Dear Dr. Szarek,
How many veneers are usually required to make all of a person’s teeth look whiter?
– Jackie in Lowell
The number of porcelain veneers required differs from patient to patient, and whether you really need all of your teeth to be “whiter” or whether you want to achieve a consistent, natural, and flawless smile, which will be individual to each person (what we call a “smile makeover”). This should be determined by consulting an expert cosmetic dentist with good artistic sense. (Read more about cosmetic dentistry.) There’s no way to say what the optimal number would be for any individual person, but here are some general guidelines:
- If you only need a subtle color change, you can often achieve this by veneering six teeth (and, rarely, just four) because the canine teeth are naturally a little darker. So, your smile can still look natural even though nothing is done to the canines.
- If there is a distinct color difference between teeth, you need at least eight veneers on the upper, sometimes 10, sometimes 12. Have someone look at your smile from the side and see how many teeth show. Any tooth that shows from the side while you are smiling broadly, needs to be treated.
- Lower teeth can be left somewhat darker than upper teeth. In a patient with a normal bite, the lower teeth will be overlapped by upper teeth, which creates shadows. So if they are darker than the uppers, it is usually OK, unless the patient has a smile that shows a lot of lower teeth.
- You may be able to reduce the number of teeth that need veneers by bleaching your teeth before getting them applied. Some patients have chosen to bleach their back teeth and veneer the front ones, or bleach the lowers and have veneers applied to the uppers only.