Bonding is the application of a tooth-colored resin (plastic) to repair teeth. During the procedure, the dentist etches the tooth surface to roughen it, lightly coats it with a conditioning liquid, and then applies a tooth-colored resin. The resin is molded into shape, then it is hardened and “bonded” with the tooth using a special ultraviolet light. The entire process takes 30 to 60 minutes per tooth.
Bonding is among the simplest dental procedures. It can be completed in a single visit and usually does not require any anesthesia. Dental bonding can be used to repair chipped or cracked teeth, close gaps between teeth, change tooth shape, or make teeth appear whiter. They are stain resistant, but not as resistant as other options such as veneers and crowns (replacement teeth). Bonding materials are also not quite as strong as crowns; they can chip under strong pressure, such as opening cans with the teeth. However, bonding is much less expensive than veneers and crowns, and it is a great option for small cosmetic changes and for areas under low bite pressure, such as front teeth. Bonding material lasts three to ten years before needing a touch up, and bonded teeth can be treated with normal oral hygiene – brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits.
Cosmetic Teeth Whitening
Teeth whitening is an affordable solution for achieving a beautiful, white smile. Whitening can be achieved using various products; some are applied by dentists and others are available over the counter. Whitening works by applying bleach solutions to the teeth. The bleach, usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, attack the colored organic molecules that give teeth a colored, stained appearance. The bleaching products render the organic molecules colorless, restoring a whiter smile. They work best on yellow and some brown stains, and may not work at all on grayish stains that can be caused by some medications.
Professional teeth whitening products are typically stronger than over-the-counter, home options. In-office whitening systems have the highest concentration bleach gels. The gel is applied to teeth by a dentist and left for an hour. A light may be used to speed the whitening process. Other professional whitening systems consist of whitening gels and custom trays provided by the dentist, to be used at home. The main risks of teeth whitening include tooth sensitivity, which usually only lasts a few days. Gum irritation can also occur, so gels should not be left on the gums. However, whiteners are generally safe, and their results can last six months to two years. Maintain a white smile by avoiding tobacco and staining beverages such as tea and coffee, as well as receiving touch-up whitening treatments.
Home whitening systems are over-the-counter, affordable options for attaining a healthy, white smile. They contain lower concentrations of bleach than professional products, but they are effective when used over time. Check with your dentist before using a whitening system to be sure that your teeth discoloration is not due to tooth decay or disease. Several at-home whitening options are available:
- Whitening strips are applied to teeth for specified lengths of time. They can lighten teeth up to five shades.
- Brush-on whitening gels are brushed directly onto the teeth and left for a time, sometimes overnight.
- At-home whitening trays are similar to those provided by dentists, except they are not custom-fitted and the bleaching solution is less concentrated. However, they similarly effective to other home whitening products.
- Whitening toothpastes and gums don’t contain bleaching agents. However, they help keep teeth white by removing surface stains.
You should begin seeing results in about a week. Consider taking before and after photos to compare results. If you don’t see results, consult a dentist. They may discover underlying issues or recommend a stronger, professional whitening treatment. Also note that whitening products do not work on dental work such as fillings and crowns. To maintain a healthy smile, practice good oral hygiene including brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits.
Single Visit Whitening
Professional teeth whitening can be achieved in just one dental visit. Whitening systems such as Zoom and Britesmile allow you to achieve teeth up to nine shades lighter in just one hour. The process begins with an initial consultation. A dentist will examine your mouth and teeth to ensure you are a good candidate for teeth whitening. They will also note the presence of fillings, veneers, and crowns, which do not respond to the whitening solution. You may also receive a routine cleaning, in preparation of the whitening procedure. During the whitening visit, the lips and gums are covered or protected, a bleaching gel is applied to the teeth, and a special light accelerates the bleaching process. Gels are applied to the teeth in three to four 15-20 minute intervals. You will leave the office with a whiter, rejuvenated smile.
Many people seek whitening simply for the cosmetic benefits and confidence boost. A dentist may also recommend whitening after the removal of braces or before receiving another cosmetic procedure, such as bonding or veneers.
Tooth Colored Fillings
Also called white fillings, tooth colored fillings are dental fillings with the look and feel of natural teeth. They can be used to fill cavities, fixed damaged or chipped front teeth, or to replace older metal fillings. Most are made of a composite resin material, which is soft and malleable. It is applied in layers, and then set and hardened within seconds using a curing light. Adjustments are made if necessary, then the filling is smoothed and polished.
White fillings have many advantages over previously-used metallic fillings. White fillings closely match natural tooth color and appearance. They bond chemically to the tooth, which means they don’t require grooves or pins to stay in place. They minimize tooth sensitivity, and they can be repaired if damaged. And unlike metals, they can be used on front teeth without compromising appearance. However, there are a few drawbacks. They stain with frequent exposure to dark liquids such as red wine and coffee. Some dental insurances also charge a bit more for tooth colored fillings. But when cost and appearance are considered together, tooth colored fillings are usually a preferable option over silver fillings. Ultimately, your dentist will make a filling recommendation based on the specific conditions of your teeth.
Veneers are thin layers of porcelain or resin that cover the front surface of teeth to improve appearance. They are applied to fix teeth that are discolored, chipped, irregularly shaped, or have gaps between them. When the veneer is applied, the dentist will remove less than a millimeter of your original tooth enamel. A model or impression of the tooth is made, and the dentist sends this off to a lab for veneers to be custom-made. Once the veneers are returned in one-two weeks, they are permanently bonded to the teeth with an adhesive substance. A third and final follow-up visit will check to ensure that the veneers are placed well and that the gums are responding well to them.
Veneers offer many advantages. They provide an appearance of natural teeth, and gums generally tolerate the porcelain material well. They can also be brushed and flossed like normal teeth. They are stain-resistant, and are a good option for people whose teeth don’t respond well to whitening treatments. They greatly improve aesthetic appearance when fixing broken and chipped teeth. And unlike crowns which require teeth to be ground down, applying veneers causes minimal damage to the original tooth.
Invisalign is a clear alternative to metal braces. It can be used for children, teens, or adults. Invisalign consists of custom-made, near-invisible plastic aligner trays that are worn over teeth. Seeking Invisalign treatment is a simple process. It begins by speaking with an Invisalign-trained dentist or orthodontist, who will determine if you’re a good candidate for Invisalign. Afterward, the provider will use x-rays, pictures, and impressions to make a model of your teeth and outline a precise treatment plan. They will explain the approximate length of treatment and the exact planned movements of the teeth. You will then receive a custom pair of clear aligners to wear all day. Teeth will gradually shift into place, as a new set of aligners is made every two weeks until treatment is complete. Invisalign offers more comfort and convenience than braces. The plastic is less likely to irritate cheeks and gums than metal braces, and the aligners can be removed for easy eating and brushing teeth. They provide a confidence boost since they are invisible, and they require fewer office visits than metal braces – only once every four to six weeks.