Ever since I was a teenager, I always wanted an amazing smile – but I definitely wasn’t born with one. I don’t believe in ‘bad’ teeth (or deeming any physical features ‘bad’ for that matter) but admittedly, I always felt self-conscious about certain aspects of my teeth. They weren’t straight and my bite was crooked, which also gave me considerable discomfort over the years. I also never smiled with teeth in photos, like ever.

Feeling like I somewhat missed the boat on braces – and working in a job that frequently required that I appear on camera – it was my goal to get veneers on my top teeth that would look polished, but natural to me. After all, I didn’t want them to look objectively  ‘perfect’, as that would mean eliminating inherited characteristics – such as my slightly lopsided grin, which looks exactly like my dad’s once did.

After a few years of Invisalign to move my teeth into place, it was time to fill in the gaps (literally) with veneers. But despite the many preceding years I had to prepare, I wasn’t entirely across how the procedure actually worked. It’s been a journey and I’ve learned so much along the way – so if you’re considering getting veneers yourself, here’s what you need to know.

So, what actually are veneers?

“At their most simple, veneers are wafer thin shells that are permanently bonded to your teeth to cover its natural colour, shape and position. They can be used to cover just one tooth, or multiple teeth for a more complete look, plus they are versatile enough to be customised to suit both teeth and budget,” explains Dr Shawn Rama, principal dentist and founder of The Dental Room in Melbourne, which is where I chose to go for my treatment.

“Traditionally, this requires filing down the tooth to make room for the veneers to be applied on top,” he continues. When I first discussed getting veneers with others, many immediately asked me the same question – “do they really grind down your teeth?!” – as a reflex to what we’ve often heard about veneers in the past. But as Dr Rama explains, a lot has evolved since then, and these days dentists can preserve as much of the original tooth as possible.

I decided to go with Dr Rama and his lovely team at The Dental Room for my treatment after they came highly recommended from some of my friends, who had also seen the team for their veneers. The Dental Room’s bespoke approach also allowed for an extremely customisable result – which is obviously so important when you’re after a natural look, like I was. The Dental Room even has its own in-house ceramist who handcrafts each veneer in the clinic, making it easier to achieve a realistic result.

BEFORE Credit: Kate Lancaster

After an extensive consultation with Dr Rama and The Dental Room’s in-house ceramist Chloe, which included ample examination and 3D scans of my teeth, we decided on what would work best for me across a number of factors – such as balancing my facial traits and addressing my personal preferences – and moulds were made to begin the process.

Are there different types of veneers?

Something I didn’t know about veneers, and perhaps you mightn’t either – there are actually different types of veneers, and no, I’m not just talking about the shape or colour. “There are generally two different types of veneers to consider – porcelain and composite. Composite and porcelain are both very different materials with very different procedures and the choice is largely dependent on your preference and budget,” says Dr Rama.

“Resin veneers – also referred to as composite veneers and often resin bonding or resin caps – are made from tooth-coloured engineered resin, [which are] the same ones that we use to do ‘white fillings’ with,” he continues. “The dentist usually completes the procedure in a single appointment, where the resin is directly bonded onto teeth to reshape them.”

Composite veneers are typically a more affordable option, but Dr Rama warns that the material often requires more maintenance. “Due to its porous nature, these veneers stain and discolour quickly and are also prone to chipping – often needing regular fixing, [which means] costs add up,” he says, adding that the average longevity of composite veneers is usually about three to five years.

Meanwhile, porcelain veneers might require a little more financial outlay at first, but they also tend to be stronger, longer-lasting, and better quality than composite veneers. “Well-maintained porcelain veneers can last 15 years. Porcelain veneers will also offer the most natural, tooth-like aesthetics – if done by a good ceramist that is!” notes Dr Rama.  “Porcelain is also highly resistant to staining and chipping due to the strength of the material and the glaze that is applied after treatment – like a sealed porcelain benchtop.”

The trade-off? Porcelain veneers may require a little more of the natural tooth to be shaved down, which Dr Rama says will depend on your dentist. “I like to keep it super conservative – in fact, in 90-95 percent of cases, we’ll only remove 0.2 to 0.5mm of a tooth, which is the thickness of a fingernail.” We opted for porcelain veneers for my treatment, as I wanted the most natural finish (and admittedly, am way too lazy for a full replacement in 5 years).

Who are veneers right for?

I knew veneers were the right choice for me, but are they suitable for everyone? Yes, according to Dr Rama. “Anyone who is looking to change the colour, size, shape and width of their smile. Ideally, one’s gums and bone structure should be solid and healthy. A great cosmetic dentist can do a lot more with veneers in terms of changes to a smile than with any other cosmetic dental treatment,” he says.

