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If you have a chipped, cracked, or discolored tooth, a cosmetic dental procedure like tooth bonding can give you the confidence to flash those pearly whites.

Tooth bonding is a procedure where your dentist applies a tooth-colored composite resin to one or more of your teeth to repair damage. It’s a cost-effective solution because it’s considerably less expensive than other cosmetic dental procedures, such as crowns and veneers.

Here’s what you need to know about this process, as well as the risks and costs associated with tooth bonding.

Tooth bonding is simpler than other cosmetic dental procedures. So simple that this procedure doesn’t typically require anesthesia — unless you’re filling a cavity — and it doesn’t require multiple visits to the dentist.

To start the process, your dentist uses a shade guide to choose a composite resin color that closely matches the color of your natural teeth. Your dentist roughens the surface of the tooth, and then applies a liquid that allows the bonding agent to stick to the tooth.

Your dentist applies the composite resin over the liquid, molds or shapes the tooth, and then hardens the material with an ultraviolet light.

If necessary, your dentist can further shape the tooth after the resin hardens.

Tooth bonding can fix a defect or imperfection within a tooth. Some people use bonding to repair a decayed, cracked, or discolored tooth. This procedure can also close small gaps in between teeth.

Tooth bonding can also increase the size of a tooth. For example, maybe you have a tooth that’s shorter than the rest, and you want them all to be the same length.

Bonding is a fast procedure and doesn’t require any down time. If you don’t need anesthesia, you can continue with your normal daily routine after the procedure.

Typically, tooth bonding takes between 30 to 60 minutes. Some appointments may run longer depending on the extent of the procedure.

Dental bonding doesn’t have any major risks.

Keep in mind that the composite resin used with this procedure isn’t as strong as your natural teeth.

It’s possible for the material to chip or separate from your real tooth. Chipping or breaking, however, doesn’t occur as often with a crown, veneer, or filling.

A bonded tooth might chip if you eat ice, chew on pens or pencils, bite your fingernails, or bite down on hard food or candy.

The resin also isn’t as stain-resistant as other dental materials. You may develop some discoloration if you smoke or drink a lot of coffee.

The cost of tooth bonding varies based on location, the extent of the procedure, and dentist expertise.

On average, you can expect to pay around $300 to $600 per tooth. You’ll need to replace the bonding about every 5 to 10 years.

Check with your dental insurance provider before scheduling an appointment. Some insurers consider dental bonding a cosmetic procedure and won’t cover the cost.

Tooth bonding doesn’t require special preparation. But you’ll need to consult your dentist to see if you’re a candidate for this procedure.

Bonding might not work if you have severe tooth damage or decay. You may need a veneer or crown instead.

Taking care of your teeth helps extend the life of a bonded tooth. Self-care tips include:

  • brushing at least twice a day and flossing daily
  • avoiding hard food and candy
  • not biting your nails
  • avoiding coffee, tea, and tobacco for the first two days after the procedure to avoid stains
  • scheduling regular dental cleanings every six months

See a dentist if you accidentally chip or break the bonding material, or if you feel any sharp or rough edges after the procedure.

A healthy smile is a confidence booster. If you have discoloration, a chipped tooth, or a gap and you’re looking for an inexpensive repair, see your dentist for a consultation.

Your dentist can determine whether this procedure is right for you, and if not, recommend other options to improve the appearance of your teeth.