Tooth bonding is a procedure in which your dentist applies a special, tooth-colored resin to part of your tooth. This is usually done to improve the appearance of the tooth and to mask certain perceived defects or abnormalities. Some of the cosmetic dental issues that bonding is often used to address include:
- Chipped Teeth: Composite resin can be placed in the chipped area to smooth out the tooth’s appearance and camouflage the chip.
- Discolored Teeth: Bonding can be used to hide serious discoloration that cannot be corrected with teeth whitening procedures.
- Too-Small Teeth: Your dentist can apply resin around the edge of the tooth to make it appear larger than it is.
- Teeth Gaps: If you have a small, but undesired gap between your teeth, your dentist can apply resin to the insides of the teeth to “close the gap.”
- Short Teeth: Resin can be applied to the chewing or surface of the tooth to make it appear longer than it actually is.
The cosmetic resin used in dental bonding is the same material used in tooth-colored fillings. Your dentist can select the proper color resin to match your teeth, so once the bonding is completed, you should not be able to tell where your natural tooth ends and where the bonding begins. Nobody but you and your dentist will have to know that you’ve had dental bonding performed; the results look completely natural.
Benefits of Dental Bonding
Dental bonding is a very versatile, common, and affordable cosmetic dental treatment. It can camouflage multiple issues with one tooth, or it can be used on multiple teeth to camouflage an array of undesirable features. Patients often opt for dental bonding over other options like veneers because it does not require the removal of tooth enamel, so there are fewer risks and side effects involved. Dental bonding does not cause any pain, and in most cases, your dentist will not even have to administer local anesthetics or any numbing agents before applying the resin to your tooth. The procedure is fast, simple, and very safe when performed by a knowledgeable dentist near you.
Candidates for Tooth Bonding
If you are interested in teeth bonding as a solution to your cosmetic dental woes, you will first need to schedule a consultation with your dentist. He or she will evaluate the overall health of your teeth to ensure that bonding is a safe and an effective choice for you. If you are dealing with minor discoloration on multiple teeth, your dentist may instead recommend teeth cleaning treatments. For more serious chips and cracks that compromise the strength and integrity of the tooth, your dentist may recommend having the tooth covered with a crown instead. A crown lends more support to the tooth to prevent future cracking and damage, a benefit that bonding does not typically offer. Dental bonding is most often used on the front teeth. This is because patients tend to care more about the appearance of these teeth, and also because molars often need the increased structural support provided by crowns. Dental bonding is generally safe for patients of all ages.
The Tooth Bonding Procedure
From the patient’s perspective, teeth bonding is a very simple, pain-free procedure. Usually, no anesthesia is required to keep you comfortable. However, if your dentist is treating a chip or abnormality that has left a tooth very sensitive or is located near the nerve, you may be given an injection of local anesthetic to numb the area. Cotton pads may be placed in your mouth in order to absorb moisture and make it easier for your dentist to work.
Once you are comfortable, your dentist will select the resin color that is closest to that of your natural teeth. He or she will then apply a special solution to the tooth to roughen up the enamel and make it easier for the resin to adhere to the tooth’s surface. This process is sometimes referred to as “etching the enamel.” This solution may have a sour or bitter taste if you happen to get a little of it on your tongue. Once the tooth is properly prepared, your dentist will carefully shape the resin, which is like a putty, to the desired shape. It is then pressed onto your tooth and reshaped, using specialized tools. When the resin is properly placed and shaped, your dentist will shine a special, blue UV light into your mouth for a few seconds. This causes the resin material to harden.
After the resin has hardened, your dentist will use a power file to further shape it and make sure there are no sharp edges. He or she will finish by polishing the resin to ensure it blends in well with your natural teeth.
Risks and Side Effects of Teeth Bonding
Dental bonding does not present any serious risks or side effects. Occasionally, if the procedure is used to correct a crack or chip, you may experience some mild tooth sensitivity in the days following the procedure. This will resolve itself quickly; in the meantime, just avoid hot, cold, and overly sweet foods.
Occasionally, the resin will not adhere properly to the tooth and the alteration will fall out when you are chewing or brushing your teeth. If this happens, your dentist can easily replace the composite alteration with a new one.
Caring For A Bonded Tooth
Teeth bonding is not a permanent solution to your cosmetic dental issues, but it is a very long-lasting one. Many patients keep their bonds for 10 years or more, especially if they take good care of the bonds and their natural teeth following a teeth bonding treatment.
Composite resin is not as strong as natural tooth enamel, so you’ll want to avoid biting down on hard items like plastic, nut shells, and ice. Doing so may cause your dental bond to crack or fall out completely. If you grind or clench your teeth, especially at night, talk to your dentist about getting fitted for a mouth guard. Wearing the mouthguard at night will protect your dental bond from splitting under the excessive pressure grinding puts on your teeth.
You must also be sure to have regular teeth cleaning appointments every 6 months. This will help keep the tooth around the dental bond healthy, so you are less likely to lose the bond. Between appointments, make sure you brush twice a day and floss daily. Use a soft-bristled brush to avoid aggravating your gums or damaging your tooth enamel and the dental bond.
The composite resin used in dental bonding can also be prone to staining. Minimize your intake of dark-colored beverages, like coffee and red wine, to avoid staining the bond and making it stand out against your teeth. If you whiten your teeth, either with at-home whitening treatments or an in-office teeth whitening procedure, the color of the bond will not change.