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Bonding vs. Veneers...What's better for your teeth?

Everything you need to know about these popular dental treatments

Our neighbours across the pond like to joke that us Brits have awfully bad looking teeth, while they in the States all sport a Hollywood smile. And while we know this isn’t entirely true, in the UK almost two in five adults don’t see the dentist regularly and almost 31 per cent of adults have tooth decay. But despite these figures there’s a clear trend for cosmetic dentistry emerging, that has seen the British cosmetic-dentistry industry grow to a whopping 2.2 billion in value.

Plus, according to the British Beauty Council, one in 10 of us has had a treatment such as veneers, bonding or teeth-whitening since January 2020, with bookings set to rise. ‘These figures make total sense as people are more aware of their teeth and their smiles than ever before – especially in dynamic movement – due to the pandemic and all the time spent on video communication platforms like Zoom,” shares cosmetic dentist Dr Rhona Eskander.

“Not only that but we are spending more time on social media too, and as we become more aware of our smiles, we also notice how they may differ in appearance from the influencers and celebrities we follow, with many of them having had Invisalign (a clear aligner system), whitening, bonding or veneers,” adds Eskander.

You may have thought straightening the teeth and then whitening them is all that’s needed to achieve your best smile, and while for some this may well be true, for most of us a little more smoke and mirrors are needed.

Cue bonding and ceramic veneers, two cosmetic dentistry treatments that can be implemented to create the smile you always wanted. But what are they, how do they differ from one another, and which option is best for you?

What is bonding?

Dental bonding is essentially the application of a thin coating of tooth-coloured composite resin to the surface of the teeth. While it has become more of a dental buzz word of late, it’s actually been used for many years on the back unseen teeth. However, “over the last five to ten years the consistency, colour range and longevity have greatly improved and as such we have begun to use this procedure on the front teeth too,” shares Eskander.

It can hide anything from stains, cracks, chips, worn, gapped or misaligned teeth and when done well it’s incredibly difficult to distinguish bonding from your untouched teeth. Because of this it’s gone from being used in small areas to fix chips and cracks to full coverage bonding, also known as ‘composite veneers’, that cover the whole tooth.

What are the pros?

Unlike other dental treatments, it’s a quick straight forward procedure that can often be placed in one sitting, and “if a piece of bonding chips it is easily repairable,” explains Eskander.

What are the cons?

Bonding is only as good as the person who applies it, as “it is very technique sensitive and if not placed well can look unnatural. In fact, if it’s not performed correctly, it can also attract plaque which can cause gum disease. Plus, it’s high maintenance. You need to make sure that you follow the optimal diet to keep the bonding looking its best. Which means not drinking too much black coffee or red wine. Smoking is also a no-no, and you also need to make sure that you’re going to the dentist and hygienist regularly so that they can clean the teeth and maintain the bonding which is prone to chipping and staining,” explains Eskander.

What’s more, when it comes to composite veneers aka bonding that covers a whole tooth, you’ll find that it’s pretty much irreversible as removal often requires drilling of the teeth.

Can you whiten bonding?

“You can’t whiten bonding, so, you need to whiten your teeth first, then the dentist will match the resin to the colour of your teeth,” shares Eskander. This means you’ll have to maintain your post whitening treatment shade in order for your edge bonding – used for chips and worn teeth – to match the rest of your tooth. Because of this people often opt for full coverage bonding (composite veneers) instead of edge bonding.

How long can bonding last?

Bonding can last anywhere between two to five years depending on the resin used, how well the material is placed, and how well the teeth are looked after.

Who would benefit most from bonding?

“I personally love doing edge bonding after orthodontic treatments,” shares Eskander who after straightening patients’ teeth with Invisalign will then place bonding on the bottom of the teeth to make the edges of the teeth look neater. “This is minimally invasive, long-lasting, and least destructive to the teeth,” adds Eskander. Aside from that, experts agree that bonding and composite veneers are well suited to younger patients.

How much does it cost?

Prices can range from £150 – £600 per tooth.

What are veneers?

What we know as traditional veneers – rather than full coverage bonding – are thin porcelain ‘covers’ that are bespoke to the wearer and mask the entire tooth. They alter the colour, shape, and even length and size of the teeth and thanks to the major improvement in the quality of materials over the years, ceramic veneers are able to look incredibly natural while also mimicking the strength of natural tooth enamel too.

“Unlike with bonding the external surface of the tooth has to be reduced in order to create space for the veneers to avoid making them look bulky,” explains Dentist at SW1 Dental Studio Dr Christian Pintado. How much teeth have to be shaved down depends on how misalignment they are to begin with, so “if the teeth are straighter – and not too stained – the more conservative tooth preparation can be,” adds Pintado.

Made in a lab, the process usually takes a minimum of two sessions. During the prep stages where teeth are filled down local anaesthesia is used, and patients are sent home with temporary veneers to be worn until the lab create permanent ones. “When the permanent veneers are ready, they are placed using a resin cement that ensures a super strong bonding,” explains Pintado.

What are the pros?

“Ceramic veneers are not only incredibly durable, with the ability to offer unparalleled shine, polish and texture, they also don’t stain at all, allowing teeth to remain white for the duration of their lifespan, provided they remain correctly adhered to the teeth” shares Pintado.

What are the cons?

Ceramic veneers are an expensive choice and if a veneer chips the whole thing has to be replaced as the teeth within are filled down and can no longer be ‘worn’ in their natural state. They like with composite veneers are also only as good as the lab who makes them and the dentist who fits them, making it imperative that you see a highly skilled dentist to ensure that your veneers not only look good but are fitted correctly too.

How long can veneers last?

Ceramic veneers last on average around 15 years but can last even longer with the right care and maintenance. Namely, ensuring that they remain fitted correctly, and practising good oral hygiene.

Who would benefit most from veneers?

Adults with stained or misshaped teeth or those who wants a more permanent solution who have already had orthodontics.

How much does it cost? 

Price for veneers?Prices can range from £900 – £1200 per tooth.

Bonding seems to be the more versatile procedure, as it's able to correct chips and rough edges, or fully make-over a tooth if desired. However, when to comes to a more permanent option where you truly get the most bang for your buck ceramic veneers last far longer and look better for longer too.

But for an expert take on what’s best for you, book a consultation with one of our dental professionals by visiting our practitioner finder.

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