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Porcelain Veneers
What it is: A very thin layer of porcelain, about 0.5 to 1 millimeter, that's bonded onto the entire front of the tooth. To prepare teeth for veneers, the dentist may have to reduce the enamel surface from 0.7 to 1 millimeter or slightly more, depending on the position and shape of the teeth and how crowded they are (so the veneer doesn't look too thick). The dentist delivers a mold of the patient's tooth to a lab where a ceramicist makes the veneer, working closely with the dentist on the shape and color. The process typically takes a week. When the veneer is ready, the dentist etches the surface of the tooth, which allows a bonding agent to be absorbed, attaches the veneer, and hardens the bonding agent with a light.

Best for: Improving crooked, widely gapped, or badly stained teeth. With veneers, a dentist can change the size, shape, color, and position of teeth in a few office visits.

Does it work? Yes. Veneers can make a dramatic difference in a smile, last about 20 years, don't stain or chip, and require no maintenance.

Cost: $1,000 to $2,000 per tooth.