Veneers can solve a number of dental issues, such as chipping, staining, old restorations and fillings. You can even correct an uneven or narrow smile, spacing problems, crowding, a poor bite and the right placement can even help to improve facial aesthetics, says Dr Rama. “We can use porcelain veneers to help make the cheeks look fuller and increase the support of the lips and give them a plumpness – which could help make someone’s appearance seem more youthful.” It was a big yes from me.

What is the process like?

After my initial consultations, scans and moulds, The Dental Room team showed me the preliminary design in wax. Even in draft, I couldn’t believe how great they looked! We went through any changes we might want to make and covered any other questions I had, including time frames and any procedural queries.

A few weeks later, my temporary veneers were ready to be fitted, which I was to wear for a period of time to gauge my thoughts before the final fitting. This extra step isn’t always taken at every dental practice, but I realised quickly how important it is for the best result. The temporaries act as a blueprint for the final veneers, which means Dr Rama and I could see how they looked in my mouth and make any changes accordingly. We also discussed the shade – I opted for a medium bright white, which Dr Rama had further customised and blended by The Dental Room’s ceramist to add an extra ‘pop’ to my smile.

My porcelain veneers from The Dental Room Credit: Kate Lancaster

Patients typically wear their temporary veneers for a week or two, which allows time to get used to the new look. At my next appointment we reviewed the temporaries to make final tweaks, then a few days later we removed the temporaries to fit the final porcelain veneers. The process was more comfortable than I anticipated; I was under anaesthetic and able to relax and listen to podcasts while Dr Rama worked on my teeth.

I was getting 10 porcelain veneers, so I was in the chair for around 4 hours, which Dr Rama says is typical of the treatment. “Getting porcelain veneers is a somewhat involved procedure, however doing these procedures all the time, we have streamlined our process for comfort,” he explains. “The whole procedure is done under local anaesthetic so the procedure itself is painless.” I wasn’t bothered by the time commitment of my treatment, and appreciated that The Dental Room team wanted to ensure that everything was just right.

After a few hours, I was able to see my smile transformation for the first time and I was subsequently floored by the results. The porcelain veneers looked so natural, still resembled my natural smile, but  subtly improved – like when you see a friend who looks noticeably fresh, but you can’t quite put your finger on why that is. My teeth felt a little sensitive and my gums a little tender, but ibuprofen easily managed both and it all settled within a few days.

I then returned for a final review a few days later, so that The Dental Room team could ensure everything was looking good and to confirm I was happy with the results. We also discussed ongoing care, which is minimal in my case – I just brush my teeth as normal and wear a mouthguard at night to ensure everything stays in place. It’s been a few months since my treatment now, and the results still make me smile – which is the ultimate outcome, right?

AFTER Credit: Kate Lancaster

It’s a misconception that all veneers result in that megawatt Hollywood smile. For Dr Rama, the best results are those that look the most natural and are tailored by a true professional for each of their clients. “It’s about finding the balance between lifelike and flawless. It should be real, age-appropriate and not just belong, but enhance the face and the personality. So no two smiles that I do are ever the same,” he says.

What should be considered before getting veneers?

Firstly, veneers are an irreversible health procedure and they do require replacements in 15 year –  so it’s definitely  important to really consider whether it’s something you’re ready to commit to. Dr Rama also recommends doing thorough research before committing to your dentist, as quality work unfortunately isn’t always a given.

“If you’re looking for a facelift, you do not go to your GP. It’s the same with porcelain veneers. You should look for experts in the field of porcelain veneers. The porcelain veneer process is a very technique-sensitive procedure. It also requires a lot of artistic vision. When done by the wrong hands, the results can be devastating,” he cautions, adding that it’s also important to look past the marketing spin.

“Don’t get swept up in the marketing. Just because someone markets their veneers as natural does not make them natural. You need to closely examine their work. Have them show you their work, and lots of it. See if you like the style of the veneers that you are after.” Finally, Dr Rama advises that you consider the whole team that will be working on your smile, particularly the ceramicist. “If you send the same job to 10 ceramists, they will all come back looking different. The ceramist is so important to the style of veneers that will be produced and the overall aesthetics,” he says.

It’s also about choosing to work with people that you trust. “It’s the feeling you get when you meet the dentist. The results of any cosmetic or aesthetic procedure are not 100 percent predictable. Working with someone that you trust and will help you through any bumps along the road is invaluable,” says Dr Rama.

To find out more about The Dental Room head to the website, or follow them on Instagram @the_dental_room.