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Dental bonding is a procedure that offers both cosmetic and restorative benefits. The treatment involves the application of a composite resin material to the teeth in order to conceal cosmetic flaws such as cracks, chips, discoloration, and imperfections in shape or size. The bonding solution can also be used to fill small cavities and repair otherwise damaged teeth. Your dentist will color the bonding material so that it perfectly complements the color of your surrounding natural teeth and blends seamlessly into your smile.
For many patients, dental bonding serves as less expensive, but nevertheless excellent alternative to porcelain veneers. Other patients are attracted to the fact that the dental bonding procedure requires no alteration to the natural structure of the teeth and therefore can be reversed. Dental bonding is a remarkably versatile procedure in that it can be performed on its own or in conjunction with other cosmetic and restorative dentistry treatments such as teeth whitening, dental crowns, and dental bridges.
Another appealing characteristic of dental bonding is that the procedure yields instant results. You can walk into a dental office and after a single appointment emerge with a beautifully rejuvenated smile. Results can last for many years with proper oral hygiene and routine dental visits.
Do you have minor aesthetic flaws affecting your front teeth? Are your teeth and gums in generally good health? Are you a non-smoker? If you answered yes to all of these questions, you may be a good candidate for dental bonding treatment.
Minor Cosmetic Imperfections
Dental bonding can conceal minor cosmetic imperfections such as yellowed, stained, gapped, chipped, cracked, and misaligned teeth. For more extensive cosmetic issues, patients may want to consider porcelain veneers.
- Chipped Teeth: A chipped tooth can be caused by a number of events: a fall, sporting injury, car crash, or a bicycle accident, among others. Treating a chipped tooth immediately will not only improve aesthetics. It will also protect the tooth from further damage. Bonding allows dentists to replace the lost tooth material with the durable and natural-looking composite resin.
- Discolored Teeth: Some tooth stains and discoloration do not respond to professional teeth whitening treatment. For example, intrinsic stains are immune to bleaching. In other cases, the stains affect only a few teeth. Additionally, patients who suffer from dental sensitivity are typically not good candidates for whitening treatment. In situations such as these, dental bonding can whiten a patient’s entire smile.
- Gapped Teeth: Gaps between teeth can make them appear misaligned, asymmetrical, or misshapen. Some patients choose dental bonding to close gaps or make them smaller. Composite resin can close a single gap between two teeth, or it can close gaps all across a patient’s smile.
- Misshapen Teeth: Composite resin can also add additional width or length to teeth. Added to the bottom of teeth, it can create a more even edge, or it can make teeth more proportionate. The result is a more beautiful smile that complements and enhances the natural facial structure.
- Slightly Crooked Teeth: A dentist can use bonding to correct one or two teeth that are slightly out of alignment. During treatment, he or she may slightly reshape the teeth. Then the dentist applies composite resin to make the tooth sit flush against the adjacent teeth.
- Fractures: Bruxism, facial injury, or chewing on a hard objects such as ice can cause small dental fractures. A cracked front tooth will affect a patient’s appearance, as well as his or her dental health. Fortunately, a quick dental bonding treatment can easily conceal the crack.
- Dental Bonding after Braces: It is quite common for patients to undergo dental bonding after wearing braces. In this way, they can further enhance the results of their orthodontic treatment. The bonding solution can also mask any staining that was caused by the braces. In some cases, patients who wore braces years ago may have developed some new crowding or gaps. Dental bonding can address these problems.
Generally, in order to be considered a good candidate for dental bonding, patients must have good oral health. Any dental problems such as cavities and gum disease should be resolved before the patient proceeds with cosmetic treatment.
Smoking is one of the most common and aggressive causes of dental discoloration. Unfortunately, composite resin is immune to whitening treatment. Therefore, dentists typically recommend that patients stop smoking before they undergo dental bonding. Individuals who regularly smoke cigarettes will begin to notice increased discoloration of the teeth as the months and years pass. Eventually, they will need retreatment to maintain the aesthetic integrity of their smiles.
The cost of dental bonding ranges from about $100 to $400 per tooth. There are a number of factors that can influence the cost of your particular treatment. The number of teeth you wish to treat is, of course, a major consideration. However, the area you want to treat will also affect the cost. For example, if you want to fill in a tiny chip, your treatment will typically cost less than if you want to enhance an entire tooth that is severely discolored.
