What is Bonding and Is It Right for You?
Dental bonding is a procedure by which your dentist applies tooth-colored composite resin to a repair damaged, decayed, discolored, or chipped tooth. Bonding is different from veneers because it can be applied in a single visit using the adhesive agents. Whereas veneers require a lab to design a special mold to fit the veneer onto your teeth. Dental bonding is, essentially, gluing a piece of resin to your teeth to fix something that is wrong (it’s a lot more complicated than that, but that is the basic concept).
This post will go over (1) what dental bonding is used for, (2) how it works, (3) the pros and cons of dental bonding, and (4) comparisons with veneers and crowns and (5) some basic information you should know about bonding care.
For What Purpose Does Someone Need Dental Bonding?
There are four basic uses for dental bonding:
- Cosmetic Dentistry;
- Pediatric Dentistry;
- Prosthodontics; and
Cosmetic dentistry is a field which is focused on improving the appearance of teeth, bite, and/or gums. It can improve functionality but, in general, it focuses on aesthetics. Dental bonding is used by cosmetic dentistry to repair cracks and decayed teeth. Dental bonding fills the sweet spot between teeth issues in which a filling is too small to correct the issue and crowns would be excessive (think of it as filling the medium-sized holes and cracks). Cosmetic dentists apply the resin to the surface of the teeth, shape, harden, and finally polish it to fill any cracks or decayed areas.
Bonding is also used to cover teeth roots that are exposed due to receded gums. Gums recede due a variety of reasons, including gum disease and braces. As gums recede, the roots holding your teeth in are exposed which is both painful and can lead to your teeth falling out. Gums can eventually return with good dental care (especially flossing). But, in the meantime, bonding agents are also applied to the affected area to cover the root.
Pediatric dentistry is a field which is focused on caring for children’s teeth from birth to adolescence (basically, when the last few baby teeth are lost and into pre-teen age). Pediatric dentistry is focused on caring for teeth, identifying tooth decay as soon as possible, educating parents and children on proper teeth care, and preventative procedures to arrest tooth decay. Basically, pediatric dentistry is focused on preventing tooth issues and instilling in children good teeth habits.
Bonding enters the picture as an easy way to fix issues with children’s teeth. You or someone you know probably has a story about themselves or a friend who severely damaged their teeth as a child – either jumping off the teeth and damaging them, falling off the swings, falling someone and ruining their teeth. Bonding is used to fix those damaged teeth in an easy, one-day procedure.
Prosthodontics is like prosthetics but for your teeth. Whereas cosmetic dentistry focuses on appearance, think of prosthodontics as a specialty that deals with severe aesthetic and functionality issues. Prosthodontics is the application of implants. Bonding is used to correct severe issues, such as badly chipped teeth or severe decay.
Again, you’re probably familiar with orthodontics. It is a field which focuses on correcting misaligned teeth and jaws. Orthodontics uses the same bonding agent and procedures to bond braces to your teeth as other dentists use to bond resin to correct holes. Yes, if you remember, those braces were not going anywhere. The bonding agent was permanent until the orthodontist applied the agent to remove it.
Some Common Uses for Bonding:
Dental bonding is used for both functional and aesthetic purposes:
- Bonding braces or other fixed orthodontic tools;
- Bonding retainers;
- Repair chipped teeth;
- Repair cracked teeth;
- Repair decayed teeth (i.e. to fill cavities);
- To make teeth longer;
- To alter the shape of teeth;
- The close spaces between teeth;
- To protect roots; and
- As an alternative to fillings.
How Does Dental Bonding Work?
Dental bonding agents use a resin material to make a composite material which can adhere to both teeth and enamel (e.g. stuff used in filings). Dental bonding went through several iterations after its first introduction in the 50s and 60s. In the 4th generation of technology, dentists developed a three-step process which is still followed today. The three steps to dental bonding are:
- Removing the “smear” layer from the teeth and etching it. Think about this step as scoring your teeth so the bonding agent can adhere.
- Prime the tooth’s surface. This process is basically applying a primer and cleaning the tooth so that the bonding agent will stick.
