When explaining the treatment details of each of our virtual smile makeovers, we often suggest that either dental crowns or porcelain veneers might be used to create the results that we’ve illustrated in the case’s results.
And although it is true that they can both create the same cosmetic end result, these two types of restorations are very different and therefore have different applications.
What’s the difference between a dental crown and porcelain veneer?
Crown vs. Veneer
An illustration showing the difference between a porcelain veneer and crown.
A crown encases the entire tooth, a veneer just its front side.
A fundamental difference between veneers and crowns is how much of the tooth they cover over.
- Crowns typically encase the entire tooth.
- Veneers only cover over a tooth’s front surface (the side that shows when the person smiles).
Details about crowns.
As another major difference (and as our graphic illustrates), crowns are much thicker than veneers. Here’s the how and why in regard to that point.
Dental crown placement requires a significant amount of tooth trimming.
When a dentist prepares a tooth for a crown, it’s reduced in size and shape to a tapered nub.
The idea is, when the crown is cemented, it becomes the new outer surface for the tooth. (That’s why a crown can be used to give a tooth a new color as well as a new shape.)
How much trimming is needed?
The amount of tooth reduction that’s required usually lies on the order of at least 2 millimeters (2 mm is just slightly more than one sixteenth of an inch). There can, however, be reasons why a dentist may need to trim even more in some areas.
This measurement is based on the fact that most crowns need to be at least 2mm thick. That varies however depending on the type of materials that it’s made out of (porcelain, metal or a combination of both). Generally speaking, less tooth reduction is needed for all-metal crowns.
Details from dental research:
We ran across a pair of studies (Edelhoff 2002, page references) that measured how much tooth structure was removed when different types of restorations were placed.
Using that data, it’s easy enough to understand how much more aggressive the act of placing a porcelain veneer is vs. a dental crown.
Crowns – A preparation for this type of restoration typically involves trimming away 63% to 76% of the tooth’s anatomical crown (the portion of the tooth that lies above the gum line).
Veneers – Minimal-prep porcelain veneers may only require 3% anatomical crown reduction. More extensive preparations may involve up to 30%.
This data as a general comparison – Crown placement typically involves 2 to 4 times as much tooth reduction as laminates.
The above data is for porcelain veneers (which are typically just placed on anterior (front) teeth and sometimes premolars), and all-ceramic and porcelain-metal crowns (placed on either front or back teeth).