There’s a hugh difference between fillings, crowns, and veneers. Fillings are placed within the outside walls of the tooth. When a tooth has decay, first the decay has to be removed so that there only remains healthy tooth structure. After the tooth is free of decay, it needs a filling. In the front teeth, tooth colored filling materials called composite are used. A filling is used when only a small amount of tooth structure needs replacing or repair.
It’s necessary to have enamel on the tooth in order to do a composite filling and to do a veneer, but that’s not the case when it comes to crowns. A crown is needed when too much tooth has been destroyed by decay and there’s not enough tooth left to fill or when a tooth has had root canal therapy. When a crown is made, it requires that the dentist remove the remaining enamel from the tooth. What remains is the inside of the tooth and that is called dentin. The crown acts like a girdle around the dentin and the crown replaces the missing enamel.
So, fillings and crowns usually are replacing far more tooth structure than veneers. Veneers are eggshell thin and are indicated in most cases because we want to conserve and protect the tooth structure. Sometimes when veneers are filling gaps between teeth or are used to “straighten” crooked teeth, there is more porcelain (the preferred material for making veneers), but usually veneers require little or no removal of enamel. Enamel is needed so that the veneer can bond onto the surface of the tooth. A special composite that flows easily is used to attach the veneer to the front surface of the tooth. So for veneers, composites are used like a glue instead of as a filling material. Veneers are for teeth that need a “face lift.”
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