Additionally, your geographic location will play a role in the cost of your treatment. Like many things, the cost of dental care will be higher in cities than in more rural areas. Finally, your dentist’s reputation and experience will affect the cost of dental bonding. While it may be tempting to choose a practitioner who offers inexpensive care, remember that cosmetic treatment is an investment in your smile and your future. For optimal results, it is important to select an experienced dentist who consistently yields good results.
Comparing the Costs of Other Treatments
When you are considering your cosmetic dental options, it may help to compare the cost of bonding with the prices of similar treatments. For example, teeth whitening can run between $100 and $2000, depending on the method you select. Orthodontic treatment may cost between $3000 and $7000. Veneers will run between $750 and $3000 per tooth. As you can see, dental bonding may be the optimal way to enhance your smile if you have a limited budget. Additionally, bonding can perform many functions at once. In some cases, the treatment can prevent you from needing multiple procedures.
The cost of dental bonding may be covered by insurance. When bonding is performed for purely cosmetic purposes, patients should expect to pay for the total cost of treatment. If the composite resin material is used to treat decay or other damage, dental insurance will usually extend partial or full coverage for the cost of treatment.
Even if insurance does not cover your bonding procedure, most dentists will work with you to find a payment plan that fits your budget. Some will provide in-house financing with approved credit. Others may even offer promotions and discounts. For example, if you pay for your treatment in full prior to your appointment, some dentists may give you a percentage off. Alternatively, you could apply for third party financing. Companies such as Compassionate Finance® offer affordable repayment plans. You may qualify for a fixed, low, or even no-interest payment schedule. Your dentist’s administrative team will often help you apply for these various financing plans.
How to Choose a Dentist
Dental bonding is an important investment in your smile and quality of life. Therefore, it is important to select a dentist who will provide truly outstanding results. There are several key qualities to look for. For further assistance, ask friends, family members, or other health care providers for recommendations. You could also use DocShop’s search tool to find a qualified cosmetic dentist in your area.
Experience and Accreditation
First, you should look for a dentist who has the necessary qualifications to perform dental bonding. Although the procedure is extremely low-risk, you are more likely to enjoy stunning cosmetic results when you choose a top-notch dentist. Look for a practitioner who is accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Additionally, you should find a dentist who performs dental bonding on a regular basis.
Results and Reputation
You don’t have to make your decision unaided. Many cosmetic dentists have galleries of their patients’ smiles. Closely examine these images to see whether you like the final results. Do the patients’ teeth look natural? Would you like your smile to look similar? Make sure the photos are well-lit and that the image quality is good. Poor photos could conceal poor aesthetic results.
Finally, you should choose a cosmetic dentist who makes you feel comfortable and at ease. For optimal results, you and your dentist should work together to develop your treatment plan. Therefore, you should select a practitioner who will really listen to your concerns and create a treatment plan designed to meet your needs. Avoid dentists who shame you, dismiss your worries, or pressure you to undergo more treatment than you actually want.
The Initial Consultation
Your consultation will allow you and your cosmetic dentist to determine whether bonding is the optimal treatment for you. First, your dentist will examine your teeth to look for any health concerns, such as gum disease. Your dentist will need to treat these conditions before beginning the bonding procedure. At your consultation, you will also discuss your goals for treatment, and your dentist will determine if bonding is the right way to achieve these goals. Once he or she has determined your candidacy for treatment, your practitioner can begin planning out your treatment plan. He or she will decide the best locations for the composite resin, and you can also discuss any additional treatments you may wish to undergo.
The Bonding Process
The dental bonding procedure is relatively simple and quick. The entire process can be broken down into four phases: preparation, application of the bonding material, curing of the bonding material, and refinement. In most cases, the entire treatment can be completed in one to two hours. After just one appointment, you can walk out of the dentist's office with a dramatically improved smile. The actual length of your treatment will, of course, depend on the number of teeth you are going to have treated.
- Teeth whitening before dental bonding: If you wish to whiten your teeth, you should receive this treatment before you undergo dental bonding. Then your dentist can select the shade of resin that matches your newly whitened smile. If you receive whitening after your bonding procedure, you may find that your natural teeth and the composite resin no longer match.
