imperfections that make my mouth look much more real looking that most of the veneer work I see on TV and in the movies). Also, my dentist spent a ton of time measuring my face, and trying to make sure my bite was perfect. As an interesting side effect, my face looks thinner and more symmetrical than it did pre-veneers

As for durability, they are surprisingly durable. That being said I have broken about 5 of them, but keep in mind I'm the person that ground through his original set in just 32 years and destroyed most mouth guards they have given me. I have a mouth guard now that is indestructible, and as long as I remember to wear it most of the time, they do not break.

The cost of course, was outrageous. Similar to what you are being charged, in my case over $50k (of course, today, in this economy I wish I had saved that money for food, heat and ammunition). I would insist on seeing your dentist's before and after book picture book, and make sure you like their previous results. If your dentist does not have such a book, my guess their specialty is not appearance based stuff, and I would head to someone else. Anyway, on balance, I'm very happy with the result.
posted by ill3 at 11:30 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

My two front teeth were severely damaged (one was half missing on the vertical and the other was extremely thin) and my dentist put *something* on them them that has been fantastic. I don't know what it is called but I thought it was the same stuff as what fillings are made of (he used the same heat gun to set it). - On googling, it was a composite veneer. It matches my teeth perfectly, has made my teeth stronger, took about and hour and cost $400. So maybe that is a cheaper option than the porcelain veneers?
posted by saucysault at 4:08 AM on November 19, 2008

You don't necessarily have to do porcelain veneers. If you have a good dentist, you can do composite veneers, which are a little bit less durable, but a lot less expensive. I had composite veneers applied to my teeth when I was 18. I'm going to be 30 next month and they still look great. (The projected lifespan of composite veneers is about 10 years.) They are less invasive than porcelain veneers because your dentist doesn't have to file down your teeth before applying them. But they do require a dentist with a good touch as there is more "artistry" involved.
posted by missjenny at 5:48 AM on November 19, 2008

yeah, look into composites. i have a few of those, and while they do need to be redone every now and again, they're super cheap compared to porcelain. painless too.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:21 AM on November 19, 2008

I would insist on a refund for the first set of snap on veneers, that is ridiculous - he is not being gracious, he is trying to placate you. Beyond that, no advice!
posted by Acer_saccharum at 4:35 PM on November 22, 2008

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