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Veneers vs. Crowns: What’s the Difference and Which One Is Right for You?

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Veneers vs. Crowns: What’s the Difference and Which One Is Right for You?

  1. Home
  2. Dental Articles
  3. Dental Crown and Bridges Articles
  4. Veneers vs. Crowns: What’s the Difference and Which One Is Right for You?

Veneers and crowns are both dental restoration methods that can improve the look and function of your teeth. The main difference is that a veneer covers only the front of your tooth and a crown covers the entire tooth.

Dental restoration procedures are costly, so it’s important to know which one may be best for you. Although the procedures are different, both have success rates.

Here’s a look at the differences between veneers and crowns, the pros and cons of each, and how they’re used.

What’s the difference between a veneer and a crown?

A veneer is a skinny layer of porcelain or other materials, about 1 millimetre (mm) in thickness, that’s bonded to the front of your existing tooth.

A crown is about 2 mm in thickness and covers the whole tooth. It can be all porcelain; porcelain fused to a metal alloy (PFM), or an all-metal alloy.

Whether a veneer or a crown is right for you will depend on the condition of your teeth and what you’re trying to fix. Common conditions for restoration are:

  • discoloured teeth
  • chipped, cracked, or broken teeth
  • decayed or weakened teeth
  • crooked teeth

Both crowns and veneers are colour-matched to your teeth, except for all-metal crowns.

What is a veneer?

A veneer covers only the front surface of your tooth. They’re not as invasive as crowns because the preparation leaves more of your original tooth intact.

About half a millimetre of the enamel on the tooth’s front is ground down to roughen the surface for bonding the veneer. Some newer types of veneers don’t need as much grinding of the tooth surface. You may need a local anesthetic for this because the grinding may be painful.

For a veneer to work properly, your tooth has to have enough enamel on it for a veneer to bond to it.

What is a crown?

A crown covers the entire tooth. More of the tooth needs to be filed or ground down to prepare for the crown placement with a crown.

If you have tooth decay, your dentist will remove the decayed part of the tooth before making the crown. In this case, your tooth may need to be built up to support the crown.

Your tooth may also need to be built up if it’s damaged. You may have a local anesthetic for this procedure.

How do you know which one is right for you?

If your tooth has a large filling, a root canal, or is very worn or cracked, a crown is likely the best option.

If your tooth is basically intact and the restoration is for cosmetic purposes, a veneer may be the best option. Veneers can also be used for minor shape corrections.

How much do they cost?

Veneers and crowns can be costly. Individual costs vary, depending on the size of your tooth, where it is in your mouth and the average prices in your area.

Most dental insurance programs won’t cover cosmetic dentistry. Also, most dental plans have a maximum annual limit of coverage. Check with your insurance company to see what they’ll cover.

Veneers

According to the American Cosmetic Dentistry organization, the cost for a veneer can range between $925 to $2,500 per tooth.

According to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, porcelain veneers are more expensive than composite veneers, but they last longer. The price of composite veneers ranges from $250 to $1,500 per tooth.

Crowns

The cost of a crown varies by the material used to make the crown, the amount of prep work needed, and the size of the tooth.

According to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, crowns can range from $1,000 to $3,500 per tooth. This figure doesn’t include other procedures such as core buildup or root canals that might be needed before the crown is made.

Porcelain and ceramic crowns tend to be slightly more expensive than all-metal crowns.

Ways to save

Ask your dentist if they have a budget or payment plan or if you can space out your payments over one or two years without interest.

Dental prices in your area may vary. Call other local dentists to see if there are better options.

If you live near a university with a dental school, you may be able to find a dental clinic where supervised dental students perform dental procedures for crowns, veneers, and other dental needs at reduced rates.

Pros and cons of veneers and crowns

Veneer pros

  • They may be more aesthetically pleasing than crowns in the long run because they don’t show a gum margin after several years, as crowns sometimes do.
  • Some veneers don’t require a lot of trimming, so more of your healthy natural tooth remains.
  • Teeth with veneers have minimal movement.

Veneer cons

  • Veneers leave more areas of your tooth exposed to new decay.
  • Composite veneers cost less but may only last 5–7 years. Other materials last longer but may have to be replaced.
  • Veneers aren’t reversible.
  • Veneers may not be covered by dental insurance.

Crown pros

  • All of the teeth are covered, so your tooth is more protected from decay.
  • Porcelain crowns look and feel just like your natural teeth.
  • Crowns are relatively permanent and don’t have to be removed for cleaning as dentures do.
  • Dental insurance may cover a portion of the cost of a crown.

Crown cons

  • More of your natural tooth is removed to make room for the crown.
  • Your crowned tooth may be more sensitive to heat and cold initially, and you may experience gum pain. If sensitivity increases, schedule a follow-up visit.
  • Porcelain is fragile and can be damaged over time.
  • Porcelain fused to a metal alloy (PFM) crown shows a thin dark line between your natural tooth and the crown.

Questions to ask your dentist

You’ll want to know at the outset how much your crown or veneer will cost and how much, if anything, your insurance will pay toward the cost. You’ll also want to know about your dentist’s experience with both procedures.

Other questions for your dentist depending on your particular needs, but some questions you may want to ask include the following:

  • Are there other options to consider, such as dentures or implants?
  • How long do you expect my veneer or crown material to last?
  • Will the initial cost cover subsequent visits if the crown fit isn’t right?
  • Will I need to wear a mouthguard?
  • Do you recommend any special care for the veneer or crown?

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