A VENEER is a thin layer of material placed over the front surface of a tooth, which is typically used as protection or to improve the appearance of the tooth.  Veneers can be fabricated from various materials, including composite, porcelain, or monolithic ceramic.  A composite can either be directly placed or fabricated in a lab and later bonded to the tooth, whereas a porcelain or ceramic veneer must be fabricated in a lab.  Composite restorations are the cost effective option, but are not as aesthetic or permanent as porcelain or ceramic veneers.