A porcelain veneer is a porcelain shell permanently bonded to the front of a tooth. Porcelain veneers are usually applied to worn down, discolored, chipped or broken teeth. They can last for many years if properly cared for. "Debonding" is what happens when the porcelain veneer comes off of the tooth in one large piece (versus breaking, which involves only a piece of the veneer coming off). If debonding occurs, you may be able to save the tooth, if you take the appropriate action.

What should you do if your porcelain veneer debonds?

If the whole piece of veneer has come off of your tooth, carefully wrap up the veneer in a tissue to protect it, then place it in a hard container like a candy tin, a small plastic food storage container, or a medicine bottle.

Next, call your dentist immediately and ask him or her for an urgent appointment. Although it's a nuisance, debonding is not usually an emergency, so your dentist may not be able to see you same-day. Be sure to explain the situation to your dentist, so he or she can personally decide whether or not you should be seen in 24 hours.

How can you tell if the veneer has broken, not debonded?

If the veneer has debonded, it will be tooth-shaped and symmetrical. If it is broken, you will see jagged edges on the veneer. You may also be able to feel part of the veneer still attached to your tooth. This broken piece may be a nuisance for you in the next few days, but should not be a danger.

Will it hurt to have the veneer off the tooth?

Probably not. Your tooth would have been shaved only a minimal amount to have the veneer placed on it. You may notice that your tooth is more sensitive to hot and cold without the veneer.

You can take care of this problem by coating your tooth with dental wax, which can be found at pharmacies. Smear the dental wax over the front of the tooth and then squish some of the wax over the sides of the tooth to hold it in place. If your tooth is very sensitive or painful, call your dentist to see if you can meet him or her more quickly.

How can this be avoided in the future?

Avoid chewing very hard foods and candies. Also, avoid using your teeth as scissors for cutting or breaking non-food items. In other words, no nail biting, no using your teeth to tear open baggies and other similar activities.

If the problem happens again, talk to your dentist about the possibility of getting a crown. It may be the best solution for your tooth.