Veneers were invented by a dentist in California for the purpose of changing the appearance of actors' teeth temporarily. Since veneers were stuck on by denture adhesive, they only stayed on for a short time before falling off. When first introduced veneers were very expensive to make and so usually only celebrities could afford them. Now, of course, technology has improved making cosmetic veneers very affordable to most anyone.
A veneer placed on top of your teeth can easily and greatly improve an imperfect smile. Veneers are useful to close gaps in-between teeth, cover up permanently stained teeth, help correct chipped or broken teeth, or cover teeth that are badly shaped or crooked.
So what exactly are they? Veneers are thin shells that are custom made out of tooth-colored material and placed over your teeth. There are two types of veneers: porcelain veneers and composite resin veneers. Porcelain veneers are made in a laboratory and then placed on your teeth. Because they have to be made in a lab, having porcelain veneer work done requires at least two visits to your dentist. They are more expensive than composite veneers and can not be fixed if broken or cracked- they must be fully replaced. Composite resin veneers are also referred to as chairside veneers because they can can be completed in one visit at your dental office since no lab work is involved. Composite material is applied to your teeth, then light cured and polished.
Both types of veneers require that a small amount of enamel be removed from your teeth in order to accommodate the porcelain shell or composite material so as not to add bulk to the tooth. Because of this, veneers are not reversible- once you choose to get them you have to keep up with them forever. Veneers are also not necessarily permanent. They usually last between 10-30 years and can always be replaced if they fall off.
Are veneers for you? Cosmetic veneers are often referred to as "instant orthodontics" because they can be used to cover up a variety of aesthetic problems in your smile. They are certainly cheaper than braces if your concern is cosmetic and you have one or a few teeth that are unsightly. However, veneers can't be used to cover up unhealthy teeth or fix any orthodontic problems like the correction of underbites, overbites, and severely misaligned teeth.