Several years ago I went to a Halloween party where the host was dressed up as Austin Powers. My wife thought his costume was super cool and commented, "Oh my gosh, he even found the teeth to go with the outfit!" Errr, no, those were his actual teeth.
We're not really sure whether he built his costume up around his teeth or perhaps didn't realize that they matched so well, but regardless, it can be pretty unfortunate when someone confuses your smile with a Halloween outfit - even if it's just the groovy international man of mystery.
Dental Bonding; The 'Gateway' Cosmetic Procedure
'Direct composite bonding' is the B-list celebrity of cosmetic dentistry, nowhere near as renowned as veneers, crowns or bridge work, but it is a great option to address the appearance of minor concerns.
What Dental Bonding Can Do:
Dental bonding can fix minor imperfections that affect how you feel about your smile. It is often used to:
- Repair decayed teeth (and a great alternative to amalgam fillings)
- Fix chipped or cracked teeth (usually in areas of low bite pressure, like the front)
- Improve the color due to surface staining
- Decrease 'gappy' teeth
- Lengthen teeth that may have shortened (due to grinding or clenching)
- Change the shape of teeth (an option for patients who complain of 'Chic-let' teeth)
- Cover a portion of the root that may be exposed due to receding gums
So, What Is Dental Bonding Exactly?
No, I am not going to give you a hug and ask you to talk about your feelings. In dentistry, we like to think of dental bonding as the best technique to accomplish a minimally invasive smile make-over.
The procedure gets its name because the materials are literally bonded to the tooth using adhesives and a high powered curing light. Probably one of the most appealing things to patients is that there is very little preparation, and because it's generally treating the surface of a tooth, there's often no need for a needle (seriously, who's going to say 'no' to that?).
The first task is to identify a composite resin color that matches the existing shade of your teeth, so if you have aspirations for a whiter smile, I would recommend some form of bleaching (either in-office or a prescription strength take-home option) ahead of having the bonding procedure done.
The next step is to apply a gentle phosphoric acid to the surface of the tooth, which makes it more velcro-like and "grippy," giving something for the bonding material to attach to. The tooth colored resin material (a durable plastic analogous to putty) is placed and I use a couple of different instruments to shape and sculpt it to; fill in gaps, chips, chic-lets and staining. This all gets "baked" with the curing light, and I finish up with a little buff and polish using my hand piece.
The whole process really is no different than when I'm trying to fill in the nail holes that my wife has made in the wall because she keeps changing her mind where she wants to hang a picture. Okay, it's slightly different, but you get my drift.
The Pros of Dental Bonding
Dental bonding is a fairly quick, conservative, economical and versatile way to address cosmetic concerns. It typically only requires only one office visit that runs between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on how many teeth are being addressed.
Unlike veneers, there is often no need to remove any tooth structure prior to placing the restoration. Since everything is done in the chair, there are no lab fees to incur - which also helps to keep cost down.
And, of course, unless the bonding is being used functionally to fill a cavity, versus change an imperfection, there is often no need for anesthesia, so you can skip that whole numb-face-for-the-remainder-of-the-afternoon-feeling.
Wait, Don't Do It!
The Cons of Dental Bonding
The tricky thing with bonding is that it's never going to be as strong as your actual teeth, so if you are a bit of a stress case like my wife (she grinds her teeth, chews her nails and can destroy the top of a pen in about 2 minutes), then there's a good chance that the material is going to chip off after a few years.
The other issue (to throw my wife under the bus again) is that if you like to drink tea, coffee or red wine, the resin material can stain over time, which makes those treated areas stand out from the rest of your teeth. If you smoke (not my wife), dental bonding is definitely not a good option, because the materials are actually very porous and will therefore yellow from exposure to cigarettes. An alternative cosmetic procedure (like a crown or veneer) is better indicated.
OK, I Did It! Now What?
Preserving Your New Smile
So while bonding materials might not be 'natural' tooth, these kinds of restorations do still require specific care and attention in order to preserve them. This means you keep coming in for your routine cleaning with Mindy, Karey or Angie, use good home care (brush AND floss daily), and kick the habit of nail biting, pen chewing, crunching on ice, using your teeth to open packaging or remove clothing tags, and invest in a bruxism splint to protect them at night if you are a grinder or clencher. Finally; quit smoking. It'll be better for your teeth, your heart, lungs, social life, financial budget and your yearly exam with me will involve a lot less nagging.
We're Here To Help
If you're concerned that your smile could pass you off as an extra on The Walking Dead, a center for the NHL, a professional boxer, or Austin Powers, give us a call at (207) 782-5308 or contact us to determine whether you might be a good candidate for dental bonding!
And if you need some Halloween costume teeth, of course they sell the groovy guy dentures you can wear to perfect your own Austin Powers transformation. Add the glasses, the wig, a swinger suit and a lacy shirt and you're all set.
Perhaps the host of that party just had a really, really good costume after all.