Veneers vs Crowns: Which is Best?

Did you know that the radiant white smiles your favorite celebrities show off on the red carpet are most often achieved with porcelain veneers? 

The good news is that achieving a picture-perfect smile is possible for you, too, regardless of what your teeth look like at the beginning of treatment.

But veneers have limitations, so dental crowns can be a better option in some cases to restore tooth function and aesthetics. 

Whether you need veneers or crowns, you’ve come to the right practice. Dr. David Sabourin is a top-rated cosmetic dentist with more than 35 years of experience restoring smiles to their natural-looking beauty and function with both veneers and dental crowns. 

Let’s review the difference between veneers and crowns so that you can make the right decision.

What is The Difference Between a Crown and a Porcelain Veneer? 

A dental crown or tooth cap is used to restore function and aesthetics in a tooth with a weakened structure that can no longer be restored with fillings. Dental crowns are like a snug hat that fits over a tooth to protect it. 

Dental veneers are a cosmetic dentistry treatment that can dramatically improve the appearance of teeth in your smile zone. As such, dental veneers are like an artificial fingernail—they cover just the surface to improve cosmetic appearance. 

A porcelain veneer is bonded to the front surface of a tooth, whereas a dental crown covers the entire natural tooth structure down to the gum line. Crowns measure 0.5-2 mm on the sides and around 1.5 mm on the chewing surface while porcelain veneers measure about 0.5 mm. 

To prepare a tooth for a crown, it needs to be filed down considerably and reshaped into a smaller size. Any decay needs to be removed because the tooth structure under the crown must be free of decay.

Preparing a tooth for a veneer only involves removing the smallest amount of tooth enamel from the front surface, while ultra-thin no-prep veneers require no enamel removal whatsoever. 

Similarities Between Crowns and Veneers 

Porcelain is used in both crowns and veneers. Porcelain is a ceramic that has similar properties to tooth enamel, so it provides a natural and realistic-looking appearance for all restorations. The surface of porcelain is smooth and impervious, making both porcelain veneers and crowns resistant to coffee, wine, and tobacco stains. 

For both crowns and veneers, the tooth is numbed, impressions are taken and a temporary composite restoration is created that you wear until the permanent restoration comes back from the dental lab. 

When Are Veneers the Best Option? 

Veneers enable improving the shape and color of teeth for a natural-looking and dazzling white smile. They offer a fast, minimally-invasive, and long-lasting method for smile makeovers. 

If you don’t need a crown for compromised teeth but wish to change your tooth appearance, veneers are your best choice

In short, porcelain veneers are a great option for concealing discoloration, enamel wear, small cracks, chips, gaps, and minor tooth misalignment in front teeth that are otherwise healthy. 

Disadvantages of Veneers 

Not everyone is a candidate for porcelain veneers. Issues that exclude patients from getting veneers include decay or active periodontal disease, a weakened tooth structure, an inadequate amount of existing tooth enamel, or bruxism (teeth grinding/clenching). 

Porcelain veneers are only intended for teeth in the smile zone, which limits them to four to eight restorations on either the upper or lower teeth. 

While porcelain veneers are relatively tough, they can chip or break when exposed to excessive impact or force (e.g., teeth grinding, fingernail biting, eating hard food). Removal of tooth enamel can lead to temporary sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages. 

Porcelain veneers are considered a cosmetic dentistry procedure, therefore they aren’t covered by dental insurance. They’re irreversible, costly, and need to be replaced after 15-20 years, if you take good care of them. 

When are Crowns the Best Option? 

Dental crowns are best when a substantial portion of your tooth is compromised, or the tooth simply isn’t strong enough to withstand dental functions like chewing or biting. 

Placing crowns over teeth with cracks, significant decay, and old fillings that cover about two-thirds of the tooth surface protects them and helps prevent extraction. 

If you need root canal treatment to remove infected pulp material in the tooth, this weakens the structure and makes it prone to breakage, therefore a crown is required to strengthen its integrity and prevent damage. 

Dental crowns can alleviate inflammation and tooth sensitivity, as well as remedy malocclusion (improper alignment) and associated functional issues and pain. 

Since dental crowns protect the tooth structure from additional damage, this procedure is partially covered by dental insurance. 

Disadvantages of Crowns 

Dental crowns require major modification of the existing tooth surface, which is irreversible. They can impact surrounding or opposing teeth, leading to gum irritation and sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages. If a crown is too high, it can obstruct teeth on the opposite jaw. Fortunately, this issue is easily remedied by adjusting the height of the crown with a simple procedure called occlusal adjustment. 

Dental crowns can be expensive, but they can prevent the need for more costly procedures such as dental implants and should last 15-20 years, with proper care. 

Speak to a Specialist like Dr. Sabourin 

The best way to decide between crowns or veneers is to schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Sabourin. He will determine if a veneer is the best option to enhance the appearance of your front teeth or if you need a crown to repair a damaged tooth.

Dr. David A. Sabourin, D.D.S.

Dr. Sabourin relocated to San Diego from Ann Arbor, Michigan where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan. He graduated at the top of his class with High Honors from the University of Detroit School of Dentistry where he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.

Learn more about our team here.

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