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What You Should Know About Your Veneers and Microleakage

Most people who receive porcelain veneers go on to enjoy a trouble-free smile for years to come. However, a select few may experience a phenomenon commonly known as "microleakage." This is a problem that could have troublesome and sometimes expensive consequences for your smile if left untreated. The following article takes an in-depth look at microleakage, how it usually happens, and the steps that can be taken to correct the problem.

What Microleakage Is 

Microleakage is what happens when small amounts of fluid make it through the microscopic spaces between a restored dental surface and the surface of the actual tooth. This phenomenon isn't just reserved for those who are benefiting from porcelain veneers; microleakage can also occur with ordinary fillings and other dental restorations that have the potential to create a microscopic gap between the original and restored surfaces.

How Microleakage Occurs

It's not uncommon for a microscopic gap to exist between a porcelain veneer and the teeth it's bonded to. In many cases, minute amounts of salivary fluid carrying gingival bacteria can seep into this microscopic space and accumulate on the underlying tooth. Over time, the bacteria not only eat away at the bonding resin that holds the veneer in place but also cause underlying decay.

One potential symptom of microleakage is a noticeable stain or discoloration near the gap location. This usually manifests itself as a darkened line near the gum line. Another potential symptom of microleakage, as pointed out by Dr. Hal Stewart, DDS, is a foul aftertaste that does not go away. This is usually caused by tooth decay accompanying the microleakage.

What Can Be Done to Fix Microleakage

As with any dental condition, microleakage is relatively simple to fix as long as it's caught early on. If you begin to see unsightly stains around the gum line, it's a good idea to have your dentist inspect the stain and determine whether or not microleakage is occurring. In many cases, what appears to be the start of microleakage usually turns out to be a minor staining of the bonding resin. This is usually fixed by polishing the affected area until the stain is removed.

Actual signs of microleakage often require more intensive dental-repair work. This usually requires your dentist to remove the veneer as well as portions of the bonding resin that have deteriorated due to microleakage. Afterwards, your dentist will inspect the underlying tooth for signs of decay. Any decay that's present must be removed before any further work can be done.

In most cases, the affected area can be re-bonded without replacing the entire veneer. However, a complete replacement may be necessary in cases where severe, long-term microleakage has damaged the tooth and most of the existing bonding resin.

Preventive Steps You Can Take

Regular home hygiene is important for preventing microleakage. In addition to regular brushing and flossing, you should refrain from consuming juices, alcoholic beverages, and other drinks that can erode the bonding resin over time. This also includes rinsing with mouthwashes that contain alcohol. You should also steer clear of abrasive toothpastes, since constant use of certain toothpaste formulas can actual erode your veneers and the bonding resin.

Regularly scheduled dental visits also play an important role in preventing microleakage. During these visits, your dentist can inspect and, if necessary, polish the areas where mild stains and microleakage are likely to occur. In cases where a veneer must be replaced or re-bonded, it's important for your dentist to practice proper bonding techniques as well as use the appropriate bonding resins for the task at hand.  

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