- Selection of the dental bonding shade: Before your dentist begins treatment, he or she will compare your teeth against a special tooth color chart guide. In this way, your dentist can choose a color that matches your teeth.
- Placement of clear dental strips: The dentist will place clear dental Mylar® strips or similar product between the treated teeth. This material will keep the composite resin from getting on adjacent teeth.
- Apply the etching solution: Your dentist will then treat your teeth with a mild acid solution. The acid will create tiny fissures in your enamel. With more surface area, the bonding agent will adhere to your teeth more strongly. After micro-etching all of the teeth you wish to treat, your dentist will rinse out your mouth with water.
- Apply the bonding agent: Next your dentist will apply the bonding agent to the tooth using specialized dental tool. This device has a tip that resembles a fine paintbrush.
The Cosmetic Bonding Phase
- Apply cosmetic bonding material: The dentist will apply a small amount of the composite resin to your teeth. The consistency of the bonding material is similar to that of cake frosting or paint spackle.
- Shape the cosmetic bonding solution: Using a metal dental tool with a flattened head, the dentist will then shape the malleable bonding material on the tooth. If needed, he or she can change the length or width of the tooth.
- Layer on additional resin: For optimal results, your dentist may need to apply several layers of composite resin. Finally, he or she will smooth the material so that it blends seamlessly with your natural tooth.
Curing the Bonding Material
After applying the composite resin, your dentist will harden, or cure, the material with a UV dental light. If you have ever received a composite filling, you will be familiar with this process. The dentist will direct the light at the bonding material for several seconds. He or she will repeat this process on each tooth. When all teeth have been treated, your dentist will remove the Mylar® strips.
At the end of your appointment, your dentist will check the appearance of your teeth and make sure you are satisfied with the results of your treatment.
- Check symmetry: Your dentist will measure the width and length of your teeth using a highly precise dental tool.
- Refinement of the bonding solution: Using a fine dental drill, the dentist will remove small portions of the bonding material from your teeth. This will create an even line and make your teeth appear more uniform.
- Check the bite: Next, your dentist will place a thin, paper-like material between your upper and lower teeth. He or she will ask you to bite down. This step will help the dentist to ensure that your bite alignment is correct. If needed, he or she will further refine the composite resin.
- Slightly etch the surface: Finally, your dentist will lightly etch the surface of the bonding material using a dental tool with a rotating head. Etching will give it a more natural appearance.
Combining Dental Bonding with Other Treatments
Although dental bonding can have outstanding results on its own, you may choose to combine bonding with another treatment to achieve even more dramatic results. Your dentist will discuss these additional treatment options at your initial consultation. At this time, you can also decide in which order you should receive the various treatments.
You might choose to have bonding performed on one or two teeth while you enhance the rest of your smile with dental bleaching. As stated above, if you choose to combine these two procedures, you should undergo whitening first. Then your dentist can match the composite resin to the color of your newly whitened smile. Remember, traditional whitening can only address extrinsic stains on your dental enamel. Therefore, bonding will be a better choice to conceal dark, intrinsic stains.
Tooth contouring is one of the most common treatments to combine with dental bonding. During bonding, your dentist will build up your tooth structure to make your smile look bigger and brighter. In contrast, during dental contouring, your dentist will remove part of your dental material. By buffing away minimal amounts of enamel, he or she can resize proportionately large teeth, reshape irregular teeth, and address sharp, pointed teeth. Although your dentist will remove very little dental material, the treatment can have a stunning effect for your overall appearance.
If you have an uneven gum line or proportionately large gums, it can detract from your newly enhanced teeth. With gum contouring, your dentist can remove the unwanted tissues to give you a bigger, brighter, younger-looking smile. Many dentists use advanced surgical lasers to perform this treatment. Lasers are extremely accurate. They will also seal off your tissues to prevent post-treatment swelling and sensitivity. Even if your dentist performs gum contouring using handheld tools, he or she will remove very small amounts of tissue. Despite this conservative approach, the procedure can significantly enhance your smile.
While dental bonding can repair slightly compromised teeth, more severe damage will require aggressive care. Dental crowns will fit on top of your damaged teeth. They add strength and stability to weakened teeth. They can also cover up large cracks or chips, as well as cavities that are too large for a routine filling. Dentists will typically try to preserve as much of your natural tooth structure as possible. Therefore, in most cases, they will choose bonding over crowns, whenever possible.
