Dental Bonding

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What is dental bonding?

dental patient choosing tooth color sample from dentist

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

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of certain complications by:

  • Following dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations. This generally includes not eating, drinking, or using substances that can stain teeth during the first two days after dental bonding. Common substances to avoid are coffee, tea, tobacco, blueberries, and grape juice. You should also not use your teeth for anything other than eating to avoid chips. This includes chewing on ice and objects, such as pens.

  • Informing your dentist if you are nursing or if there is any possibility of pregnancy

  • Notifying your dentist immediately of any concerns after the procedure, such as pain, fever, and difficulty chewing

  • Taking your medications exactly as directed

  • Telling all members of your care team if you have any allergies

How do I prepare for my dental bonding procedure? 

You are an important member of your own dental care team. The steps you take before your procedure can improve your comfort and outcome. There is no special preparation needed for dental bonding, but it is important to do the following before any procedure:

  • Answer all questions about your medical history and medications. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications and allergies at all times.

  • Take your medications exactly as directed.

  • Tell your dentist if there is any possibility of pregnancy.

Questions to ask your dentist

Having dental bonding can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a dentist’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. Contact your dentist with concerns and questions before dental bonding and between appointments. 

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your appointment. Questions can include:

  • How long will the procedure take? When will I go home?

  • What restrictions will I have after the procedure? When and what can I eat and drink after dental bonding?

  • How do I take my medications? Will I need to take new medications?

  • Will I have pain? If so, how will you treat it?

  • How do I take care of my bonded teeth?

  • When should I follow-up with you?

  • How should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.

What can I expect after my dental bonding?

Knowing what to expect after dental bonding can help you get back to your everyday life as soon as possible.

How will I feel after the dental bonding?

You should not have any pain after your dental bonding. Tell your dentist right away if you have pain or if the treated tooth feels sharp or if your bite is uncomfortable. Your dentist will adjust the bonding material to ensure it is comfortable.  

Your mouth, gums and tongue may feel numb for a few hours after your dental bonding if you receive local anesthetic. This is because the local anesthetic will take time to wear off. You may have difficulty talking, chewing and drinking until the anesthetic wears off. You may also experience prickliness in the area as feeling returns.

When can I go home?

You will probably go home and resume your normal activities immediately after dental bonding. If you receive anesthetic, your dentist may instruct you not to eat or drink until your anesthetic has worn off and you can feel your mouth and tongue again. This will help prevent you from accidentally biting and injuring your mouth or tongue. 

When should I call my dentist?

You should keep your follow-up appointments after dental bonding procedure. Call your dentist if you have any concerns between appointments. Call your dentist if you have: 

  • Bleeding
  • Fever
  • Pain in your gums or teeth
  • Problems biting or chewing
  • Sharp edges on the bonded tooth

Seek immediate medical care if you have itching, hives, mouth or tongue swelling, or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, or wheezing. This may be due to a rare reaction to anesthetic if one was used.

How might a dental bonding procedure affect my everyday life?

Dental bonding will enhance the appearance of your tooth and your smile. Bonded teeth experience wear and tear and may need replacement or repair within three to within ten years. 

You will also need to continue regular oral hygiene practices, including brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. Visit your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups every year or as recommended to ensure that your dental bond is intact and working well.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 24
  1. Are There Other Alternatives for Improving My Smile? Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center.
  2. Bonding. Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center.
  3. Cosmetic Dentistry. The American Society for Dental Aesthetics.
  4. Dental Bonding. Cleveland Clinic.
  5. Here comes the bride… American Dental Association.
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