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Dental bonding for teeth can be one of the most cost-effective and least invasive cosmetic alternatives your dentist offers for cracked, discolored, or chipped teeth.
In this easy procedure, your dentist will use a resin matching the color of your teeth to improve the appearance of teeth. It costs less than veneers, crowns, and even some professional whitening procedures.
We cover a description of this procedure, costs, what to expect, and how to care for your bonded teeth.
What is teeth bonding?
Teeth bonding is one of the simplest dental procedures used to repair natural teeth. It’s perfect for small corrections or fixing a broken/chipped spot on your tooth to visibly preserve your natural tooth structure.
While similar in some ways to other cosmetic alternatives, dental bonding is a less invasive, less expensive and in some ways, a more versatile process. Most of the time, no anesthesia or numbing agents are needed.
Your dentist will use dental resin to fill in holes, correct spots of discoloration, and generally improve the shape of a tooth.
Here’s how it works:
- First, s/he will gently “sand” your teeth so that the bonding is better able to attach to your teeth.
- Next, your dentist will etch the teeth and apply a bonding agent in liquid form and a conditioning lotion to your teeth.
- The resin is applied to the teeth, which your dentist will then shape and mold to correct the cosmetic issue and form the desired shape of the tooth. This may be done with a rotary instrument that sculpts the filling resin with a drill.
- Using an ultraviolet light at a specific frequency, the dentist will harden the resin.
- Small adjustments can be made immediately after hardening the resin before it fully sets.
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Reasons for Bonded Teeth
Dental bonding is a reparative option for broken, chipped, or decaying teeth. Composite resin material can be formed into almost any size or shape needed to cover a portion of the tooth.
This makes teeth bonding a very popular option, especially when a small number of teeth, or even one tooth, needs repair.
Teeth bonding is done for a number of reasons:
- To repair a cracked, broken, or chipped tooth while leaving the rest of the tooth intact
- To change the shape of a tooth or teeth
- As a cavity repair (it’s a more natural-looking material than silver amalgam fillings)
- To protect a tooth’s root exposed from receding gums
- To cover a discolored tooth, match the color or shade to the natural teeth around it
- To close spaces between teeth
Bonding Procedure: What to Expect
Prep for Bonding
Once you and your dentist have decided teeth bonding is your best option, the remaining prep is a breeze!
Your dentist will examine your natural teeth and explore options. S/he will use a shade guide to explore composite resin colors, then choose the best to match your natural teeth.
Did you notice something missing, that’s normally an expected part of most dental work?
Unless the bonding includes filling a cavity, or the damaged area of the tooth is near sensitive nerves, numbing is not necessary.
Your dentist will use an instrument to roughen the surface of the tooth where the dental bonding will be placed. S/he may also apply a conditioning lotion. This is all done to help the bonding adhesive attach to the tooth.
The second step is to etch the tooth and apply the bonding agent. Sometimes, these steps are separate but are often performed at the same time. If they’re done separately, the tooth will be etched first.
Next, s/he will apply the composite resin to the desired area. The material is a putty-like resin so it can be molded and shaped correctly into the damaged part of your tooth.
Once the dentist is satisfied with placement, s/he will use a special light (also known as a curing light) to cure, or harden, the resin in place.
When the putty-like resin has hardened, you’re ready for finishing touches: final shaping and trimming of the hardened resin material and polishing to match the rest of the tooth surface and surrounding teeth.
Dental bonding takes about 10-30 minutes per tooth and may last as long as an hour if multiple teeth are bonded at once.
Once the resin has set, a bonded tooth can be treated the same as a regular tooth. Keep in mind that you should avoid staining foods or beverages (coffee, tobacco, berries, etc.) for 48 hours after the procedure to prevent discoloration.
Aftercare of bonded teeth is no different than standard oral health habits, like brushing and flossing.
How much does teeth bonding cost?
The price of teeth bonding in the United States ranges from $100 to $600 per tooth, depending on where you live.
It’s important to check with your insurance company to see if the procedure is covered.
Pros and Cons of Bonded Teeth
The Good Stuff
- Bonding is one of the least expensive cosmetic dental procedures.
- The process will usually only require a single visit to complete (unless multiple teeth or cavities are involved).
- There is, in most cases, no need for anesthesia.
- Tooth prep for dental bonding doesn’t require as much tooth enamel removal as porcelain veneers.
- Teeth whitening can be done with bonded teeth, but you should consult your dentist beforehand.
- One big disadvantage of dental bonding is that composite resin isn’t as stain-resistant as the material used for say, dental veneers or crowns. Coffee, tea, and red wine may affect the color over time, as will cigarette smoking.
- Bonding will not usually last as other treatments such as fillings, dental veneers or crowns and must be redone every 5-10 years.
- Bonding materials can break and/or chip more easily than porcelain veneers.
- Dental bonding is not ideal for all your teeth; it’s most effective on teeth with less direct biting/chewing, like the front teeth.