Although bonding can correct the appearance of slightly crooked teeth, it is not a good choice to address more severe misalignment. If you have an overbite, underbite, or crossbite, or if your teeth are severely crowded, your dentist will recommend orthodontic care. Traditional braces or Invisalign® can straighten your smile and improve your overall oral health. After your braces come off, cosmetic bonding can correct cracks, chips, stains, and similar concerns.
Smile Makeovers and Full Mouth Reconstruction
Dental bonding is often included as part of a smile makeover or a full mouth reconstruction. These treatments are intended to address widespread dental damage or extensive aesthetic blemishes. In conjunction with your dentist, you can choose several treatments to replace missing teeth, restore dental functionality, and improve your self-confidence. In addition to the treatments listed above, you could include dental bridges, dental implants, gum contouring, and more.
Dental bonding offers immediate results. Once the material has hardened, it will look highly natural, and it will blend beautifully with your smile. Additionally, if you underwent bonding to repair structural damage or to fill a cavity, you will typically enjoy fully restored dental function right after your appointment. Once the composite is in place, your results could last three to ten years. In some cases, they may last even longer.
Stronger Teeth and an Enhanced Smile
After the bonding material has hardened, it can perform a variety of practical and aesthetic functions. These include:
- Repairing cracks and chips
- Filling cavities
- Lightening your smile
- Making your teeth appear longer and more proportionate
- Closing gaps in your smile
- Making your teeth look straighter
- Enhancing worn, proportionately small, or unusually shaped teeth
Dental bonding typically requires little more than routine dental hygiene. After bonding, you should care for your teeth by brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting the dentist regularly. At each appointment, your dentist will check your overall oral health. He or she will also examine your dental composite, looking for cracks or other structural flaws. Even with proper care, you may require dental bonding touch-ups every few years. During these follow-up treatments, your dentist can repair composite that has faded, stained, or chipped.
Preserving Structural Integrity
Although composite resin is durable, restorative materials are simply not as strong as natural teeth. Therefore, the bonding material could become cracked, and in some cases, it could come off entirely. To avoid damaging the composite, you should not chew on hard things like pen caps, ice, or your fingernails. In addition, you should never use your teeth as tools. Opening bags or pulling off tags with your mouth puts tremendous pressure on your teeth. These habits could not simply damage your composite restorations. They could also harm the natural structure of your teeth.
Preventing Dental Stains
Like natural dental enamel, composite resin is susceptible to staining. Unfortunately, it does not respond to teeth whitening treatment. Therefore, following dental bonding, dentists recommend that you limit foods and drinks that can stain your teeth. These things include wine, juice, coffee, black tea, berries, soy sauce, tomato sauce, and other dark-pigmented foods. Smoking can also cause severe dental stains. Quitting smoking can preserve your enhanced smile.
Like natural enamel, composite resin is subject to erosion and acidity. To preserve the results of your treatment, as well as the untouched portions of your smile, you should cut back on highly acidic foods and drinks. These include citrus (especially juices), coffee, and wine.
When performed by an experienced cosmetic dentist, bonding yields extremely natural-looking results. The color of the resin will match the natural shade of your smile. Additionally, your dentist will sculpt the material so that it closely resembles your dental enamel. This process requires a skilled hand and a keen artistic eye. This is one reason that you should be judicious when choosing your dentist. When performed correctly, bonding can thoroughly transform your smile. Best of all, the composite resin will be virtually identical to your natural enamel, even when someone is standing at a very close distance.
With your brighter, healthier-looking smile, you may enjoy an enormous boost of confidence. In turn, this can affect nearly every area of your life. You may find that you feel more comfortable in social settings. When you are able to smile and laugh freely, others will notice the change. This could even translate into an enhanced social life, an improved performance at work, and new professional opportunities.
