Veneers vs. Crowns

If you’re looking to improve the appearance or function of your teeth, crowns and veneers are both suitable options for dental restoration. They serve different purposes, however, so it’s important to understand the key differences in order to determine which option best meets your needs.

This article covers the differences between crowns and veneers, the pros and cons of each, and what you can expect from each process.

Table of Contents

Are Crowns and Veneers the Same?

Crowns and veneers are not the same, but they work in similar ways. They both provide an artificial covering for real teeth that have been damaged. The main difference between crowns and veneers is in how much of the original tooth is covered. Veneers cover the front of the teeth and can wrap around depending on the technique used and the patient’s needs, while crowns cover the entire tooth.

What are Crowns?

CEREC dental treatment

A dental crown is a cover or cap that is placed over a tooth. It is similar in appearance to the upper portion of a tooth—the part that is visible above the gumline.

Crowns are often used to replace teeth that have significant damage. If your tooth has severe tooth decay, has had a large filling or a root canal, or is extremely cracked, a crown may be the best option. Crowns are also a good option for teeth that have been worn down around the edges, which can happen with excessive tooth grinding. Crowns can be used to replace one tooth or several teeth.

What is the Process Behind Getting Crowns?

Traditional Approach: If it’s determined that a crown or two is the best option for you, your dentist will make a mold of your tooth, which will be sent to a lab to fabricate the crown.

In order to make space for the crown, your dentist may need to reduce part of your existing tooth. They may also provide you with a temporary crown to wear, to cover the gap left by the diminished tooth until the permanent crown is ready.

When the permanent crown is ready, you will return to your dentist’s office to have the crown firmly cemented into place.

State-of-the-art Approach: Sarasota Dentistry offers a much more practical solution which allows you to have the permanent crown completed onsite in one visit, also known as a same-day crown. This is accomplished utilizing CEREC technology which includes a digital scan and design center which is attached to a porcelain milling machine. These restorations are perfect in every way – shade, shape and fit! All this while avoiding a second trip to the dentist and second injection. Voila, maybe dentistry doesn’t have to be that bad.

Complete Smile Approach: If a large group of teeth, such as a full arch or a full mouth, need crowns, it is recommended that a prototype is fabricated prior to the final crowns. A prototype is a lab fabricated crown, or crowns, that look and feel identical to the permanent crown. Prototype may also be referred to as a temporary crown, long-term provisional or PMMA. It gives the patient a chance to verify the fit and feel of the new teeth prior to committing to a permanent set of teeth. At Sarasota Dentistry, the prototype is always a part of the workflow for smile design and full mouth rehabilitation. Once the prototype has been verified, a digital scan(impression) is obtained and the final restorations are computer milled to the exact specifications of the prototype. There are some variations to this workflow depending on the materials used.

How Much Tooth Reduction is Needed for Crowns?

Since the crown is replacing most of the visible portion, the thin outer layer of the tooth will need to be trimmed back making room for between 0.5mm to 2mm layer of porcelain. Basically, the crown replaces the thin enamel shell that covered the tooth upon it’s initial eruption into the mouth.

If the tooth is decayed, your dentist will remove the decayed part of the tooth before placing the crown. In most, the decayed or damaged portion of the original tooth needs to be built back up to support the crown. The build-up usually consists of a composite filling material which is tooth colored. Some dentists still use amalgam (A.K.A. mercury fillings). Amalgam has a number of disadvantages if used for a build-up material so ask and make sure you are not getting amalgam build-up.

Veneers with a dental mirror and black background

What are Veneers?

Veneers are a thin layer of porcelain applied to the surface of the tooth. Porcelain veneers are typically used for cosmetic purposes and are often applied to the surface of all visible teeth. They can cover teeth that are discolored, uneven, crooked, worn, or chipped. Veneers are less invasive than crowns and leave more of the original tooth intact.

What is the Process Behind Getting Veneers?

If it’s determined that veneers are the best option for you, your dentist will make a mold of your teeth that will then be used to create a mockup of your new smile.

In most cases, to prepare your teeth for the veneer application, a small amount of your tooth enamel will need to be filed away. Without this removal, the veneers will appear bulky and unnatural. However, if teeth are small or your facial features allow, a no-prep or microthin veneer may be viable option. Microthin veneers require little to no reduction of the natural tooth structure. They can also be considered reversible, since the can be removed exposing the natural tooth.

