5 FAQ's About Dental Bonding

Dental bonding, also called adhesive dentistry, was invented by Dr. Michael Buonocore in 1967. Dr. Buonocore discovered that a weak acid could prepare teeth for bonding with plastic, thus leading to dental bonding with tooth-colored resins. Here are five common questions about dental bonding and cosmetic dentistry:

What is the difference between bonding and filling?

The short answer is, not much. Bonding is considered a cosmetic dentistry technique while filling is usually a repair technique. However, this distinction has been blurred now that plastic resins are used for fillings in decayed teeth.

Another distinction might be drawn between the materials usually used for each procedure. “Fillings” usually refer to amalgam fillings which are made from silver, tin, copper, zinc, and mercury. When this material is prepared and placed into a prepared tooth, it creates the familiar metallic filling that we’re used to. However, concerns about mercury in these fillings has led many patients and dentists to prefer plastic resin fillings to amalgam fillings thereby erasing this distinction.

What is bonding used for?

Tooth bonding or dental bonding can be applied on any tooth needs to be built up. As such, there are two processes that use dental bonding.

In the direct restoration method, the resin is directly applied to a prepared tooth, allowed to dry, then formed into the shape of a tooth for a natural fit. In the indirect restoration method, the resin is used as a dental cement to bond a porcelain piece, such as a dental veneer to the tooth.

Is bonding just for cosmetic dentistry?

No one should discount the value of cosmetic dentistry — after all, over 70% of Americans believe that an unattractive smile can impede them professionally. Nevertheless, dental bonding may be used for a variety of purposes, both cosmetic and for repairs, including:

  • Filling decayed teeth
  • Repairing chipped or cracked teeth
  • Protecting exposed teeth roots
  • Building up teeth to narrow or close teeth gaps
  • To reshape misshapen teeth
  • Lengthening short teeth

As you can see from this list, there are several uses of bonding that repair or protect teeth rather than merely improving the appearance in a cosmetic procedure.

How is it done?

Dental bonding takes three steps:

  1. Preparation of the tooth. Preparation includes cleaning out any decay and making space for the resin. When performed for cosmetic purposes, this preparation typically does not require anesthesia. When performed for functional purposes, local anesthetic may be used. Once any tooth material removal has been completed, the tooth may be etched using a weak acid solution. This is still the best process for bonding, although some resins are self-etching, which combines etching with the next step.
  2. Applying and curing the resin. The resin used for dental bonding is a mixture of liquid plastic resin (such as bisphenol A-glycidyl methacrylate), silica filler, and a photoinitiator. The result is a putty-like material that is roughly shaped to the prepared tooth. The material is then exposed to a bright blue light which triggers the photoinitiator to catalyze the resin into a hard plastic.
  3. Shaping the resin. After being cured, the resin is trimmed using dental tools to match the shape of the existing tooth.

What other options are available?

Dental practices offer many cosmetic dentistry services along with dental bonding. However, the perfect option for you depends on the nature of your condition. Of course, you should work with your dentist to choose the right option for you. For example, here are just a few procedures your cosmetic dentist can perform:

  • Amalgam fillings. As discussed above, dental caries can be filled using a metallic amalgam material rather than a resin.
  • Dental veneers. A dental veneer is a thin porcelain wafer that is attached to the surface of a tooth to change its size or shape. They can also be used to close gaps between teeth.
  • Dental crown. Dental crowns fit over the top of a tooth. Dental crowns are usually used for teeth that have a large area to restore. It should be noted that dental crowns are sometimes bonded to the tooth using the same resin used in tooth bonding.

Tooth bonding is just one tool among many available for cosmetic dentistry to repair or improve the appearance of teeth. When you’re ready to invest in a healthier smile, rely on the professionals at Lynnwood Dental today.

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