10 Ways to Ruin a Smile Makeover

Don’t Destroy Your Porcelain Veneers!

With more than 12 years of doing cosmetic dentistry under my belt, including veneers, crowns, bridges, implants, and various combinations thereof, it is still surprising sometimes to hear a new way that a patient has chipped, cracked, or broken one of the beautiful restorations in their smile. Obviously, this is upsetting for the patient, because it means additional time and money to get it fixed, and no one wants that.  No – not even I want that, because I take pride in the quality of work that I do and want it to last as long as possible so I can brag about it.  Seriously!

“Lisa’s” Story of Broken Cosmetic Dentistry

Recently, a long-time patient (name changed for privacy) came in with broken porcelain on her dental bridge – the THIRD one we’ve done for her!  Needless to say, both the patient and I have been very frustrated, as we’ve worked hard to create a strong, long-lasting and beautiful smile, but somehow, she has kept breaking the porcelain off, and this time the bridge had loosened on one side, too.

This time, though, Lisa brought in a newsletter she’d received from another dentist, which highlighted some of the things to avoid or be careful of if you’ve had cosmetic dentistry done.  It turns out, Lisa had been doing several of them, but never realized they might be a problem, so she never mentioned any of them to me.  Here are the “No-No’s” that she either was recently doing, or was doing previously:

  1. Chewing popcorn daily – if you bite into an unpopped kernel, you can easily break porcelain
  2. Chewing hard candy – same thing.  Anything hard enough to break a tooth can break a veneer
  3. Using a water pick in direct contact with the porcelain -a water pick at low power used BETWEEN the teeth to help remove food, but do NOT put it in contact with the porcelain.  BAD!

There is No “Warranty” On Broken Dental Work

In our office, we usually re-do work at no charge if we determine there was a problem with the labwork, a problem with the crown not fitting as it should (sometimes things shift a bit during bonding, for example), etc etc etc.  However, it is surprising and upsetting for dentists when patients expect work to be redone for free…..even though it is the patient’s fault that it broke!  No, I am not kidding, either……I had a patient expect me to redo a 4-year old veneer for free, that she broke when she tried to open a beer bottle with her teeth.  DOH! 😕 I mean…..you can break your own natural teeth doing that, so of course you can break a porcelain veneer.  DON’T DO IT! Another patient didn’t come back for a check-up/cleaning for 5 years, and when she did, she had cavities everywhere, but she got mad at ME?  Huh?  Sorry folks – I can only take care of you while you’re at my office – you have to do your part, too. If you don’t…..PLEASE have the decency to tell your dentist the honest truth, and please don’t expect free work because of something you shouldn’t have done.

More Ways to Destroy Cosmetic Dentistry
  1. Abrasive toothpastes with baking soda – while the baking soda alone won’t destroy the porcelain, it removes the glaze over time, making the crowns look dull and lifeless.
  2. Not wearing a protective nightguard – when investing large amounts of money in the veneers, PLEASE invest a little extra in a nightguard to protect them from nighttime grinding. (Just ask my patient Richard, who refused to believe he was grinding his teeth at night until after he’d paid me to redo at least 6-7 porcelain crowns that he kept breaking.  A nightguard could have saved him a lot of time and money.  And no, I did not enjoy telling him, “I told you so!”)
  3. Not wearing an athletic mouthguard – if you play contact sports, get a mouthguard.  A stray elbow can easily break teeth.
  4. Drinking a lot of soda, sports drinks (such as Gatorade, Monster, etc) – as I discuss frequently with patients – you can still get cavities around dental work.  Anything that causes cavities will still do so, and acidic drinks (even diet ones!) are the worst.
  5. Not brushing/flossing – again, a crown or veneer does not make a tooth “immune” to dental decay.  Neglecting to brush and floss, and not getting regular dental checkups, is an invitation to cavities.
  6. Trying to open packages with your teeth – just like the hard candy, trying to tear something with porcelain is not the kind of force it is designed to take.  Just don’t.
  7. Using alcohol-based mouthrinses – the alcohol degrades the bonding cement over time, so the edges leak, stain collects, and eventually cavities develop.
Cosmetic Dentistry Is Expensive – Especially the Second Time!

When patients are considering porcelain veneers, dental crowns, bridges, etc. and are asking how much cosmetic dentistry costs, I usually ask in reply, “The first time, or for your whole life?”  😉 This will obviously depend on the person’s age, but a rule of thumb is that a porcelain veneer can last 10-20 years, maybe even longer.  So you should plan on re-doing your cosmetic dentistry every 15 years on average.  Consider this scenario:

  • 30 years old, spend $15,000 for 10 porcelain veneers
  • replace at age 45, age 60, and age 75
  • even ignoring inflation, those 10 porcelain veneers will cost ANOTHER $45,000 by age 75!  That’s a total of $60,000 – yikes!
  • some teeth may break and end up needing a dental implant, or bridge, or who knows?  That just adds even more money.

What’s the moral of the story?  Basically this:  if you choose a Smile Makeover with porcelain veneers or something similar, please take really good care of them.  😀  And as much as I love doing cosmetic dentistry and changing someone’s smile, we offer many ways to give you a beautiful smile, many of which are less expensive and less invasive.  Please call us and ask about them!


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