The permanent veneers may take about two to four weeks to process depending on the time needed at the lab, during which time you will wear a set of temporary veneers, A.K.A prototype, to cover the diminished teeth. This will give you an opportunity to make sure that the veneers are the correct shape and color. If you have any concerns about the way the temporary veneers look or feel, let your dentist know, as they can still make changes to the final veneers based on the fit and appearance of temporary veneers.

How Much Tooth Grinding is Needed for Veneers?

Only a minimal amount of tooth grinding is needed for veneers—about 0.5mm to 2mm. Some veneers are thinner and may require even less or no grinding of the tooth surface.

If some of the tooth enamel is removed, veneers are a permanent procedure. If the veneers are damaged, they will need to be replaced. All veneer patients are encouraged to wear a night guard to protect their veneers during sleep. Many patients have no issues with veneers failing, however, some patients have oral habits that cause veneers to fracture prematurely. People who grind their teeth are not good candidates for veneer and would be much better served with a dental crown – a stronger solution.

Differences Between Crowns and Veneers

The main difference between crowns and veneers is how much of the original tooth they cover. Think of a veneer as a half of a crown. Crowns are the right option when more tooth surface needs to be restored and reinforced. Crowns enhance cosmetics and functional strength while veneers are merely cosmetic enhancement of the appearance of the teeth. If veneers are used instead of crowns inappropriately, it will lead to early veneer failure. The good news is you can always convert a veneer into a crown if necessary.

Are Crowns Better Than Veneers?

Crowns are not necessarily better than veneers. The right procedure for you depends on the condition of your teeth and the results you want to achieve. Both are wonderful options for improving the appearance of your smile, while only crowns can improve your ability to chew and eat your food.

Do Crowns or Veneers Last Longer?

Crowns and veneers can both last for many years with proper care. Crowns are relatively permanent and don’t need to be removed for cleaning. Crowns and veneers typically last about 12-15 years, but with proper care can last as long as 30 years or more. Keep in mind that you may eventually need to replace your veneers and crowns, especially if you receive them when you are young.

Pros and Cons of Each

Pros of Crowns

  • Crowns are very aesthetically pleasing if done by the right dentist – just as good as veneers plus the strength
  • With a crown, the entire original tooth is covered, so it is protected from decay
  • Crowns help protect teeth from non-restorable fractures and root canals
  • Crowns may be covered, at least in part, by dental insurance

Cons of Crowns

  • More of the original tooth must be removed to make space for a crown
  • The porcelain can be damaged over time
  • Over time, there may be a thin line visible between your natural tooth and the crown

Porcelain Veneer Styles and Shapes ChartPros of Veneers

  • Veneers are very aesthetically pleasing
  • Some veneers require very little or none of the natural tooth enamel to be removed
  • Veneers have minimal movement and typically feel very natural

Cons of Veneers

  • The teeth underneath the veneers are still susceptible to decay. Proper care must be taken to brush and floss teeth as usual.
  • Veneers may eventually need to be replaced
  • Veneers can crack or become damaged, especially if you grind your teeth at night
  • Veneers may not be covered by dental insurance

Cost of Crowns and Veneers

How Much Do Crowns Cost?

The cost of a crown can vary depending on several factors, including the size of the tooth, the material used, and the amount of prep work involved. According to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, a crown can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $3,500.

If additional procedures are needed to prepare for the crown, such as a root canal, those will incur additional costs.

If the crown is medically necessary, dental insurance may cover part of it. Call your dental insurance provider to ask if crowns are covered and to what extent.

How Much Does a Full Set of Veneers Cost?

Veneers can range from $925 to $2500 per tooth, according to American Cosmetic Dentistry. The cost for a full set of veneers will depend on several factors, how many teeth are treated, and the materials used, and the dental lab. Quality is at a premium.

Alternatives to Crowns and Veneers

Crowns and veneers aren’t the only options for restoring or replacing damaged teeth.

Dental bonding can be used to fix minor flaws in the surface of the teeth, such as chipped teeth, discoloration, and mildly misshapen teeth. Bonding involves applying a tooth-colored composite material to the tooth surface to improve the appearance of the tooth. Bonding may be a good option for you if you have minor damage or discoloration in isolated spots.

Dental implants involve replacement of the entire tooth, including the root. Implants are used to replace teeth that have been lost or extracted. Dental implants can permanently eliminate gaps in the smile while supporting the jaw bone structure. Dental implants look and function just like natural teeth.

Sarasota Dentistry is a leading provider of general and cosmetic dentistry in Sarasota, FL. Call 941-929-7645 or email to schedule a consultation.


Decay, American Dental Association

Consumer Guide to Dentistry

American Cosmetic Dentistry

Dr. Hank Michael DMD
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