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What are Indirect Porcelain Veneers?

Earlier this year we started a series of Blogs to discuss Dental Veneers, what they are and how much they cost.

Our mostly recent Blog on this topic discussed “direct porcelain veneers” which are a family of cosmetic veneers directly built up on a tooth using tooth-coloured, bonded filling materials. These direct veneers are limited by the materials and colours of dental fillings available, the skill sets of the dentist placing them (they are technically difficult to do well), and the limits of the material’s strength and durability. They have a shorter life expectancy than indirect porcelain veneers and lose some lustre and colour stability over time. They can facture more easily and pick up stain as surface wear occurs. They can, however, in many cases provide a more affordable solution in some cases.

Treating a tooth with a veneer is like resurfacing the front of the tooth rather than fully capping over it as would occur with a crown (also known as caps). People often think of veneers as being similar to the concept of a false fingernail. False nails are glued to the front of the real nail which remains underneath. The result is that the natural nail remains relatively unchanged, but it gains a new appearance. Veneers provide the same effect for teeth, but last much longer. The tooth underneath is not significantly altered, but with the veneer in place, it can now have a new shape, size and colour. The results can be quite beautiful, and very natural.


Indirect porcelain veneers as a group tend to be stronger and more durable. Their life expectancy can be much longer than direct veneers if appropriately cared for and with regular maintenance by your aesthetically trained dentist.

Broadly speaking, indirect veneers are represented in 3 categories, listed here in order of weakest to strongest .

  1. Hand built porcelain mixes, layered and built up on a hard model.
  2. Then pressable ceramics, which are soft heated ceramics injection moulded into a CADCAM designed model.
  3. Finally, milled ceramics machine milled out of a solid block. Milled ceramics then have a porcelain layer sintered (or infused) into the surface layers, with added tints and glazes. Machining out of a solid block ensures no porosity or weakened areas which cause deformities, fractures, or poor surface quality.

Pressable and machined veneers are not only the future but also the high-tech present reality. The benefits of these veneers are strength, fracture resistance, beauty, and biomimicry (the way a veneer faithfully represents Mother Nature in form, shape, colour and properties such as light reflection, natural translucency, texture etc). In some select cases, these modern materials can provide very conservative or minimal/no preparation veneers. Most direct veneers will need some tooth preparation otherwise its finished edges are in “thin air” and therefore are prone to wear, chipping and retention of extrinsic staining (such as food colourings, coffee, red wine, cigarette stains etc).

Generally speaking, porcelain veneer preparations are very conservative, but can vary widely depending upon the need of the case. Factors such as hiding discolouration, closing spaces and aligning crooked teeth can affect the need for tooth preparation.

At Simply Beautiful Smiles, we always work with the latest and best composite resins and the finest Dental Ceramists to ensure that we provide the very best veneers. We do not outsource our cases to overseas laboratories. The cost of a veneer will vary depending on the material it is made from, and the number of appointments required to create it. The cosmetic nature of the case, and the overall treatment involving the other surrounding teeth, may also influence the cost, as well as the number of appointments required. Other factors affecting the treatment cost are overall requirements of the smile, complexity of the case, nuances of restoring a damaged bite, as well as the skill sets and experience of your aesthetic dentist. Experience and specialised training really does matter when it comes to dental veneers!

Most cases are not costed on a “per tooth” basis, but upon the overall complexity of the case and the factors listed above. However, most direct porcelain veneers would fit into the range of $1500 to $2500 per tooth, on averages of the overall clinical case needs.

For example, a single tooth veneer or perhaps a matching pair would cost more (per tooth) to create a lifelike match to the surrounding existing natural teeth. Mimicking nature is an incredibly complex and difficult craft to master.  Actually, matching just one veneer (or crown) for a front tooth is one of the most technically difficult tasks a dentist can be asked to perform.

Rest assured whichever material you choose, we will give you the best results possible, with the most conservative techniques. Our goal is to make your smile perfect!

From the desk of Dr John Wells


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