Why do I need my teeth shaved when I get crowns or veneers?

Crowns and Veneers are fantastic options for anyone considering freshening their smile or a complete smile make-over. To understand why we have to shave down the teeth, we need to take a quick second to understand what crowns and veneers are.

Veneers and Crowns are very similar. Crowns are like hats that sit over a tooth. A crown usually sits over the surface of a tooth. A veneer is made from similar material however, we do not need to shave down as much with a crown.


Crowns can be used to replace a tooth. There are a few types, but the newer private crowns are indistinguishable from natural teeth just by looking at them. Usually, they look better than natural teeth. To get it to fit, we need to shave down all sides of a tooth to make space for it. Once all sides have been shaved down, we take an impression and then send that to the lab. The lab can then make a crown to fit the shaved tooth perfectly. 

A veneer works in exactly the same way. Normally, we only shave down 1 or 2 sides of a tooth to place a veneer. Imagine a fake nail being placed onto the front of a tooth.

Does this damage the tooth?


 Good question, in short, yes! Every time we cut into teeth, we damage them- including simple fillings. The tooth recovers but the more we cut into them, the more damage occurs. 

Damage in this case means the nerve becoming “annoyed” leading to potential pain or even the tooth becoming non-vital (dead). The treatment for this is usually root canal treatment, however in extreme and rare cases teeth may need to be extracted. 

The chances of this occurring are relatively low. Evidence suggests between 5-10% will become non-vital in around 5 years. In practice, this seems to be a lot less. It is still worth bearing in mind before any treatment is opted for.


Will the tooth be fine after the root treatment?


If the root treatment is carried out well, this will clear everything up. Depending on the tooth and when the root treatment is required, a hole may have to be cut in the new crown. Sometimes we can place a filling and this will be adequate. Sometimes we may advise that we replace the crown. This will depend on the circumstances, and each case will be different. 

Root treatments do not always work and if it doesn’t, it may have to be repeated or be referred to a specialist. If that doesn’t work or if the patient does not want to be referred, the tooth may need to be extracted. 


Why would anyone get this done?


Admittedly, the headline figures are a bit scary. However, the majority of people have crowns and veneers without many problems. In dentistry, as in any medical specialty, all treatments have pros and cons. As long as you feel comfortable with and trust the team treating you and have been given the information to make an informed decision, Crowns and Veneers could be a very good treatment option for you!


-Dr Abraham McCarthy

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