- Applying the bonding agent to the tooth and bonding it to the teeth. Most dentists now use blue light to prime the bonding agent, so it sticks to your teeth.
The bonding will eventually degrade on its own, perhaps after ten years or more. However, it can be removed. There are several techniques but, basically, the dentist uses acid to erode the bonding agent, so the bonded material can be popped off.
What Happens at The Dentist’s Office?
So, you make an appointment and show up. That is 50 percent of the battle to get bonding done. Dental bonding can be done in a single visit to the dentist. The dentist lays you down, examines the areas that will have the bonding agent applied, and shapes the composite resin to fit the area. Once it is applied, using the technique above, it is primed, shaped, and polished to match the surrounding teeth.
The dentist will use a shading guide, to determine how best to polish the resin to match your teeth. Once he knows how to do it; he will abrade or etch the took to toughen it and prepare it for bonding. The tooth will also be coated in a conditioning agent which helps the bonding material stick to your teeth. Once your tooth is ready, he will apply the resin. The resin will be tooth-colored and putty-like (malleable but firm).
The dentist molds and smooths the resin it is the proper shape to fill whatever gap, crack, or decay for which it is being used. Once that it done, the dentist will use an ultraviolet light or laser (blue light) to harden the bonding material. Once it is hardened, the dentist will refine the shape by trimming it. Once the shape is done, the dentist polishes the material it is matches the sheen of the rest of your teeth.
The entire process should take around 30 minutes to an hour to complete per tooth or issue, it is an easy procedure. However, if you have multiple teeth that are being done, then you may need to return for multiple visits. Cigarettes, tea, and coffee can stain the resin – so it is imperative that you avoid these foods and activities for at least 48 hours (two days) after your procedure.
Advantages to Dental Bonding
Dental bonding is often used as an alternative to veneers and crowns (but not in every situation, for example, if the damage is too extensive). Dental bonding, unlike crowns and veneers, is much cheaper and can be applied in a single visit. Crowns and veneers must be manufactured in a lab whereas the dentist can shape and polish the bonding material during your visit. Furthermore, unlike veneers and crowns, dental bonding removes the least amount of enamel – which means that your teeth stay stronger and healthier. Finally, you don’t need any anesthetic when dental bonding is applied (unless it is to fill a cavity). The entire process, should be, painless.
Disadvantages to Dental Bonding
While dental bonding is great in many scenarios, it isn’t the best in every measurement. For example, dental bonding does not last as long as other procedures – i.e. crowns, veneers, and fillings. Furthermore, bonding material isn’t as strong as the other restorative procedures nor is it as strong as your enamel (i.e. teeth). So, you need to be careful with your dental bonding. Finally, dental bonding stains more easily than enamel or the other restorative procedures. You can reduce the risk of staining by observing good oral hygiene but the risk is still there.
Are There Any Risks?
There are not risks as you might imagine them. Dental bonding can’t cause lung cancer or heart disease or any of the other side-effects you hear on television whenever a prescription drug is advertised. However, there are some risks that could damage the bond.
The bonding material isn’t nearly as durable as your teeth. So normal habits you might have had before (e.g. biting your nails, chewing on ice, popping beer bottles, etc.) could severely damaged the bonding agent. It is important that you avoid doing these activities – at least with the areas where the bonding agent is located.
Are You A Good Candidate?
Most people can get dental bonding done, it isn’t an exclusive procedure. Prior to applying the bonding agent, the dentist will conduct an oral examination to determine if you are suffering tooth decay or gum disease. The dentist cannot apply dental bonding until these underlying issues are addressed. Moreover, if your teeth suffered extreme damage, like large cracks, big chips, or big gaps, then you should probably use crowns or veneers – rather than bonding.
Finally, depending on your teeth color, the dentist may advise you to get teeth whitening before the bonding is applied – so the dentist can better match the bonding agent to the color of your teeth. If you get teeth whitening, you cannot get your dental bond for at least 21 days after undergoing the procedure.
How Long Does It Last?
