How Many Veneers Do You Need?

Matthew Perry 6 ugly veneersSo you’re unhappy with your smile and are thinking about getting some cosmetic dentistry done, but you’re not sure how many teeth will be involved or how to plan your budget?  Well, in this article I’ll answer many of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that we hear during Cosmetic Dentistry Consultations, especially because we’re seeing a lot more patients interested in Smile Makeovers these days.

To get started, take a good look at this old image of Matthew Perry from his early days in Friends to get an idea of what you DON’T want.  🙂  Most likely, many of your questions will be answered simply by looking at it, but we’ll cover each question individually.

If you’d like to see more examples of the cosmetic dentistry that we do in our Charlotte dental office, you can read and see more here:

But First – Veneers/Crowns or Braces?

Before we start talking about how many porcelain veneers or crowns you need/want, let’s talk about when cosmetic dentistry is best and when braces, whether Invisalign, Six Month Braces, or the Inman Aligner, might be a better choice.  In simplest terms, I suggest thinking of it like this:

If you like the way your teeth look overall, but they’re just crooked in some way, braces are always the way to go.  After all, it’s less expensive and non-invasive.  But if your teeth are badly worn, or severely stained, or broken, or will somehow look ugly even if they are straight, then porcelain veneers/crowns may be a better option, because they can make the teeth look beautiful, not just straight.

How Many Porcelain Veneers Do You Need?

Take another look at Matthew Perry’s smile above and you’ll understand why these 3 questions will answer the big question:

  1. How big is your smile?  IOW when you look in the mirror and smile big, how many teeth do you see?
  2. How much whiter do you want your teeth?  After all, not many people want them darker, right? A little bit or a lot?
  3. Besides the color, do you want to change anything about the length, width, shape, or overall size?

In simplest terms, the bigger your smile and the bigger the changes that you want to make to your smile, the more teeth you’ll need to have treated.

How Many Teeth Do You Show In Your Smile?

No – not just looking straight on – look from the sides, too.  Far too many people think that they only show 6 teeth because that’s what they see looking in the mirror.  But if you turn your head just a little from one side, you’ll realize that you probably show at least 8 or 10 teeth total in a big grin.  It’s easy to see what a big mistake that was for Matthew Perry, right?  He clearly needed to do at least 10 veneers, possibly even 12 (going back to his 1st molars), because his grin is so wide.  Then look at the difference between these 2 smiles to

Of course, if you are only unhappy with 1-2 teeth in that whole smile, you always have the option of only treating those specific teeth.  Just because you show a lot of teeth in your smile doesn’t mean all of them need porcelain veneers or crowns, but if you want to change your whole smile, you do need to plan on treating ALL the teeth that show in your smile.

How Much Whiter Do You Want Your Smile?

Again, Matthew is a great example. He obviously wanted his smile to be a lot brighter; he’s in Hollywood after all.  But it’s easy to see that, if you want to make a dramatic change in the color of your smile, you can’t afford to go half way, right?  This is one of the most important reasons to look at how many teeth you show when smiling.  If you want to go a lot brighter, you simply have to do all the teeth that show, which might even include the lower teeth.s

If you’re not making a big change in the brightness of your smile, you have a lot more freedom to choose how many teeth will get veneers.  In fact, if you like the natural color of your teeth, you might only need to do whichever teeth you don’t like for other reasons.

Alternately, if you only plan on fixing 1-2 teeth but want your whole smile brighter, be sure to do Teeth Whitening BEFORE you get the final veneers or crowns.  Porcelain can’t be whitened, so don’t think you can ask for a whiter tooth and then whiten to match – it’s too much of a guessing game.

Changing the Size, Shape, Length, or Width?

Let’s take my own teeth (Dr. Payet’s) as an example. These veneers were done in March 2006, just before Fara and I got married, by my own dentist, Dr. Steven Ghim in Blakeney, NC.  As you can see, my teeth before veneers were pretty ugly.  Yes, I’d had braces for 3 years in high school and another 2 years (I didn’t wear my top retainer) at age 28, but after so many years of coffee and Coca-Cola, they were badly stained and demineralized.  Beyond that, however, I hated the shape of my teeth and wanted a more masculine, squared-off, straight look.  Since I wanted the entire look of my smile changed, that meant I needed 8 veneers so all the teeth that show in my smile would match and look the way I wanted.  You can also see how my smile would have looked just as bad as Matthew Perry’s if I hadn’t done all the teeth that show, because I chose to go much brighter white, too.  To be honest, what I also needed some some some periodontal plastic surgery, aka a Gum Lift, on several teeth to make the gum levels and tooth lengths more proportional and even, too.  One day, when these veneers need replacing (as of this writing, they’re 10 years old and going strong), I will have that done, and I’ll also get porcelain onlays on my molars to hide those dark yellow teeth, too.

Cosmetic dentist of Charlotte NC, Dr. Payet, shows his own porcelain dental veneers

Pro Tip: don’t be a bad patient like I was and call us less than 6 weeks before your wedding (like I did to Dr. Ghim! 🙂 ).  It puts a little pressure on us.  Dr. Ghim actually bonded my veneers on just 4 days before the wedding.  However, you can easily see why I’m so glad I did this before the wedding.


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We’ll look forward to meeting you soon!

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