Dental bonding is a cosmetic and restorative treatment in which a tooth-colored composite solution is applied to a tooth to mask aesthetic flaws or fill small cavities. The malleable material is directly placed on the dental flaw to conceal its appearance; the composite resin is shaped over the tooth to hide imperfections and produce a natural appearance, and then hardened during a single dental appointment.
The dental bonding procedure can be performed to improve the appearance of a patient's smile, or the tooth-colored composite resin can be used to fill in areas of minor tooth decay. This dental material is well suited for use on the front teeth, as they experience less bite pressure. Although cosmetic bonding is usually performed on the front two teeth, lateral incisors, or canines, the treatment can be performed on the bottom or back teeth.
Cosmetic dental bonding is generally recommended to patients that want to correct smaller aesthetic problems. A thin layer of the composite resin material can be applied to a tooth to cover stains, discoloration, and cracks. Additional layers can be added to fill in gaps, address chips, and change the size and shape of a tooth. In most cases, dental bonding is used on just one or two teeth.
- Close gaps: Large and small gaps between the teeth can be filled with the dental bonding treatment.
- Crookedness: Minor crowding can be masked with the composite resin material.
- Chipped tooth: A chipped tooth causes aesthetic issues, and makes the tooth more prone to decay. With dental bonding, both of these problems can be treated.
- Discoloration: Yellow teeth and teeth that have white spots or tetracycline stains can be concealed with dental bonding.
- Lengthen teeth: Lengthening short teeth can make the smile more proportionate.
- After braces: Braces can cause tooth discoloration, and the teeth can shift out of place following treatment. Tooth stains, crowding, and gaps after braces can all be corrected with dental bonding.
The composite resin used for cosmetic bonding can also be used to treat minor decay on the front and back teeth; when the composite resin material is used to treat tooth decay, the treatment is referred to as a composite resin, or tooth-colored filling. A dentist will determine if a composite resin filling will offer sufficient support to the damaged tooth; if the tooth has suffered moderate to severe decay, inlays, onlays, or dental crowns may be a better treatment option.
- Receding gums: Gum erosion is caused by gum disease, overly aggressive teeth brushing, and the consumption of highly acidic foods and drinks. If the gums have receded, dental bonding may be recommended.
- Exposed roots: Gum recession can result in exposed roots, which leaves the tooth more prone to decay and sensitivity. The composite material can be applied to the roots to address these problems.
- Enamel loss: The composite resin material can be used to rebuild natural tooth structure that has been lost. The composite resin protects the tooth from further damage or decay and treats tooth sensitivity.
- Tooth decay: Tooth decay destroys the structure of the tooth, leaving depressions or holes that make the tooth vulnerable to breakage and further infection. The composite resin can be used to fill in these cavities and restore the health of the tooth.
The dental bonding procedure is relatively simple, especially when compared to more complicated treatments such as the placement of dental implants. The dental bonding process is completed in four stages:
- Preparation of the tooth: The surface of the treated tooth is lightly scuffed, and then a conditioning agent is applied. These steps will encourage the bonding material to more readily adhere to the tooth.
- Application of the composite resin: Next, the tooth-colored bonding agent is applied to the teeth. The material is manipulated into the desired shape and smoothed over the surface of the tooth.
- Curing: After the bonding material has been applied and molded into place, an ultraviolet light is directed at the composite resin to harden the material.
- Touch-ups: In the final stage, the shape of the bonding material is further refined and polished to produce a natural looking and attractive smile for the patient.
There are few risks and side effects associated with dental bonding. The risks include the possibility of an allergic reaction to the composite resin material, or the development of an infection following the dental bonding procedure. The main side effect of dental bonding is increased tooth sensitivity, but this usually goes away soon after treatment.
Patients should care for teeth that have been treated with dental bonding by brushing the teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting the dentist regularly. The composite resin is not immune to staining and does not respond to tooth whitening treatment. Dentists recommend that patients limit the use of foods, drinks, and habits that can stain the teeth once the dental bonding procedure is complete. Patients may require dental bonding touch-ups every few years to address bonding material that has faded, become stained, or chipped. For a durable restoration that lasts longer and looks more natural than dental bonding, porcelain veneers are a more suitable option.
The cost of dental bonding ranges from about $100 to $400 per tooth. The number of teeth to be treated depends upon your unique case and cosmetic goals. The cost of dental bonding may be covered by dental insurance. When dental bonding is performed for purely cosmetic purposes, patients should expect to pay for the total cost of treatment out of their own pockets. If the composite resin material is used to treat decay, dental insurance will usually extend partial or full coverage for the cost of treatment. When insurance coverage will not cover the cost of treatment, patients can apply for healthcare financing through CareCredit.
The dental bonding procedure offers a number of advantages to patients. Patients that 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 painless treatment: Even though numbing injections are not required for cosmetic dental bonding, patients do not experience any pain during treatment. Note that numbing medication is injected when the composite material is used to fill cavities.
- 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.
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Photo credit: Dr. Dave Lee