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Beauty

Teeth composite bonding: everything you need to know about the non-invasive cosmetic smile treatment

Thanks to Instagram, the pursuit of a perfectly aligned grin is rising and there’s one treatment increasing in popularity thanks to the fact it’s quick and safe for your natural teeth. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering composite bonding. 

The way we look at, and after, our teeth is changing. Thanks to social media and selfie culture (and now Zoom), our pearly white-ishs have come under increased scrutiny and more and more of us are investing in cosmetic dentistry as part of our beauty routines.

Whether that’s with Invisalign, home whitening kits or Insta-touted toothpastes, we’re spending more than ever on achieving a smile we’re happy with. But while cosmetic dentistry is nothing new, the way treatments are being used is new.

Composite bonding is technically not a new treatment - it’s the same resin used in white fillings and has been in dentistry for the past 50 years. But the way it’s being used on the surface of your tooth to reshape and lighten has seen a massive uptick - it’s sometimes called shellac for teeth, to give you an idea of the end result.

Having recently had it done herself, fitness blogger Emily Furey says “when it came to my smile, I wanted to make some changes but safely, and composite bonding lets you do that damage-free and in one session.”

The treatment is often used as an alternative to veneers, which are much more invasive and permanently change your natural teeth (we’ve all seen celebs revealing their shaved natural teeth underneath the caps) .

Composite bonding is much kinder to your teeth, quicker to apply and ultimately cheaper. We spoke to award-winning dentist and composite bonding expert Dr Tom Crawford-Clarke to find out everything you need to know about it.

What is composite bonding best used for?

Woman's smile and teeth after composite bonding treatment
Woman's smile and teeth before composite bonding treatment

“Composite bonding is where the composite material is artistically layered over the surface of your teeth. It can be placed just on the edges (composite edge bonding) if there is only a small amount of improvement needed to the shape, size and symmetry. It can also be used over the whole front surface (composite veneer) which is when you want to achieve a more dramatic change in appearance, be it the colour, covering over stains, closing gaps and can also be used in some cases, to give the illusion your teeth have been straightened. 

It can also be used in cases where patients grind their teeth and have worn them down, we can use composite to replace the lost tooth surface that was previously there.”

Is composite bonding better than veneers? 

“I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. For me the most important thing is choosing the most appropriate option for each case. The major advantage over porcelain veneers is that the composite bonding can be placed directly onto the tooth without having to drill any of the tooth surface away. Which is usually not possible with porcelain veneers. This is why I like composite bonding so much as I focus on being as minimally invasive as possible.”

Is it better than invisalign?

“Composite bonding can be added to the tooth surface to give the illusion your teeth have been straightened, by carefully adding more or less onto the surface to end up with a more even result. It is very good at closing gaps which again can give the illusion your teeth have been straightened. However, if your teeth are more than just mildly crowded, I would recommend having Invisalign treatment first so that your teeth can be placed into the best position for long term health, and then the composite bonding can be used to finesse the end result to get that perfect smile. At my clinic, I do mock-ups of what your teeth will look like with treatments so you can see the end result and choose what’s best for you.”

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Woman's smile and teeth after composite bonding treatment
Woman's smile and teeth before composite bonding treatment

Is the treatment painful? 

“Because the tooth surface is not being drilled, the composite bonding process is not painful at all. The teeth are cleaned with a special solution that is then washed off and the composite is layered onto the surface and set with a special light. There is usually no need for injections at all.”

How long does the application process take? 

“Every case is different but the application process usually takes between half an hour to an hour per tooth in my hands, so I always tell my patients to bring a podcast!” 

How long does composite bonding last?

“Composite bonding on average lasts between 5-7 years. However, it has the potential to last much longer than this with good oral care.”

Do you need to take special care after you have it done?

“The longevity of the composite bonding does depend on how you look after it. However, you would look after them much like you would care for your own teeth. Regular visits to the hygienist or dentist, can remove any surface stains that have developed and can also highlight if any of the composite needs to be added to. I would always say just don’t use your teeth for anything they shouldn’t be used for - anything that would chip your natural teeth would chip composite.

The great thing about composite bonding is that if one or more chip, it can be easily repaired. If you have composite bonding that is repeatedly chipping, there will most likely be an underlying cause. It would then be important to check your bite as the composite bonding may not have been placed correctly in the first place, or not bonded well enough to your tooth.”

Woman's smile and teeth after composite bonding treatment
Woman's smile and teeth before composite bonding treatment

Can you still whiten your teeth?

“I get asked this a lot, and the answer is yes. The colour of the tooth behind does impact the colour of the composite bonding, so whitening is a good way of maintaining the appearance. It is also useful as your adjacent natural teeth will be visible so you might want to continue whitening these to maintain their colour. I always recommend the home whitening method, using special tailor made tooth whitening trays and gels, for the best, safest and longest lasting results.”

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What if you have sensitive teeth?

“Sometimes sensitivity is caused by thin or missing enamel. So it is actually possible that composite bonding can help treat sensitivity. If teeth are really sensitive, then the composite bonding can be placed onto your teeth after they have been numbed.”

Woman's smile and teeth after composite bonding treatment
Woman's smile and teeth before composite bonding treatment

Can you take composite bonding off?

“Another great advantage of composite bonding is that yes, it can be removed from the tooth surface. As I do a lot of Invisalign, I always refer to the composite attachments that are needed during this treatment. These are actually small pieces of composite that click onto the aligners and move teeth with more precision, they are simply removed after the treatment has finished. It is really important that the dentist uses high magnification to only remove the composite though, as if done without care, the tooth can be iatrogenically damaged.”

How much does the treatment typically cost?

“It depends on your dentist but we charge £375 per tooth for a full composite veneer, which includes a digital smile design so you can preview your new improved smile and agree shapes, sizes and specific shade before deciding to go ahead.”

Images: Unsplash / Dr Tom Crawford-Clarke.

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