Most of us are familiar with teeth whitening and many people actively employ the process. Indeed, an entire segment of the dental field and related products have grown around teeth whitening. But have you heard of dental bonding? It’s in the same arena as whitening but with its own vibe and end results.
Dental bonding describes various procedures which apply a composite resin to a tooth to change its color and/or shape. The resin is a durable plastic-like material that is hardened with a specialized light source that ultimately bonds it to the tooth. The process typically requires only one office visit and rarely involves anesthesia or drilling, and it can noticeably change a person’s appearance.
Why choose bonding?
Dental bonding serves many purposes and people choose the procedure for a variety of personal or medical reasons. The most common reason for bonding is to improve the color or shape of your teeth, along with these complementing decision-makers:
- Repair decaying teeth by filling cavities with the resin
- Improve appearance of discolored teeth
- Close spaces between teeth
- Repair broken, chipped, or cracked teeth
- Change the shape of teeth
- Protect exposed tooth roots due to receding gums
- Cosmetic reasons
How does it work?
The dental bonding process is relatively straightforward, made up of several steps including tooth preparation, color blending to match existing teeth, and applying and finishing the resin. Follow-up appointments are sometimes needed for a little extra polishing or finishing work. Here’s how it works:
The prep step
Dental bonding requires very little advance preparation, as anesthesia is unnecessary unless the bonding is targeting a cavity, drilling is required, or there is damage near a nerve. Early in this first stage, your dentist will use a color chart similar to a paint swatch to choose a resin color to match your existing teeth.
The bonding process begins by etching or roughening the surface of the tooth and applying a conditioner to help the resin stick. It’s like lightly sanding a wall or hunk of wood before painting. The resin is similar to a putty and is applied and molded to the desired shape, followed by smoothing.
At this point a bright light or laser is used to harden the resin. When hardened, the material can be trimmed, shaped, and polished to match the rest of the tooth and those around it. The entire bonding process takes roughly 30-60 minutes per tooth.
What’s great about it
An attractive advantage of dental bonding is it is one of the least invasive and most affordable cosmetic dental procedures. It can usually be done in one office visit as well, as opposed to crowns or veneers that must be custom made in a lab and placed at a later visit. Another plus is very little tooth enamel is removed.
What’s not so great about it
The resin material used in dental bonding is relatively stain-resistant but crowns do a better job against staining. The bonding material also does not last as long and are not as strong as crowns or fillings.
Bonding material is also susceptible to chipping or breaking free of the tooth. Limitations like these put dental bonding as a great choice for smaller cosmetic procedures or tooth repair in low bite pressure areas. Because of the potential for chipping, dentists recommend that patients refrain from bad habits like chewing fingernails, ice, or hard food.
The composite material is considered a semi-permanent procedure and the material may need to be replaced over time.
Is special care required?
Bonded teeth do not require special care any different than recommended good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice a day, floss at least once a day, rinse with antiseptic mouthwash, and get regular dental checkups.
Adopt additional good habit such as avoiding acidic foods like tomatoes and pineapples, or potent alcohol. Also avoid stain-causing things including cigarettes, berries, coffee, and tea. Keep the pressure off too; don’t chew hard candy or popcorn kernels.
How long will it last?
The ultimate lifespan of bonding material depends on how much was done and individual oral habits, but most bonding material lasts a minimum of three years and up to 10 before requiring touch-up or replacement.