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What’s the difference between tooth bonding, veneers, and crowns?

You’ve probably heard of or considered bonding, veneers, or crowns, but may not know exactly what they are. Here’s a look at these three dentistry procedures, how they’re done and how much they cost.

While each of these dental procedures have a good success rate, only you and your dentist can decide which will work best for your situation, so be sure to work together to choose a plan.

The good news is that you can still begin SmileDirectClub clear aligner treatment after these additions to your mouth, as long as the cosmetic dental restoration was performed professionally within the standard of care, and your teeth are healthy.

What is tooth bonding?

Tooth bonding can close small gaps between teeth or increase the size of a tooth if it’s shorter than the rest. Dental bonding can also repair other minor aesthetic imperfections such as discoloration or cracks. For this procedure, a dentist will choose a composite resin color that matches your teeth. Then, the surface of the damaged tooth is roughened. A liquid allowing the bonding agent to stick to your tooth is applied and finally, the dentist will apply the resin, molding it over the tooth before hardening it with bright light and then polishing it. This method does not require anesthesia and typically takes between 30 to 60 minutes.

While the composite resin is strong – it’s the same material used to fill cavities – it’s not as strong as your natural tooth enamel, so it can chip or break if you crunch ice or chew on objects like pens or hard candy. Depending on where you live, tooth bonding costs between $300 to $600 per tooth and is sometimes covered by insurance. You might need to re-do the procedure after five or 10 years.

Example of color matching for dental bonding

What are veneers?

A dental veneer covers the front surface of your tooth with a very thin layer of porcelain – usually about one millimeter thick. Porcelain veneers can repair most imperfections like badly discolored, chipped, misaligned or weakened teeth. Veneers can also be crafted from composite material, but porcelain lasts longer.

To prepare for this procedure, a dentist will first make an impression of your tooth with a mold or a digital scanner to create the veneer. Then, the dentist will grind down about half a millimeter of the enamel on your tooth so it will bond with the veneer – because this could be uncomfortable, some people opt for a local anesthetic. Finally, the veneer will be affixed to the tooth and hardened with ultraviolet light. Porcelain veneers range between $900 and $2,500 per tooth, depending on how complex the repair is and where you live, and can last 10 or 15 years of you take care of your teeth.

Dental UV light

What are crowns?

There are several types of crowns: porcelain, porcelain fused to a metal alloy, ceramic or an all-metal alloy. They are about 2 millimeters thick and cover your entire tooth. To place the crown properly over your tooth, your existing tooth usually must be filed down considerably. If you’re thinking of getting a crown because your tooth is badly damaged or infected, you might need a root canal first.

After making an impression of your tooth, the mold or digital scan is sent to a lab so the crown can be manufactured if your dentist’s office does not have an onsite facility. Once the crown is ready, the dentist will fit it correctly over your tooth and cement it into place. Sometimes, teeth with crowns can move, so your bite may change and your crown might need to be adjusted. Once it’s in place, crowns look and feel like your natural teeth.

The cost to get a crown depends on which material it’s made of, how much your teeth need to be prepared and the size of your tooth, but fees range from $1,000 to $3,500 per tooth. All-metal crowns tend to be slightly less expensive than porcelain or ceramic crowns. Dental insurance might cover part of the cost. Crowns are expected to last about 10 to 15 years.

How do you know which one is right for you?

Work with your dentist to determine which option will work best for your teeth. Generally, if your tooth is very worn or damaged, a crown might be the better choice, and if you’re restoring a tooth for cosmetic reasons, a veneer or bonding is sufficient.

Cracked, discolored or damaged teeth do take a toll on your self-image, so cosmetic dental repairs can restore your teeth and protect your teeth, too. Best of all, you can further improve your smile with SmileDirectClub aligners once the procedure is complete.

Close-up view of a dental crown

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