What is a smile restoration?

There was a woman standing in the aisle of the hardware store holding two items, one in each hand. She gazed down at each while biting her lip, not moving at all. You could see her brow furrow more with each passing second. The two items were both similar in color and even had similar functionality, but she didn’t know which one would work best for her specific home project. This is the scenario many people find themselves in when trying to determine the difference between a veneer and a crown. Smile restorations, like home restorations, require a skilled professional who really understands the ins and outs of the project, as well as the ideal options for restoration, in order to arrive at the best possible solution.

Most smile restorations involve many techniques—but primarily crowns and veneers. If you’re considering investing in a smile rejuvenation, both crowns and veneers are popular options that both provide great results. So how do you know which option is right for you?

Both crowns and veneers are a form of smile restoration that works by covering existing teeth to improve their function or appearance. The differences between the procedures include how much of the original tooth is removed and how much of the tooth is covered. A veneer covers only the front portion of the tooth, whereas a crown encapsulates the entire tooth. To determine if you need a crown or a veneer, first look at the reason for the procedure—is it for restorative reasons because a large part of your tooth is missing (due to damage or decay), or is it for cosmetic purposes? If you need to replace a large part of your tooth, then a crown is best, whereas if your goal is to achieve a cosmetic enhancement, then a veneer might be the better option.


A veneer is a thin strip of porcelain that is placed on top of the tooth. Veneers are most commonly placed on the front teeth—typically six or eight teeth, depending on how many show when you smile—but they can also be placed on lower teeth to give you a complete smile makeover. Porcelain veneers are highly durable and stain resistant. Only a small amount of your natural tooth is removed to place the veneer (just one millimeter, in fact). This procedure simply removes a portion of the enamel from your tooth, providing a porous surface for your dentist to apply the bonding material that will keep your veneer firmly in place. Even though only a small amount of natural tooth is removed, you will always need to wear a veneer to cover the exposed enamel. The great news is that veneers can last for decades, so your investment will provide years of enjoyment.

Porcelain veneers are commonly used to fix minor aesthetic problems, such as stains, chips, minor cracks, small gaps, or misalignments. Veneers can significantly improve both the color and appearance of your smile with just a couple of visits to your dentist. Dr. Harrison can even customize the veneer shade to match the surrounding teeth or to suit your preference. It’s no wonder why so many people, even celebrities, choose to get veneers for aesthetic reasons.


A crown covers the entire tooth and can be made of porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, gold alloy, or base metal alloy…though Dr. Harrison prefers porcelain for its strength and appearance. Crowns are about twice as thick as veneers, making them more durable, and are used instead of veneers when there are more fundamental issues with your natural teeth. These issues include broken or cracked teeth (a root canal may be needed before placing the crown) or severely decayed teeth, resulting in much of the tooth needing to be removed. A crown is used to protect the tooth and to prevent any further damage that would require it to be extracted. Crowns are often placed on back teeth (molars), which is why durability is a key factor since your molars are used for chewing.

Since crowns cover all of the natural tooth, your dentist will remove most of your tooth before fitting the crown. Removal of this much natural tooth is usually required due to severe decay or because of a large crack in the tooth or a broken tooth, which would have required its removal anyway. In short, if there is a problem with your tooth that requires a large portion to be removed, a crown is the best restoration option to keep the tooth’s same size, structure, and functionality.

Your crown will be completed in two dental visits—the first so your dentist can assess the tooth and measure it for the crown and the second to fit the crown onto your tooth.

Thinking long-term

Whether you get a veneer or a crown, the purpose is to have the most natural looking and functional restoration possible. All restorations need proper care and maintenance to maximize their longevity. It’s the same concept as caring for your car or your house—you do the best you can to take care of them, but eventually, things wear out and need to be replaced. While veneers and crowns can last quite a long time, there may come a time when they also need replacing.

Veneers and crowns don’t stain because of the porcelain material, but this doesn’t mean you should neglect your oral health. You still need to maintain a good oral hygiene routine to care for your teeth and to prevent problems like gum recession, which can alter the appearance of both your veneers or crowns. You should care for your veneers or crowns just as you would your natural teeth by brushing twice daily and by flossing once daily…in addition to maintaining your regular professional cleanings by your hygienist. With proper care, your smile enhancements can last for decades.

If you are considering a cosmetic smile enhancement, or if you are having tooth pain, contact us today to schedule your appointment with Dr. Harrison to determine the best treatment option for you.


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