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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know

We all have our insecurities, and for some, teeth are at the top of their list. It’s because of this fact that cosmetic dental procedures are on the rise. While it may seem like society is getting more comfortable with imperfect teeth (given the newfound adoration of gaps), people all over Instagram and TikTok are touting veneers as their be-all-end-all for a kilowatt smile. Of course, if you don’t have a hefty chunk of change to spend on your teeth, that’s out of the question. Luckily, less invasive, less pricey treatments exist to fill the void.

Enter: dental bonding. Never heard of it? Cosmetic dentist Marc Lowenberg, DDS, is here to walk us through it. Ahead, uncover everything there is to know about dental bonding, including how it stacks up to veneers.

What Is Dental Bonding?

According to Lowenberg, dental bonding, more commonly referred to as composite bonding, is the process of adhering tooth-colored material directly to the tooth in an effort to improve the appearance of chipped and stained teeth. In some instances, Lowenberg says that dental bonding can even assist in the appearance of crooked teeth. 

Benefits of Dental Bonding

  • Improves the color of the tooth
  • Improves the edges of the tooth
  • Least invasive procedure in cosmetic dentistry

As Lowenberg sees it, dental bonding is one of the most approachable forms of cosmetic dentistry, given how it doesn’t interfere with actual tooth structure. “Bonding is the least invasive procedure in cosmetic dentistry because you do not have to reshape the teeth; you can simply add composite bonding onto the existing tooth,” he explains. “So, for people who don’t want their tooth structure touched, you can just use composite bonding to either change the shape of the tooth or change the color of the tooth.”

As for how it can be used, Lowenberg says that dental bonding is a godsend for minimally chipped teeth and discolored teeth. “If you chip a front tooth and the chip isn’t too large, you can use composite bonding to restore the tooth to its normal shape,” he says. “You can also use composite bonding to cover the entire surface of the tooth, which would enable you to change the color and build up the surface of the tooth.”

Additionally, if your teeth are eroding, Lowenberg says that dental bonding can help. “You can restore that which has worn away to its normal anatomy by reshaping it with composite bonding,” he explains.

How to Prepare for Dental Bonding

Unlike other cosmetic procedures (let alone other dental procedures), dental bonding doesn’t require preparation. “The dentist can diagnose the problem and can offer to repair the tooth structure with bonding or by porcelain veneer,” Lowenberg explains. If bonding is the best fit, it can be done in the office, oftentimes that day.

What to Expect During Dental Bonding

While many oral treatments require local anesthesia, dental bonding does not. “It doesn’t hurt, because the tooth structure is treated with a chemical that allows the bonding adhesive to work on the tooth,” Lowenberg explains. As for the actual duration of treatment, that depends on the patient’s specific needs. “It depends on what [e.g., how many teeth] you are having done,” Lowenberg says.

Dental Bonding vs. Veneers

Dental bonding is a widely used cosmetic treatment. However, it’s not a permanent fix. For that reason, if you’re looking for a long-term oral solution, Lowenberg recommends veneers over bonding. “Veneers are the best way to replicate natural teeth,” he explains. “Your dentist applies a thin veneer of custom-made, pre-formed porcelain directly onto each individual tooth’s edge.” And, unlike dental bonding, which typically lasts two to three years, he says that porcelain veneers can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years and take just two visits to the dentist to transform your smile.

Potential Side Effects

The biggest downsides of bonding are that it can discolor over time and it chips easily. As a result, Lowenberg points out that maintenance on bonding is much higher than it is on porcelain veneers. “Bonding in certain applications will hold up longer than other applications, but when you use composite bonding on the full surface of the tooth, it usually doesn’t hold up for more than two to three years,” he adds.

The Cost

While Lowenberg considers the cost of dental bonding to be accessible—given it improves the appearance of your smile for less than it would cost for a full set of veneers, which can run upward of $30,000 in some cases—it all depends on your budget. “Bonding typically ranges from about $400 to $1,000 per tooth,” Lowenberg shares. Now, before you go multiplying the number of teeth you have by that cost, know that composite bonding is most commonly used for teeth that are visible when talking or smiling—so typically not molars. 

Aftercare

The only aftercare is that you have to be careful with your teeth following a dental bonding appointment. And not just immediately after, but ever after. “Whether you’re doing bonding or porcelain veneers, you cannot use your teeth for anything other than chewing,” Lowenberg says. “What I’m saying is, you can’t open up bottles with your teeth, or bite your fingernails, or do anything that will easily crack the bonding, because it will crack.” Additionally, he warns against biting into hard things like apples and carrots, as that, too, can be a recipe for disaster with dental bonding.

The Final Takeaway

If you’re looking to smooth the edges of your teeth or improve the color of your smile, dental bonding can help. However, if you’re unable to commit to gentle oral habits—namely, being extremely mindful of how you bite into things—it can be a bit of a waste, as dental bonding is very easy to crack. Additionally, since it can discolor, only you can decide if spending hundreds of dollars on a short-lived improved smile is worth it. Before a big event on a few teeth? Perhaps. But all over for no major reason? Eh, maybe not. But again, only you can decide.

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