Crowns & Veneers: Understanding the Difference

Woman pointing at her smile. Caption: Are you considering cosmetic changes...

25% of adults in America say that to boost their self-esteem, they would consider cosmetic dentistry to change their teeth or smile. This gives you a good idea of how important having a beautiful and confident smile is to many of us. Dental crowns and veneers help repair and protect your teeth as well as improve your appearance.

Veneers and crowns fall under the dental specialty of prosthodontics, a dental specialty that focuses on restoring and replacing damaged or missing teeth. A Prosthodontist uses artificial devices, or prosthetics, like crowns and veneers, to improve your smile.

Veneers and crowns are quite different, and each has its own benefits and procedures. A veneer is a thin covering for a tooth, while a crown is a reconstruction of the top part of a tooth. Crowns have a more complicated process, but they’re tough and long-lasting. Your dentist will help you choose between a veneer and a crown based on what will help you most.


The crown of a tooth is the top visible part covered in enamel. When we talk about getting a crown, we’re talking about replacing this part of a tooth.

What Does A Crown Do?

There are several reasons you might need a crown, and these include:

• Protecting a weakened tooth
• Fixing a broken tooth
• Covering a stained or damaged tooth
• Covering an implant
• Securing a bridge
• Improving cosmetics

Types of Crowns

Your dentist will let you know if you need a crown, and they will help you decide on the best type of crown. There are five types of material used to create a crown:

• Stainless steel
• All metal
• Porcelain-fused-to-metal
• Resin
• Ceramic

Each type of crown has its own benefits. For example, stainless steel crowns are most often used for temporary crowns. A dentist uses a temporary crown while you wait for a lab to make your permanent one. All metal crowns tend to last the longest, but ceramic and porcelain crowns can be better matched to the natural color of your teeth.

Other factors to consider when getting a crown are the tooth the crown is for, the cost, and durability.

Crown Procedures

Getting a crown takes some patience. It usually takes two visits to get a crown. During the first visit, your dentist or prosthodontist will prepare your tooth. This involves ensuring a root canal is not needed because of infection, and that the surrounding tissue and bone will support the crown.

Next, they will reshape the top of your tooth so that there is room for a crown. You can think of this next bit like a piece of Lego: the small circles fit into the bottom of a block to help them stick together. If your tooth has extensive damage or decay, they might have to ‘rebuild’ your tooth so that the crown has something to hold on to.

In the next step, your dentist will take a mold on your tooth so that your crown will be created to fit properly on your tooth and so it will match the surrounding teeth. After this, you’ll likely receive a temporary crown to protect your tooth while you wait for your permanent crown to be made in the lab. This could take several weeks.

At your second appointment, your dentist will check the fit, color, and comfort of your new permanent crown before securing it in place.


While a crown encapsulates the whole top of a tooth, a veneer is a thin covering applied to the outside of a tooth.

What Do Veneers Do?

The main purpose of a veneer is to protect a tooth and repair its appearance. Often, when a tooth is damaged, you can see a change in the tooth’s shape or color. A veneer helps to change the tooth’s appearance when it has been chipped or broken or when it is discolored or has uneven coloring. Veneers also help to improve teeth that are ‘too small’ or unusually shaped, as well as teeth that have visible gaps between them.

Types of Veneers

There are two types of veneers: prep and no-prep. The first type is made of composite resin or porcelain and requires some time spent preparing the tooth for the veneer. No-prep veneers don’t need tooth preparation. The type and material of your veneer depend on your dentist’s recommendation, but other factors in choosing the type of veneer include:

• Appearance
• Longevity
• Cost
• Installation time and procedure

Your dentist will explain the pros and cons of the different types and materials to help you make an informed decision about what works best for you. While porcelain veneers cost more, they do last longer than composite veneers, which are cheaper but also easier to install.

Veneer Procedures

When your dentist or prosthodontist applies your veneer, they need to prepare your tooth. This means that they grind down some of the tooth structure to make room for the veneer. Once they’ve removed some tooth structure, your dentist will make an impression of your tooth so they can create a mold. They then use this mold to great your veneer. Once your tooth is prepared and your veneer is back from the lab, they’ll cement your veneer in place.

Does it hurt?

Because the procedure for both crowns and veneers requires altering the shape of the tooth, there is some risk of pain. However, you’ll often be anesthetized with a local anesthetic to lessen the risk of any pain. You also might feel some sensitivity after the procedure, but this usually goes away after some time has passed.

When you make an appointment for a consultation at Dental Partners of Boston, we will take all the time you need to ask your questions and thoroughly answer them. Contact us today for an appointment!

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