When you think of cosmetic dentistry, your mind might automatically jump to high costs, painful procedures, and lengthy treatment times. But fortunately, those negatives don’t apply to every cosmetic treatment.
Case in point: dental bonding. Although you may not have heard much about it, bonding is a very common and affordable cosmetic dental procedure. Typically used for minor chips or spacing between teeth, it’s a quick and virtually painless procedure. In this guide, we’ll discuss how dental bonding works, the issues it can (and cannot) treat, and some alternative treatment options in case bonding isn’t right for you.
Table of Contents
What Is Dental Bonding?
Dental bonding involves the use of a tooth-colored composite resin material to improve your smile’s appearance or close small gaps between the teeth. The material used is the same as the one used to fill cavities, but some types are more flowable than others. Since then, dentists and orthodontists have discovered new uses for this material, including as a quick fix for chipped, cracked, and gapped teeth. The procedure itself takes just one or two office visits, so you can walk out the door with a brand new smile.
How Does Bonding Work?
The dental bonding procedure doesn’t require a whole lot of preparation on your part. Your dentist will clean your tooth or teeth, then roughen the surfaces and apply a conditioning liquid where they plan to apply the composite resin, which helps the material to adhere better.
After selecting a shade of composite resin that matches your teeth, the dentist will apply it and mold it to the desired shape. Then, they will harden the material with a special light that bonds it to the teeth, and shave down the material where necessary. Lastly, they’ll polish the composite so that it perfectly matches the surfaces of your teeth.
The entire process of dental bonding usually takes about 30-60 minutes per tooth, so many people complete the treatment in a single office visit. As a bonus, the procedure is painless and requires no anesthesia, and the results will last anywhere from 3-10 years, depending on how well you take care of your teeth.
What Can Bonding Treat?
Dental bonding is best suited for minor cosmetic changes and should not be used as a replacement for comprehensive orthodontic treatment. Bonding is also great for the temporary treatment of cosmetic flaws on the front teeth. For example, if you have a small gap between your two front teeth, dental bonding could be used to address the issue temporarily, or be used as a trial to show you what a permanent solution could look like.
So, if you’re considering a more permanent option like orthodontics or veneers, it may be helpful to receive dental bonding first. You can instantly see how the treatment will affect your teeth without having to make such a costly and permanent commitment. Unfortunately, dental bonding is not a good option for more advanced issues, like crowding, major spacing or large chips/cracks.
- Mild-to-moderate chips/cracks
- Discoloration or staining
- Mild-to-moderate spacing
- Small or irregularly shaped teeth
- Severe chips/cracks
- Most cases of crowding
- Severe spacing
- Areas of high bite pressure (molars)
Pros and Cons of Bonding
As we previously mentioned, dental bonding can be an excellent treatment option for minor cosmetic changes. However, like most procedures, there are both pros and cons that should be considered before you make a final decision.
- Quick and easy: Treatment usually takes less than an hour to complete. So, you only need to schedule one visit to the dentist.
- Instant results: Dental bonding provides results instantly. Unlike almost all alternatives, you can see the results of the treatment immediately after the procedure.
- Very inexpensive: Dental bonding is one of the least expensive cosmetic procedures available. The average cost of treatment is $100-400 per tooth.
- Virtually painless: Patients typically experience little to no pain whatsoever, and no anesthesia is required.
- Not permanent: Results of dental bonding typically last about 3-10 years before needing to be touched up or replaced.
- Limited versatility: Dental bonding is not suitable for teeth crowding or any severe cases of misalignment.
- Low durability: Veneers and crowns are much more sturdy options than dental bonding. People who grind their teeth or eat lots of irritating foods may damage the bonding fairly easily.
- Prone to staining: The material used for dental bonding is not stain-resistant. So, poor hygiene or drinking things like coffee or wine too regularly may cause stains.
Bonding vs. Veneers: What’s The Difference?
Dental bonding and veneers are very different treatments. While bonding involves simply molding material onto the tooth to change its appearance, veneers are typically porcelain shells that are placed over the entire tooth. Because of this, dentists often recommend veneers for patients who want more of a “makeover effect.”
Veneers are also usually placed on all of the teeth that are visible when you smile. In contrast, dental bonding is used to make only minor cosmetic changes. So, bonding is usually only used on a few teeth for the standard treatment.
Although they both cover your natural teeth to make cosmetic changes to your smile, there are several differences between veneers and dental bonding. Cost, durability, and versatility of treatment are all factors to consider if you’re trying to decide between the two. To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of the most important differences between dental bonding and veneers:
Dental bonding is, without a doubt, the cheaper option. Veneers can cost anywhere from $1,000 – $2,500 per tooth. Dental bonding costs a fraction of the price.
Veneers require your teeth to be shaved down, or “prepped,” as a part of the treatment process. This procedure is permanent and irreversible. Bonding does not require any prepping, so your natural teeth will remain unchanged.
