What's the difference between direct composite veneers and porcelain veneers?

Dr. Catrise Austin:

Hey guys. It’s Dr. Catrise Austin, The Queen of Smiles. I am here in sunny, California, with one of my favorite dental labs. This is Gil from Frontier Dental Laboratory here in California.

Gil Villavecer:

Very good. Thank you, Dr. Austin. Well, I feel like I’m with royalty and here being the Queen of Smiles, it certainly feels that way and we’ve always admired each other’s work and to have the opportunity to work together with Dr. Austin, it’s just such a privilege and a pleasure for us. And so today what we want to do is talk about our experiences from the top notch cosmetic doctor perspective and from our lab perspective, so hopefully it’ll give you guys a, a good feel for what happens.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

I get a lot of questions from you guys out there, every day on Instagram and Facebook, so I wanted to address some of the frequently asked questions that I get in my DM. So, the first one is from John. He’s from New York City and he wanted to know what’s the difference between composite veneers and porcelain veneers because you see this on Instagram all the time and what’s the big difference?

Gil Villavecer:

Okay. Excellent question. We get that too. Composite veneers, think of it this way versus porcelain veneers, there’s really four factors. It’s cost, aesthetics, and cost typically is the most important one, but we’ll cover that. Cost, aesthetics, longevity, and durability.

Gil Villavecer:

So the cost of a veneer, composite veneers, they’re done in your office.

Gil Villavecer:

And it’s basically a composite material that it’s done in one visit and the dentist is the one actually placing that, right? You know that better than I do.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

It’s like it comes in a putty form. It’s like a fiber material and what I do is I’ll take it and hand sculpt it to your teeth, shape it, make it look real nice and then harden it with the lamp and so it’s only done in one visit, unlike porcelain veneers, which typically takes two visits.

Gil Villavecer:

I can talk about porcelain veneers. With porcelain veneers, they’re thin shells and porcelain is porcelain. Think of porcelain is glass much like porcelain material and the cost may be a little bit more in the beginning because Dr. Austin has to make one appointment. Send it to the lab. The lab has to fabricate it to our exact specifications and that’s where aesthetics will come in.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

And you’re literally hand sculpting it. Like ladies, if you’ve been to the nail salon, you know how we take that powder and then liquid and kind of design it. That’s what they’re doing for each and every veneer that they make. So there’s like… How much time?

Gil Villavecer:

It typically takes for a smile, we typically and I actually factored this one time, there’s typically 20 pairs of hands that have to touch that from the time you send it in. So, that’s the model room. That’s the ceramist. That’s all the different things and so like you said, each one is done custom made. So if you look at somebody with beautiful teeth that are natural, you can see there’s a lot of colors. Teeth aren’t white. We can make, and this is kind of a lab joke, we can make Chiclets all day long.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

All day long.

Gil Villavecer:

But that’s not what you want to do.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

You guys see them on Instagram and Facebook all the time. He doesn’t do it.

Gil Villavecer:

So if you want a natural looking tooth, let’s pretend this is my tooth. You have to layer in all of those effects and a ceramicist to take it, like she said at the nail salon, every single little detail that is done with a ceramic has to look like something, right? Whether it’s translucency of the incisal edges. Whether it’s a little bit darker up at the top, those are the kinds of things. So, that’s where the artistry of aesthetics comes in.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

The artistry.

Gil Villavecer:

So while the costs might be, this is all related here. While the cost might be more in the beginning, they actually lasts more than-

Dr. Catrise Austin:

Longer.

Gil Villavecer:

… Two to three times longer. So, typical veneers and a lot of that depends on your dentist, of course, but typically veneers will last 10 to 20 years.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

That’s what we say and I actually say, they could last a lifetime if you take care of it and we’ll talk about that a little bit.

Gil Villavecer:

So while the costs may be less upfront, if you think about over the lifetime of your smile and what you do, you wear that smile every single day.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

Every day.

Gil Villavecer:

It’s really doesn’t cost more. Okay?

Dr. Catrise Austin:

It really doesn’t.

Gil Villavecer:

No. So let’s talk a little bit about aesthetics. I mentioned that we have to do that with porcelain because when you’re doing it at the chairside, you don’t have the ability to layer in all the effects that we can in the lab.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

Natural teeth.

Gil Villavecer:

So we have a ceramicist that works there and he works on all the teeth to make sure everything is harmonious, meaning we don’t have one guy doing this and another guy doing that. It’s one person that looks at the whole smile, the facial aesthetics and the shape and the design of the smile. So there’s a lot that goes into it. We have the experience in doing that and so aesthetically, a porcelain veneer, it looks more like-

Dr. Catrise Austin:

A real tooth.

Gil Villavecer:

Natural tooth. Yeah.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

And that’s the one thing that I have a problem with, with the composites. If you don’t have the right cosmetic dentist, they will be uniformly colored and teeth aren’t just one color. They may not mimic all the details, the fine details, that the ceramicist, that has years and years of experience and skill can do.

Gil Villavecer:

So I think we’ve convinced you that aesthetically a porcelain veneer will more than likely look more natural.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

If you’re going for natural, the porcelain, [crosstalk 00:04:56].

Gil Villavecer:

A tooth that’ll match your teeth better. Let’s talk about longevity and durability. So when it comes to longevity, porcelain is a lot stronger. If we’re just talking about, if we take a bar of composite and a bar of porcelain, porcelain’s a lot stronger than that.

Gil Villavecer:

However, when you bond that porcelain in on a tooth, that’s what Dr. Austin does at her office, it becomes very, very strong. A good analogy that I like to give is porcelain is glass, right? It’s a glass material. It’s like a tile. Think of a tile of glass. If we have it here and we do that, it might break. If we knock on it, it might break. If we put it on the ground and put a little pebble underneath it and step on it, it’ll definitely break. Right? But what if we took that piece of glass and put it on the ground and put some cement on it and put it down and jumped up and down with all the force possible.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

We do it every day.

Gil Villavecer:

Exactly and that’s what happens. The tile that you walked into your beautiful office, that’s a piece of porcelain that’s on a substructure, right?

Dr. Catrise Austin:

Yes, indeed.

Gil Villavecer:

So that’s what we do now. We’ve got this porcelain shell that’s very thin, made out of porcelain and she’s going to show you here.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

This is-

Gil Villavecer:

Hold on up there so they can see how thin it is.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

That is a crown. Hold on.

Gil Villavecer:

There’s some veneers right there.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

All right.

Gil Villavecer:

So how many millimeters would you expect that to be?

Dr. Catrise Austin:

About 0.5 millimeter.

Gil Villavecer:

Barely a millimeter.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

Like the thickness of a contact lens.

Gil Villavecer:

Exactly. In fact, sometimes we call our veneers, contact lenses. So imagine if you take that tile, or that veneer, and Dr. Austin bonds it into the tooth, a lot of forces can go on there and it’s going to be very, very strong and that’s why she said they could last a lifetime.

Dr. Catrise Austin:

Yes.

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