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Bonding vs Veneers - the unvarnished tooth

Jul 31, 2012

Photo Source: Affiliate Revolt

No published series on cosmetic dentistry would be complete without discussing two popular cosmetic procedures: dental bonding and veneers. But first, what are they and what do they do?

  • Dental bonding is a composite resin, or paste, that is applied directly to the teeth and then sculpted to the right shape to mask an imperfection. Bonding is known as a direct restoration because it is performed chairside. Anesthesia is usually not necessary. 

  • Veneers are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of porcelain or resin designed to cover the front surface of teeth.  Veneers are known as an indirect restoration because they are made in a dental lab and require more than one visit. 

  • As is true with many cosmetic procedures, the intent of bonding and veneers is to mask imperfections of the teeth, whether it be covering up gaps between teeth, hiding crooked or misshapen teeth or cloaking stains by covering discolored teeth.

    This being a presidential election year, let’s begin our comparison as a debate between the two cosmetic candidates and focus on the strengths and weaknesses of each. What will candidate Bonding and Veneers do to make our smiles better in the short term and ensure we share those smiles with our offspring and future generations?

    Either “candidate” will mask teeth imperfections but there are three main differences between the two: the process, the materials and what amounts to the bottom line for many – cost. Let us begin our “debate” with dental bonding.

    Dental Bonding: Bonding can not only correct damage to your teeth, it can also seal and protect your teeth from further damage. Before beginning the procedure your dentist will select a composite resin color to match the color of your teeth by using a shade guide.

    After that the dentist will roughen the treated tooth’s surface before applying a conditioning liquid that helps the bonding material adhere to the tooth.

    Next, the tooth-colored resin is applied freehand by the dentist. Because of its putty-like texture it can be molded and shaped to mask imperfections like a chipped tooth, a discolored tooth or to improve the appearance of short teeth. Bonding can also be applied to protect part of a tooth’s root that is exposed when teeth recede.

    The dentist then uses an ultraviolet light or laser to harden the material before further trimming and shaping it. Lastly, the dentist polishes the resin so it matches your tooth surface’s sheen. Dental bonding takes about 30-60 minutes per tooth to complete.

    When performed by a skilled dentist, dental bonding can be a long-term solution as long as you maintain regular professional cleanings and good oral hygiene habits. How long-term also depends upon if you smoke and the types of foods and drinks you consume.

    Pros: Easier, faster and less expensive than veneers. Little to no prep time is needed and usually the entire procedure can be done in one visit. As of 2010 the average cost of bonding was $200 to $700 per tooth. Cons: Coffee, tea, red wines, dark berries and smoking can stain the resin used in dental bonding, especially for several days immediately after the procedure. Not as resilient as veneers and bonding materials can chip, breaking off the tooth.

    Bonding is best suited for small cosmetic needs and for areas of low bite pressure (like front teeth).

    Veneers are also called porcelain veneers or porcelain laminates, or if they are made of resin composite materials they're referred to as resin veneers. Resin veneers are thinner than porcelain veneeers, so they require removing less of a tooth’s surface.

    Anesthesia is required with veneers because the dentist will begin the procedure by reshaping your teeth by removing about ½ millimeter of enamel to allow for the thickness of the veneers. Next they will make a model or impression of your tooth that will be sent to a dental lab where the veneers are crafted for an exact fit. The average wait time for a lab to return finished veneers is one to two weeks.

    Before the dentist permanently cements the veneer to your tooth, they will place it on the treated tooth and examine the fit and color. Chances are good that they will remove and trim the veneer a time or two to ensure the fit is snug and your bite is comfortable. The dentist can also adjust the veneer color with the shade of cement they use.

    To prepare your tooth for the veneer, the dentist will etch, clean and polish the tooth to ensure a strong bonding process. Once the veneer is properly positioned, the dentist will apply a special light beam to the veneer (I like to think of it as shining the light on tooth). The light beam activates chemicals in the cement that cause it to harden and effectively bonds the veneer and tooth to create the new you – a shining toothy example of oral awesomeness.

    With veneers it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference compared to natural teeth. A good veneer professionally applied can last for 10 years. Unlike tooth bonding, porcelain veneers are stain resistant and can make dark teeth look brighter.

    Pros: Results are longer lasting than bonding, veneers are less likely to fracture or break and they are stain resistant. Cons: Expense (As of 2010 average cost was $800 to $2,000 per tooth), the process takes longer than bonding, is irreversible and veneers can't be repaired if they chip or crack.

    Also some people experience increased tooth sensitivity since a coating of enamel is removed in the process.

    Consult with your dentist as to whether you are a good candidate for either bonding or veneers and if so, which option may be best for you. Thanks for reading Agent Straight-Talk and remember: Everyone smiles in the same language!

    Email me at:

    Find me on Twitter at Twitter@ToothTeller

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    Copyright 2012, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC©
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