Porcelain veneers are much stronger than dental bonding, so they tend to last longer. Veneers typically last about 10-15 years before they need to be replaced.
Dental bonding is only appropriate for very minor issues, like small gaps and chips on the teeth. Veneers can treat a wide variety of problems, including most cases of crowding, spacing, and discoloration or staining.
The material used for dental bonding is prone to staining. So, you’ll need to be more careful with your oral hygiene. Porcelain veneers are stain-resistant, making it much easier to maintain a white appearance to the teeth.
Caring for Bonded Teeth
You’ll want to treat your dental bonding just like you would your natural teeth. This means being diligent about keeping a consistent oral hygiene routine—brushing and flossing twice a day, getting regular cleanings at the dentist, etc. Hard-bristled toothbrushes can be abrasive on bonding, so use a soft-bristled brush and don’t brush too hard.
Just like your natural teeth, bonding can be stained by dark food and beverages, so you might want to limit your consumption of things like coffee, tea, and red wine. Or, you might want to brush your teeth after eating and drinking. .
Finally, keep in mind that biting hard objects like fingernails, pens, ice, etc. can damage your bonding, so try not use your teeth for anything other than eating.
What Kind of Results Should I Expect?
Consider bonding a custom-crafted smile. Your dentist can mold the bonding material to create the exact smile that you’re after, then match the texture, size, and color to your natural teeth. And the best part is that it typically only takes one office visit, so you can expect that you’ll walk out of the office with your perfect new smile.
These results won’t last forever, but for several years, they’ll give you the smile you want, without any brackets, wires, elastics, wires, or year-long treatment.
Other Treatment Options
If you’re seeking more detailed or dramatic results for a moderate-to-severe issue, dental bonding will likely not be a good fit. If crowding is your main concern, you may be better suited for a more comprehensive orthodontic treatment, like Invisalign. Invisalign treatment does take an average of 18 months to complete. However, your dentist will be able to correct most issues of misalignment and even some bite conditions.
Also, since Invisalign uses clear aligners to correct misalignments, treatment is very inconspicuous. Finally, when your treatment is over, you’ll receive an aftercare retainer to ensure your teeth won’t move back to their original spot. So, Invisalign is a more permanent option than dental bonding.
If you’d like to correct your cosmetic issues with shorter treatment time, home aligners could be a great alternative. Boasting an average treatment time of just 6 months, home aligners are one of the quickest orthodontic treatments. Home aligners can also correct most cases of crowding and spacing. And, treatment is completed entirely from the comfort of your own home. So, you won’t need to worry about scheduling any trips to the dentist.
Home aligners work very similarly to the aligners used for Invisalign. You’ll need to wear the clear aligners for at least 22 hours per day and be sure only to drink water while you’re wearing them. However, convenience is the primary advantage of home aligners. So, if you’re worried you won’t be able to make time for regular trips to the dentist, home aligners may be the perfect option. For a more comprehensive look at home aligners and comparison of the top providers, check out our detailed guide.
Dental bonding can be a great choice for anyone seeking a cheap, quick option for minor cosmetic issues. However, for more severe cases or any crowding issues, a more versatile and comprehensive option will likely be more suitable. If you’re interested in dental bonding, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss your options.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does bonding last?
Dental bonding can be fairly durable, but it’s not permanent, and it typically lasts around 3-10 years before it needs to be touched up or replaced.
What can I eat with dental bonding?
Anything you want! It’s possible to chip or crack your bonding, but it doesn’t typically happen while eating.
Does bonding stain?
Yes. Unlike porcelain veneers, dental bonding can stain. So, if you consume a lot of coffee, red wine, or other dark food and beverages, be sure to keep a diligent oral hygiene routine, or you might notice your bonding getting slightly discolored.
Does bonding hurt?
Not at all! The dental bonding procedure is virtually painless and doesn’t require any anesthesia.
Does dental bonding look natural?
Dental bonding is practically indiscernible from your real teeth. Before applying the composite bonding material, your dentist will select a shade that perfectly matches the color of your teeth, so no one will be able to tell the difference.
How long does dental bonding take?
In most cases, the dental bonding process takes around 30-60 minutes per tooth. So, even if your treatment involves multiple teeth, you can potentially complete the entire procedure in a single office visit.
How much does dental bonding cost?
The average cost of dental bonding is around $100-$400 per tooth, which makes it far more affordable than many other teeth-straightening treatments, especially cosmetic ones like veneers. Your exact cost will depend largely on your dentist’s typical rates.
What conditions can dental bonding treat?
Dental bonding is a purely cosmetic treatment, primarily used for mild-to-moderate cases of spacing and chipped/cracked teeth. It isn’t a viable option for crowding, bite issues (like overbite or underbite), missing teeth, or more severe spacing.
Can dental bonding be removed?
Yes. If you’re unhappy with your bonding, or having second thoughts about the type of treatment you want, your dentist can remove your dental bonding, and it won’t affect your natural teeth at all. It’s just a matter of grinding it down, which typically means sanding or grinding it down.