Dental bonding can be an economical solution for stained, broken, or chipped teeth and other minor cosmetic dentistry issues.
Have a chipped, broken, or stained tooth? Dental bonding can make it look like new again without causing too much damage to your budget.
“Bonding is a relatively inexpensive way to make minor dental repairs,” says Kimberly Harms, DDS, a dentist in Farmington, Minn. and consumer advisor for the American Dental Association (ADA). Plus, dental bonding is sometimes covered by insurance.
What Is Dental Bonding?
Dental bonding is a cosmetic dentistry procedure in which a tooth-colored composite material is applied to a tooth, sculpted into shape, hardened, and polished. It’s called bonding because the material bonds to the tooth. Dental bonding is ideal for small cosmetic dentistry work, such as fixing a broken or chipped tooth or closing small gaps between teeth. Dental bonding is also used as a tooth-colored filling for small cavities because it’s more cosmetically appealing than silver fillings.
What Does Dental Bonding Involve?
Your dentist will first apply a gentle phosphoric acid to the surface of your teeth, which etches and roughens the surface to help the bonding material stay in place. This process doesn’t hurt. The putty-like bonding material is then placed on the tooth’s surface, shaped, and sculpted. A special light is used to help the material harden and set. Finally, the composite is polished and buffed for a smooth finish.
Pros and Cons of Dental Bonding
“Dental bonding is less expensive than veneers, but it also has drawbacks,” notes Dr. Harms.
Advantages of dental bonding include:
- Cost. The average cost of dental bonding ranges from $300 to $600 per tooth. “But many dental insurance plans cover most of the cost of bonding, particularly when it is done for structural reasons or to fill a cavity,” says Harms.
- Speed. Dental bonding typically requires only one office visit. The entire process can be accomplished in 30 to 60 minutes per tooth.
- Ease. Anesthesia is usually not necessary, unless bonding is being used to fill a decayed tooth. Compared to veneers and crowns, dental bonding also requires the least amount of enamel removal, explains Harms.
Disadvantages of dental bonding include:
- Bonding material can become stained. Unlike crowns and porcelain veneers, dental bonding has a tendency to become discolored over time. “Coffee, tea, red wine, and cigarette smoke can stain the material used in dental bonding, making it stand out from the rest of your teeth,” says Harms. To minimize staining, you’ll need to avoid these substances for 24 to 48 hours after bonding is first performed. If you’re a smoker, you’ll want to choose a different cosmetic dentistry treatment. “Because bonding material is porous, it will yellow from exposure to cigarette smoke,” explains Harms.
- Less durable. Additionally, the material used in dental bonding isn’t as strong and long-lasting as porcelain veneers and crowns. It can easily chip. With proper care though, dental bonding can last three to seven years.
When Dental Bonding is a Good Choice
If you have a minor cosmetic dentistry issue — such as a cracked or discolored tooth, a gap between your teeth, or silver fillings that show when you smile — dental bonding may help.
“Dental bonding is also used in cosmetic dentistry to reshape or recontour teeth,” says Harms. In contrast to veneers and bleaching, however, dental bonding can’t be used to whiten your entire smile. Dental bonding can also be appropriate as “white fillings” for small cavities in teeth that are not exposed to excessive force when chewing, but the material used in dental bonding may not be durable enough for large cavities.
Maintenance of Dental Bonding
Because dental bonding is more susceptible to staining and chipping than other forms of cosmetic dentistry, special care is required to keep your bonded teeth looking natural. Here are some tips to keep your dental bonding in tip-top shape:
- Cut down on coffee, tea, and red wine.
- If you’re a smoker, this is a good reason to quit — not to mention that smoking also increases your risk of gum disease and oral cancer.
- Since dental bonding can chip easily, avoid biting your nails or chewing on hard objects, such as ice, pencils, and raw carrots.
- Call your dentist if you notice sharp edges or if your teeth feel strange when you bite down. If necessary, dental bonding can be repaired or touched up, says Harms.
Because dental bonding does take some artistic skill for optimal cosmetic results, it’s important to choose a dentist experienced with the procedure. Don’t hesitate to ask to see before and after photos of your dentist’s previous dental bonding patients.
Dental bonding isn’t appropriate in every situation, but it can be a quick and relatively inexpensive way to improve your smile. And feeling good about the appearance of your teeth can help you maintain good dental health.