Oral Health Benefits
In addition to improving the appearance of your smile, bonding can treat cavities and other forms of dental damage. Fillings can be made of dental composite. These restorations will stop the spread of decay and strengthen the walls of your tooth. In the not-too-distant past, fillings were always made of silver amalgam or some other type of metal. As time passed, these materials would often start to show through teeth, giving patients a gray tint to their smiles. Composite resin fillings will match the natural color of your teeth. The material will also form a strong bond with the inside of your teeth, just as it does with your dental enamel. In this way, composite fillings can more effectively strengthen decayed teeth.
Along with fillings, dental composite can also treat a diverse range of dental concerns. When applied to a crack or fracture, the material can prevent the crack from getting larger and destroying the overall structure of your tooth.
The dental bonding procedure offers a number of practical advantages. Patients who undergo treatment can expect:
- A quick treatment: The dental bonding treatment can usually be completed in one to two hours; the length of the individual procedure depends on the number of teeth being treated.
- A reasonable cost: Along with teeth whitening, dental bonding is one of the least expensive cosmetic dental procedures.
- Durability: The composite resin used in the dental bonding procedure is quite durable, and can be expected to last for up to 10 years.
- Excellent outcomes: The dental bonding procedure is safe and effective; dentists are able to consistently achieve great results with this simple treatment.
One of the great advantages of dental bonding is that it is such a safe procedure. Nevertheless, as with all dental treatments, there are some possible risks.
Stained and Damaged Composite
The primary risk of dental bonding is that your composite resin will become discolored. Like dental enamel, this material is porous. Therefore, pigmented molecules have more surface area to which they can adhere. However, the non-biological composite is immune to teeth whitening products. Therefore, the only way to correct stained composite is to remove and replace the material.
As stated above, although composite is strong, few things can match the natural strength of a healthy tooth. Therefore, it is possible that the restorative material will crack, chip, or come off. Fortunately, you can receive touch-up bonding treatments as often as you like with no ill effects for your dental health.
Infection and Allergies
Before placing the composite resin, your dentist will remove bacteria, plaque, and infected material from your teeth. If a portion of decayed tooth goes undetected, the bacteria will continue to multiply, spreading throughout your tooth. If this occurs, you may require root canal therapy or an extraction. By choosing an experienced restorative and cosmetic dentist, you can greatly reduce your risk for infection.
In very rare cases, patients have developed allergies to the bonding agent, the composite resin, or one of the tools used during treatment. If you develop significant tooth sensitivity, gum irritation, or itchiness following your bonding treatment, contact your cosmetic dentist as soon as possible.
Temporary Side Effects
In addition to posing negligible long-term risks, dental bonding involves virtually no recovery time or post-treatment discomfort. When your dentist performs the treatment for cosmetic purposes, the material will typically go directly on the outer surfaces of your teeth. This process will leave the structure of your teeth unaffected. Therefore, you will not typically experience any discomfort.
If your dentist performs dental bonding to address a cavity, he or she will need to remove damaged material and reshape the decayed portion of your tooth. In this case, you may experience some sensitivity and irritation, particularly in response to temperature changes. To minimize discomfort, avoid extremely crunchy, hot, and cold foods for a few days after your procedure. Mild pain medication can also help to alleviate discomfort. Sensitivity should dissipate on its own within a few days.
In 2012, the Journal of the American Dental Association published an article by Albert Kingman, PhD. Kingman is the chief biostatistician at the Center for Clinical Research, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in Bethesda, Maryland. In the article, he and his colleagues reported that dental composite significantly raises the levels of BPA (Bisphenol A) in a patient’s urine and saliva. According to their study, BPA levels increased by 43% immediately following the application of a composite restoration. However, the researchers also noted that within 9 to 30 hours after treatment, BPA levels returned to normal. The levels in saliva also seemed to be lower when dentists used a rubber dam during treatment.
These statistics may sound alarming. After all, BPA has been linked to abnormal hormone levels, cancer, heart problems, and more. However, in 2013, the American Dental Association issued a statement following Kingman’s study. The organization reported that BPA is not used as an ingredient in dental composite or sealants. There may be traces of the chemical because they were present in older forms of composite. Alternatively, other materials used to manufacture dental composite may themselves contain traces of BPA. In either case, the chemical levels are quite low. The ADA also noted that the National Toxicology Program declared that most of the BPA found in our bodies comes from food sources. In essence, the NTP stated that BPA levels in dental composite had little relevance to our overall health. Although the ADA supports continued research on BPA and dental composite, the organization does not believe that composite resin poses a risk to the population’s health.
