Elementary, My Dear Patient: Start With Dental Bonding

Are you searching for the best solution to repair some cracked or chipped teeth? Perhaps you have gaps in between teeth that make you too embarrassed to smile for selfies. If you need to repair minor imperfections in one or more teeth, you may not need expensive, time-intensive crowns or veneers. The best solution to your selfie smile problem may be a simple procedure known as dental bonding.

What it is

Dental bonding is the application of a resin material to misshapen, chipped, or cracked teeth. The color of the material is matched to the natural shade of surrounding teeth so as to blend in perfectly. Bonding can also be done to build up tooth surfaces and narrow gaps between teeth.

It is a painless, noninvasive procedure that takes approximately one hour.

How it works

Dental bonding is a three-step process.

  1. Preparation. First, the dentist prepares the teeth that are being bonded by roughing up their surfaces. He/she then applies a liquid conditioner that ensures the resin will adhere tightly.

  2. Application. Your dentist applies the resin, smoothing it delicately onto your teeth. The goal is to match the size, shade, and shape of neighboring teeth.

  3. Drying.  The dentist trains a UV light onto the bonded surfaces to dry and harden them. If any further trimming or shaping is needed, he/she does it after the resin has dried.

It's that simple.

Advantages and disadvantages

Dental bonding has the following advantages over veneers and crowns:

  • Requires only one office visit

  • No imaging or moldings needed

  • Requires no anesthesia

  • Does not remove tooth enamel

  • Completed in less than an hour

However, there are a few disadvantages to this process. The hardened resin can sometimes break, requiring a return visit or a more complicated procedure. Further, dental bonding only lasts about ten years, so although it is a long-term solution, it isn't a permanent one.

Who's best for bonding?

Dental bonding works best for patients who only need minor corrections, such as the repair of a few chips, cracks, or tooth gaps. It also works well for temporary cosmetic changes while awaiting more complex work down the line. For instance, if you know you will need a crown in the future, but it is not immediately necessary, you can opt for dental bonding to hold you over.

Because your back teeth work hard at chewing food, thereby exerting a lot of bite pressure, the bonded material can break off. Therefore, if your back teeth are the problem, bonding is probably not the right answer for you. Also, bonding is not the best choice for smokers, because the resin can stain and you may end up with discolored teeth.

A few caveats

If you choose dental bonding, you won't need to implement any special procedures to care for your teeth. Routine brushing and flossing will suffice. However, you will have to limit foods that can stain bonded surfaces, such as red wine, berries, tea, dark-colored sauces, and some sodas.

Be aware that, unless it is deemed a medical necessity, your insurance company will likely not cover the cost of dental bonding, which costs $300-600 per tooth. Talk to your dentist about whether your situation merits a review by your insurance carrier. Especially if bonding is your doctor's recommendation for filling a cavity or repairing a broken tooth, you may be in luck.

Crowns and veneers can be costly and take several office visits to complete. They may, actually, be more of an intervention than you need. Talk with your dentist about whether the simplicity of dental bonding may be the best way to get your selfie smile back.

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