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This is why you shouldn’t let your family dentist place your porcelain veneers

A woman in a pink dress sits in the dental chair while her family dentist checks her teeth to fit them for porcelain veneers.
You trust your family dentist. But can you trust them to do great cosmetic dental work?

I had some dental bonding on an upper front tooth for a few years, but it came off recently. I went to see my family dentist for help, and she recommended crowning the tooth. She said that since I was missing about ⅕ of my tooth, it couldn’t be bonded again.

I thought a crown might be too invasive, however, so I asked about getting my tooth covered with a veneer instead. My dentist said okay, and she placed the porcelain veneer last week.

My dentist let me look in a mirror to see how I liked my veneer before she cemented it in place, and it looked good, so I signed the consent to go ahead with treatment.

But I didn’t get to see how the veneer looked after my dentist glued it on. The dentist and assistant just told me it looked great, and it wasn’t until I got to my car in the parking lot that I was able to see for myself what it looked like in a mirror.

There aren’t words to express how disappointed I am with my veneer! It looks at least a whole millimeter longer than the natural tooth next to it, plus it feels bulky and protruding, as if there’s too much cement under it. My veneer both looks and feels wrong.

When I called my dentist yesterday to ask about fixing it, I only got to speak with the dental assistant who told me that there’s nothing that can be done to fix it. My only option is to redo the veneer entirely, but I’m scared and embarrassed to see the dentist again.

What should I do?

—Larissa from Minnesota

Hello Larissa,

The sad fact is that your situation is not an unusual one. While we don’t know all the specifics of your situation, we can say that it is common for people to have a disappointing outcome when they let their family dentist do their cosmetic dental work.

The reason for this is that most general dentists take a function-over-fashion approach to their work. They take pride in placing restorations that function well, but they don’t give as much importance to smile esthetics. Cosmetic procedures like dental bonding and porcelain veneers require an artistic hand and careful attention to detail.

There are two reasons we suspect your dentist may not be cosmetically gifted in terms of her dental work:

1. She initially recommended placing a crown on your tooth, insisting that your tooth could not be bonded.

Of course, there’s a chance that your dentist has other reasons for not recommending dental bonding. But if your tooth has been successfully bonded before and has not suffered other damage, then there’s probably no reason that it can’t be bonded again. This sounds like something a dentist who dreads cosmetic treatments would say.

2. It sounds like she struggled to place your veneer correctly and was embarrassed to admit that it did not turn out well.

It’s not unusual for even a skilled cosmetic dentist to occasionally position a veneer incorrectly when bonding it in place. But the fact that your dentist tried to downplay the results by not showing you the completed veneer, and then to send the assistant to tell you it can’t be fixed suggests that she really has limited experience with placing veneers.

So what’s the next step for you?

If your dental veneer came out a little too long and that was the only issue, then yes, it could be fixed by carefully trimming it. But given that it was positioned incorrectly and has been bonded in place, your veneer will need to be redone, which (costs aside) isn’t the end of the world.

The real issue here is the way your dentist has responded to your esthetic concerns throughout your treatment journey. When all you wanted was a little conservative bonding (which requires artistry), she insisted on a whole crown (a functional restoration she is comfortable placing). When you agreed on a dental veneer and had that placed, she didn’t have the confidence to tell you how it turned out and how she could fix it.

At this point, your best bet is to go find a skilled cosmetic dentist near you who can help you create a look you’ll love.

In regards to the costs, you should try to negotiate a refund from your current dentist. She should be willing to accommodate your request, but if you have any issues, you can enlist the help of your new cosmetic dentist. Make sure that your new dentist carefully documents with photographs the position and appearance of your current veneer. This will serve as evidence in your favor should you have any issues with getting compensated for this sub-standard dental work.

This post has been published on behalf of Owasso cosmetic dentist Dr. Heng Lim.