What is dental bonding?

Dental bonding is a cosmetic procedure that improves the look of chipped, cracked, discolored and misshapen teeth. Dental bonding is also used for many other purposes in dentistry. This article focuses on dental bonding for cosmetics. It involves applying a composite resin material that makes your teeth look like intact teeth that are white or another desired shade. 

Dental bonds are like shallow dental fillings. They are not as durable as dental veneers or crowns, which are also used to repair or improve the look of damaged teeth. Dental bonds are typically used on the front teeth for cosmetic procedures. Otherwise, dental bonding does frequently take place on the back teeth as well. 

Dental bonding is generally very safe, but it does have risks and potential complications. It is only one method used to repair teeth or enhance their appearance. Discuss all of your treatment options with your dentist to understand which options are right for you.  

Why is dental bonding performed? 

Your dentist may recommend dental bonding to improve the appearance of teeth with the following conditions:

  • Exposed tooth root caused by receding gums
  • Discolored teeth that appear yellow, brown or gray
  • Minor cracks or chips that do not require more extensive procedures to repair, such as a root canal and dental crown
  • Misshapen teeth including teeth with gaps between them and teeth that are too short
  • Tooth decay (cavities, dental caries) that occurs when bacteria in your mouth produce an acid that damages the teeth

Who performs dental bonding?

A general dentist or pediatric dentist performs dental bonding. General dentists prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and conditions of the teeth, gums, mouth, and associated structures of the jaw and face. Pediatric dentists specialize in caring for the dental needs of children and teens.

How is dental bonding performed?Your dental bonding will be performed in a dental office or clinic. Dental bonding takes 30 minutes to an hour for one to two teeth and generally includes these steps:

  1. You will sit in a reclining position in the dentist chair. You may wear a clear shield over your eyes. The shield protects your eyes from spraying liquids and dental instruments.
  2. Dental bonding does not involve anesthetic unless it is used to fill a cavity.
  3. In this case, your dentist will inject a local anesthetic into the gums near your tooth. The anesthetic numbs the pain when your dentist drills out the decayed material. Your dentist may also apply a painless topical anesthetic to numb the gums partially before the injection.
  4. Your dentist will brush the surface of your tooth with a liquid or gel etching solution. This liquid helps the bonding material stick to the tooth.
  5. Your dentist will apply the bonding material to your tooth in several layers. 
  6. Your dentist will hold a small blue light over your tooth to harden and set the bonding material.
  7. Your dentist will shape, polish and smooth the bonded tooth. This prevents the bonding material from scraping your mouth or tongue and ensures a natural bite.

Will I feel pain?

Your comfort and relaxation are important to you and your dental care team. You may have brief sharp pinches if your dentist injects your gums with local anesthetic. Ask your dentist if your gums can be partially numbed with a painless topical anesthetic before the injections. 

You may also feel pressure as your dentist prepares your tooth to receive the bonding material. Take a few long, deep breaths to help yourself relax. Tell your dentist if any discomfort does not pass quickly.

What are the risks and potential complications of dental bonding?  

Complications of dental bonding are uncommon but any dental procedure involves risks and the possibility of complications. Complications may become serious in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or your recovery. 

Risks and potential complications of dental bonding include:

  • Anesthetic complications, such as allergic reaction and nerve or blood vessel injury
  • Loosening or loss of bonding material
  • Tooth damage due to mechanical forces
  • Tooth infection
  • Tooth staining
  • Mouth injury