Difference Between Veneers and Crowns

Medically Reviewed by Robert Brennan on April 27, 2023
4 min read

‌Your dentist says you're going to need some work done. You don’t need a whole new tooth, but a simple filling won’t fix things for you either. A veneer or crown may do the trick, but these items serve different purposes. ‌

This article will help you see which one may be right for you.

Dental veneers. These are layers that dentists bond to your teeth to enhance their function or your smile. Dental veneers match your teeth in color, are usually made of porcelain or a combination of materials, and resist staining. If you need or want veneers, it'll likely be because your teeth are:

Getting veneers involves several steps. First, you share your dental concerns, and the doctor explains how veneers can help you meet your goals. They may need to take X-rays or make a mold of your teeth.

If you decide veneers are the right choice for you, the dentist prepares the tooth or teeth for veneers. Your tooth may need shaping so the veneers fit correctly, and a temporary layer is applied. The last step is to bond the permanent veneer to your teeth.

Dental crowns. Dental crowns differ from veneers because they are caps that fit completely over your teeth. If you need crowns, it'll likely be to:

  • Protect a weak tooth from decay or damage
  • Restore a tooth that is cracked, worn, or broken
  • Cover a tooth that has severe damage
  • Hold a dental bridge in place‌
  • Cover a tooth that is discolored 

Crowns can be made of several different materials:

  • Metal — These are strong and last the longest in terms of wear. They can be made of gold, palladium, nickel, or chromium. They only require a small amount of your tooth to be removed for placement. 
  • Porcelain fused to metal — While metal is the primary material used, a porcelain overlay gives the tooth a more natural appearance. Keep in mind that the metal may show on an edge or on the back of the tooth. Since the porcelain is an overlay, it may be more prone to chipping.
  • ‌Resin — This is a cheaper option, but it wears down quicker than other crown options.
  • Ceramic or porcelain — These offer the most natural color. They are a good option for front teeth that are more visible in your mouth. However, these crowns may wear down the teeth around them.‌
  • Pressed ceramic — Similar to metal crowns with porcelain overlay, these crowns have a ceramic core instead. They last longer than crowns that are made only of porcelain. 

Getting a crown involves several steps too. First, your dentist examines your mouth. If you are considering a crown because of damage, you may first need a root canal. Your dentist looks for signs of: 

  • Tooth decay
  • Infection‌
  • Injury to your tooth’s pulp, which contains its blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue

Next, your dentist files down the tooth so that the crown fits over the entire tooth. The amount of tooth removed depends on the type of crown material you choose. For example, you don't need to lose as much tooth for a metal crown as for a porcelain crown.

Now the dentist will take an impression in order to fit your crown correctly. You'll get a temporary crown to wear while the permanent one is being made. This usually takes two to three weeks.

When the permanent dental crown is ready, your dentist removes the temporary crown and cements the permanent one in place.

Self-esteem. Broken, discolored, or otherwise damaged teeth can take a toll on your self-image. Both veneers and crowns can improve the appearance of your teeth by giving you a better smile.

Protection. Veneers are primarily for appearance and function, but they can't improve the function of teeth that are beyond repair. Crowns can help with appearance, but they also provide protection to teeth when needed. Your dentist may suggest a crown if you have a heavily damaged tooth, to stop the damage in its tracks.

Preservation. A veneer involves the removal of less of your tooth. This preserves your tooth’s basic structure. And your gums may respond better to veneers than to crowns. But if a veneer cannot cover the damage of a tooth, a crown may be a better option.  

Not for everyone. Dentists don't recommend veneers to people with poor gum health or those who grind their teeth.

Regret. You can't undo veneers. And crowns, though they might save teeth, can increase your discomfort and sensitivity. You may have an allergic reaction to materials.

Wear.  Veneers may decay over time. And if a veneer cracks, it can't be fixed, only replaced.  Crowns are prone to chipping, and your dentist may need to replace an entire crown for a large chip. Cement may wear down, causing the crown to feel loose or even fall off.