Dental Veneers vs. Bonding: What’s the Difference?

Dental Veneers vs. Bonding: What’s the Difference?

by Kristina Mackie, DDS
Loretto Family Dentistry, PLLC

When it comes to cosmetic smile changes, I am often asked what the difference is between “veneers” and “bonding.” A veneer defined is “a thin decorative covering.” In dentistry, a “veneer” traditionally refers to porcelain restorations although veneers can be made out of resin composite which is a plastic filling material. “Bonding” is technically the layman’s term for resin composite filling material which is “bonded” to the tooth’s surface. This can include part of the tooth or the entire front surface which, if we go back to the beginning, utilizes a “veneering” or layering technique.

Applications for porcelain veneers include desired shape and color changes in the tooth. They can correct minor alignment concerns as well to make it appear as though orthodontic braces have been utilized. The pros: significant color alterations can be accomplished from the original tooth color, porcelain does not change color over time, and porcelain is stronger than composite resins and may last longer. The cons: expense and time. Porcelain veneers can be placed in one visit if the dentist utilizes CAD-CAM technology or has a lab tech on the premises however, most have to be completed in two appointments. When one looks at smiles enhanced on celebrities, porcelain restorations are typically what they are seeing.

I perform resin composite “bonding” of the front teeth as well for more minor alterations including the repair of small fractures or due to cavities. On occasion, I will composite bond for cosmetic reasons alone in a veneering technique. I try to reserve this for cases where the patient is young and has suffered a significant fracture yet is still growing and will need the restoration modified over time. The pros include less expense and less time; resin composites are placed in one appointment. The downside of these restorations includes discoloration over time, susceptibility to fracture, and they can be very technique sensitive meaning not every dentist has this technique as a skill set.

One thing to consider prior to any cosmetic smile changes includes tooth whitening. If you think you may want whiter teeth immediately or in the near future, this should be done first as once the veneer or composite bonding has been placed, it will not whiten as natural teeth will.

It is best to discuss the desired outcome you have in mind prior to choosing a restoration as time, expense, longevity of the restoration, and the skill of the dentist may greatly impact your decision.

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