Alternatives to Dental Bonding
Dental bonding can have outstanding results. However, before deciding to undergo this treatment, you should explore your options. Other procedures may be more suited to your cosmetic goals, health needs, and lifestyle.
If you ask your dentist about an alternative to dental bonding, he or she will most likely mention porcelain veneers. This procedure is the most similar to bonding. For the most part, it can also correct the same aesthetic flaws, although it cannot address dental decay. Your dentist will trim away a small amount of enamel before attaching these cosmetic shells to the front of your teeth. Most experts agree that veneers look more lifelike than composite resin, since they have a natural sparkle and translucence. In most cases, they also last longer than composite resin. However, these restorations are more costly than bonding, and they require alteration of your natural tooth structure. When veneers are damaged or come off, you must have enough enamel to receive replacements. If you have compromised enamel, your dentist may recommend bonding to replace your damaged porcelain veneer.
Teeth whitening is one of the most effective and least invasive forms of cosmetic dentistry. If you only have minor extrinsic stains, and you do not have any structural flaws, whitening may be the optimal treatment. Many dentists offer both at-home and in-office whitening, and you can select the one that fits your schedule and budget. In either case, the peroxide-based whitening gel will break apart dental stains, leaving your smile six to eight shades whiter. Traditional whitening can only address stains on your dental enamel. However, an increasing number of cosmetic dentists are offering KöR® Deep Bleaching™. This revolutionary treatment can target intrinsic, as well as extrinsic stains. KöR® can permanently lighten your smile by 16 shades.
Although dental bonding can address minor structural flaws, dental crowns are a better option for teeth that have been severely damaged. A custom-created crown will completely cover your damaged tooth, although your dentist will leave as much of your natural tooth structure as possible. Crowns can be made from range of materials, including metal and porcelain-fused-to-metal. However, for outstanding cosmetic results, consider all-porcelain restorations. Like dental composite, porcelain comes in a wide selection of colors, and your dentist will choose the right shade to match your smile. Alternatively, state-of-the-art materials like zirconia are highly lifelike, and they are nearly as strong as metal.
Dental bonding can improve the appearance of slightly crooked teeth. However, the treatment does not actually change the alignment of your smile. Crooked teeth and a misaligned bite can lead to a number of oral-systemic problems, including dental decay, cracked or worn teeth, bruxism, and TMJ Disorder. If you want to improve your oral health, as well as your appearance, orthodontic treatment may be a better choice than bonding. Traditional metal braces, Invisalign®, ClearCorrect™, and other options can all be highly effective treatments. Your dentist will help you choose the right option for your needs and goals. Following orthodontic treatment, you may choose cosmetic dentistry to address discoloration, cracks, worn edges, and similar flaws.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will the dental bonding procedure hurt?
Dental bonding involves very little discomfort, if any. Most patients do not require local anesthesia before their treatments. This is true even when dentists place a composite resin filling.
Can children get dental bonding?
Yes. Because the procedure involves minimal discomfort, it is often a great option for younger patients. Although dentists will not typically recommend bonding to whiten a child’s smile or to correct misalignment, they frequently use this treatment to repair cracks, chips, and cavities.
Am I too old for dental bonding?
There is really no age limit for dental bonding. Because the procedure involves so little discomfort and virtually negligible risks, it is suitable for patients of all ages. Keep in mind that bonding can only treat your natural teeth. If you have a damaged crown or bridge, you will need to replace the restoration.
Can my dentist skip the etching process?
Micro-etching your teeth is necessary for a long-lasting restoration. The procedure will not hurt, and it will have a minor impact on the outer surface of your teeth.
If I had bonding done before undergoing orthodontic care, will the braces damage the composite?
It is possible that your bonding will break or come off as your orthodontist is removing your braces. If you have not already done so, tell your practitioner ahead of time that you have had bonding performed. Then he or she can take extra precautions when taking off your braces.
How long does dental bonding last?
With proper care, dental bonding typically lasts three to ten years.
Is bonding reversible?
Yes. Because bonding does not alter the structure of your teeth, you can have the composite removed. Like most patients, however, you will likely be very pleased with the outcome of your treatment, and you will want to maintain your newly enhanced smile.
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