The range can vary from a few years to over a decade. It really depends on (1) what was bonded and (2) your oral hygiene habits. If you have good oral hygiene (e.g. brush after meals, floss, Listerine, and regular tooth cleaning appointments), then the bonding agent will last longer. Furthermore, the shape and use of the bonding agent also matters. If the bonding agent is on a part of the tooth that is regularly used (i.e. the surface of the teeth used for chewing or biting), it won’t last as long as something that isn’t used as often – like on the sides or near the root.
However, just because you approach the ten-year mark, that does not mean the bonding agent needs to be removed, and the whole process started over. The dentist can often touch up your dental bonds without needing anything more involved.
Do You Need Special Toothpaste or Other Special Care?
No, bonded teeth do not need anymore or less oral hygiene than your normal teeth. You should brush after meals (twice a day should be fine), floss, and rinse with an oral antiseptic. Don’t forget to visit your dentist for cleanings and check-ups and you should be fine.
Keep in mind, as stated above, that the bonding material isn’t as strong (yes, this cannot be emphasized enough). So, biting your nails, chewing on pens, or biting open a cap could damage your bonded teeth. If, you notice that something is off with your bite or you feel a sharp edge, call your dentist for a check-up – your bonds could have been chipped.
Dental Bonding vs. Veneers
Think of veneers as like a cabinet door, it covers the front of the tooth and hides the clutter (or damage) behind it. The veneer removes very little enamel and it placed on top of the tooth, covering the affected sections. Some veneers can be applied without lab preparation (but only in rare situations). Veneers are made of porcelain, which is stronger than the bonding material and resists stains more. Veneers also last much longer than bonding, sometimes up to 20 or even 25 years.
However, veneers are not often applied for small fixes or fix one or two teeth. Veneers are frequently used to cover the front-facing teeth to enhance smiles – so the veneers will cover multiple teeth. Whereas bonding is used for quick, small fixes for chips, cracks, and other small issues. Veneers are significantly more expensive and are used for more complete approaches – such as enhancing an entire smile or changing the appearance of the mouth. Finally, bonding is also significantly cheaper than veneers, sometimes as much as $1,000 – depending on the procedure.
Dental Bonding vs. Crowns
While veneers are used to preserve aesthetic beauty, crowns are both for aesthetic and functional uses. Crowns are a restorative tool that are used to protect cracked or chipped teeth to restore functionality and assert decay. Crowns are also often used to replace existing crowns. Crowns can be made of gold, porcelain, or ceramic and encase the entire tooth. However, that is also part of the problem crowns. Dental bonding fills a small hole or crack but removes very little enamel and allows you to continue brushing and caring for the teeth, whereas, crowns cover the entire tooth – so the tooth could continue to experience decay or become weak so you become dependent on the crowns.
Crowns are used for severe problems with teeth. They are used to shore up teeth that have suffered extreme damage from either cracks or even tooth decay. Conversely, bonding is more frequently used to fix smaller holes, cracks, chips, and other issues that don’t deal catastrophic damage to teeth. While bonding can be used to cover exposed roots, crowns are used to hold teeth together and prevent further damage. Finally, like veneers, dental bonding is much cheaper than crowns. A crown can run from $1,000 to $3,500 – depending on the procedure.
Help Finding the Best Dentist Near Me
If you would like a consultation on bonding, please do not hesitate to call doctors David Ganji and Sam Ganji at The Downey Dentist at 562-746-0350. We offer a broad range of services including cosmetic dentistry, bonding, cleaning, crowns, bridges, dentures, emergency dentistry, pediatrics dentistry, veneers and many more. The technicians and dentists at Downey Dentist pride themselves on helping patients screen for health issues, including identify potential gum disease and oral cancer issues as soon as possible.
We are conveniently located in downtown Downey near the 5, 710, and 105 at 7825 Florence Ave. Suite #B, Downey, CA 90240. Our office is open Monday through Friday and Saturdays (if you schedule an appointment). Don’t hesitate to call them today to set your consultation today! At the Downey Dentist, you can count on a partner for you and your family for life.