Taking Care of Bonded Teeth
Great oral hygiene is so important, whether you have cosmetic procedures done to your teeth or not.
Since bonding material is susceptible to staining, oral hygiene is extremely important.
Some folks ask about using teeth whitening products/procedures on bonded teeth. It is possible to whiten bonded teeth without damaging them, but you should definitely speak with your dentist before trying any products.
To take the best care of your bonded teeth:
- Floss at least once a day.
- Brush your teeth in the morning, before bed, and 30-45 minutes after eating/drinking any sugary, starchy, or acidic foods or drinks.
- Scrape your tongue before brushing.
- Don’t vape, smoke, or use any other forms of tobacco.
- Consider cutting back on highly staining beverages and foods, like coffee and wine, as they are more likely to stain your bonded teeth.
- Talk to your dentist about a night guard, especially if you grind your teeth. This guard can protect the sensitive bonded fillings.
Although I wouldn’t classify the resin material as fragile (because it’s not), there are some things you should avoid to get the longest life out of bonded teeth:
- Fingernail biting
- Chewing on ice or pens, or opening any package with your mouth — your teeth should only interact with foods and drinks
- Smoking — the chemicals in cigarettes adversely affect your saliva production, which increases the formation of plaque and tartar on your teeth and gums. Smoking also interferes with blood circulation, which, in turn, affects the formal function of gum tissue. Smoking also causes staining to teeth, whether your natural teeth or those repaired by bonding, dental veneers, crowns.
How long will my bonding last?
Most tooth bonding will last anywhere from 3-10 years, depending on which teeth are bonded and how well you care for them. There is ongoing research about the products used in the dental bonding process, with hopes of further improving the materials most commonly used.
Bonding vs. Veneers vs. Crowns vs. Fillings
While all the options listed here are used to improve the appearance of damaged/decayed teeth, there are some differences to consider and discuss with your dentist.
Bonding vs. Veneers: Bonding is a more ideal option for small imperfections or damage to a few teeth. Bonding is less expensive, due in part to the use of less durable material. Bonding is also a less invasive process, usually only requiring a single visit to your dentist to complete.
Veneers are a permanent change to your teeth that cannot be undone. Whereas veneers require the removal of an entire layer of tooth enamel, bonding only requires some roughening of a particular area of your tooth. They are also longer lasting and less resistant to breaks, chips or stains.
Bonding vs. Crowns: Tooth bonding is most suited to small areas of a tooth or teeth that require repair. Probably the most notable difference in these two procedures is that crowns are recommended to protect larger areas of a tooth.
Crowns can absorb biting better than bonding material, and will typically have a longer lifespan than bonding. Of these two options, bonding is the least expensive.
Bonding vs. Fillings: While dental fillings can be done for cosmetic purposes, they are generally used to address tooth decay, whereas bonding is a great solution for small chips, cracks or breaks that aren’t the result of decay. Technically, though, bonding material can be used as filling material.
The cost of bonding a single tooth is more expensive than filling a single tooth. However, both these procedures are likely covered by insurance, which should help with the decision.
Is teeth bonding covered by insurance?
Many dental insurance policies have coverage for at least a portion of dental procedures like bonding. Ask your dentist’s finance office to check your policy.
What do bonded teeth look like?
Here are just some of the transformations dental bonding can provide to your smile.
Are there risks to bonding teeth?
There are no known major health risks to bonded teeth. If you notice sharp edges or any changes in your bite after a bonding procedure, call your dentist right away to correct these issues.
It is possible for bonding to chip or break off of teeth, particularly if you’re using your teeth for non-food things (chewing on ice, etc.) or chew on very hard candy.
Key Takeaways: Bonded Teeth
Whether shaping up a slightly crooked smile or seeking repair of some cracked or damaged teeth, dental bonding is a great option for many reasons:
- It is one of the least expensive cosmetic procedures to repair damaged teeth.
- The process is less invasive than crowns, porcelain veneers, or fillings, and affects less of the surface of the tooth.
- Anesthesia is almost never required.
- Bonding usually only requires a single visit to complete, unless several teeth or cavities are involved.
- Most dental insurance policies offer coverage for bonding.
- Taking care of your bonded teeth is basically the same good as good dental care — brush and floss regularly, scrape your tongue, and don’t skip dental visits.
- Cardoso, M. V., de Almeida Neves, A., Mine, A., Coutinho, E., Van Landuyt, K., De Munck, J., & Van Meerbeek, B. (2011). Current aspects on bonding effectiveness and stability in adhesive dentistry. Australian dental journal, 56, 31-44. Full text: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1834-7819.2011.01294.x
- Peutzfeldt, A. (1997). Resin composites in dentistry: the monomer systems. European journal of oral sciences, 105(2), 97-116. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9151062
- Breschi, L., Mazzoni, A., Ruggeri, A., Cadenaro, M., Di Lenarda, R., & Dorigo, E. D. S. (2008). s, 24(1), 90-101. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17442386