The Difference Between Veneers and Crowns

When the health of your teeth is neglected, it can often get to the point where surgical intervention is necessary. In the worst of these cases, teeth will need to be removed, and implants will be required. In less severe cases, a tooth will just need added protection, whether it be for medical or cosmetic reasons.

This added protection comes through either a dental crown or a porcelain veneer. These additions to your teeth are both intended to protect your teeth as well as make them look better and healthier. While they are largely intended for the same purpose, crowns and veneers are different in many ways. Before moving forward with either procedure, you should have a clear understanding of the distinction between the two courses of treatment and pros and cons of each.  Here is a rundown of the distinctions and differences between crowns and veneers.

Dental Crowns

Crowns can be applied to a tooth, either partially caps or completely encircles a tooth, for a number of reasons. Most commonly a crown is applied if a cavity is deep enough to threaten the future health of the tooth (requiring extraction).  Additional reasons for a crown include cosmetic reshaping for a more aesthetically pleasing smile if tooth decay or fracture leads to a lack of confidence.  A crown can also be used to repair a tooth that has been significantly damaged, whether through an accident or through decay from neglecting dental health.

Because crowns cover your entire tooth and are 2 millimeters thick, the size of your tooth needs to be significantly reduced in order to apply one. When receiving a crown, the crown is meant to serve as a new outside layer of your tooth, replacing the one that decayed away. The tooth usually needs to be reduced by about 2 millimeters in order to fit the crown, but because crowns can also be used to reshape a tooth, more may need to be grinded away.

Crowns are permanent. Once a crown has been put in place, the outside layer of your tooth that used to be there is gone, so a crown will always be needed for protection of further damage for that tooth. Unless unexpected damage or trauma happens to a crown, it is expected to survive on your tooth for 5 to 15 years. Most dental insurance does not cover crown replacement until your old crown has been in place for at least 5 years. Like your original tooth, your crown’s longevity will depend on how well you keep it clean. Crowns are usually applied to teeth that will be used heavily and directly for chewing.

Porcelain Veneers

Veneers serve many of the same purposes as crowns, namely covering unsightly teeth with a new outer layer that both protects the tooth and also improves its aesthetics, but applying veneers is a more minor procedure and used for teeth that generally more healthy. Veneers can be put in place when a small change of color is necessary. They can also be used to make minor changes in the shape of a tooth, like if cosmetic damage has been done to a tooth, such as chipping or slight cracking. In general, veneers are not meant for teeth that have taken significant damage either from neglect or traumatic injury.

Since veneers are mostly cosmetic in nature, they only cover the front of the tooth, and are usually around 1 millimeter thick, about half the thickness of a crown.  Given that veneers are significantly less thick than crowns, and only cover one part of the tooth, less tooth grinding is required. In certain cases, the tooth will not need to be altered at all in order to receive a veneer.

Once a veneer is put in place, there are some cases where it can be removed later on. This is usually the case when the veneer is being applied for purely cosmetic purposes and no reshaping or grinding is done to the tooth. In some cases, a tooth’s health will decline and the veneer will need to be removed and replaced with a crown. Veneers should last anywhere from 10 to 15 years if maintained properly. Since veneers are much thinner than crowns, they should not be put on teeth that are directly and heavily used for chewing.