Bonding can be cheaper than fillings in some situations. Factors like the extent of the damage, your insurance coverage, and location can all impact the costs. Composites (tooth-colored fillings) tend to be more expensive than amalgam (silver) fillings. However, bonding is often more affordable for minor repairs compared to any filling.
What is Dental Bonding?
Dental bonding is a procedure that uses a tooth-colored composite material applied directly to the tooth’s surface to repair chips, cracks, gaps, and discoloration. The material bonds to the natural tooth structure with the use of a special dental adhesive.
Your dentist applies the bonding material in layers, sculpting and shaping it to match the surrounding teeth. The material is then hardened using a special light. Finally, your dentist polishes the bonding material to blend seamlessly with the rest of your smile.
Benefits of Dental Bonding
- Affordable way to repair minor cosmetic flaws
- Can repair chips, cracks, gaps, discolored or stained teeth
- Material bonds directly to teeth for seamless, natural look
- Doesn’t require removal of healthy tooth structure
- Strengthens damaged teeth
- Quick procedure that can often be completed in one visit
- Doesn’t require anesthesia in most cases
What are Dental Fillings?
Dental fillings are materials used to restore teeth that have suffered decay or damage. When a cavity forms, the decayed section of the tooth is removed and filled with one of several types of filling material.
Some common filling options include:
- Composite (tooth-colored) fillings – Made from glass or quartz mixed with an acrylic resin. Bonds directly to the tooth.
- Amalgam (silver) fillings – A metal alloy mixture containing mercury, silver, tin, copper, and zinc. Historically the most commonly used filling material.
- Glass ionomer fillings – Made from glass particles mixed with acrylic acid and plastic polymers. Release fluoride to help prevent future decay.
- Gold foil fillings – Primarily gold with other metals like platinum, silver, and copper. Extremely durable but higher cost.
The Filling Procedure
Getting a basic filling involves:
- Numbing the area with local anesthesia.
- Using a drill to remove decayed material.
- Cleaning and shaping the now empty cavity.
- Applying the filling material in layers until full.
- Hardening each layer with a curing light or chemical catalyst.
- Shaping for an anatomically correct biting surface.
- Polishing for a smooth feel.
Cost Comparison of Bonding vs Fillings
In general, dental bonding tends to cost less than most tooth-colored composite fillings for minor repairs. Here are some typical costs in the United States:
|Dental bonding (per tooth)||$100 – $600|
|Composite (tooth-colored) filling (per tooth)||$130 – $250|
|Amalgam (silver) filling (per tooth)||$70 – $150|
However, fillings tend to be more cost effective than bonding for more extensive repairs, with amalgam fillings being the most budget-friendly option.
Factors Affecting Bonding and Filling Costs
Several factors can impact the costs of both bonding and fillings, including:
- Extent of damage – Small chips and cracks are cheaper to bond. Large multi-surface cavities are more expensive to fill.
- Type of material used – Gold or porcelain fillings cost more than amalgam or composite.
- Insurance coverage – Check if bonding or fillings are covered procedures and what percentage is paid.
- Location – Costs are typically higher in metropolitan areas compared to rural areas.
- Dentist fees – Prices can vary greatly between different dentists.
When to Choose Bonding Over Fillings
Here are some of the main scenarios where dental bonding may be the more appropriate and affordable option compared to a filling:
- Minor chips and cracks – Small imperfections can be quickly bonded without drilling.
- Stained or discolored teeth – Bonding material can cover stains with natural-looking results.
- Gaps between teeth – Bonding material can fill small gaps for less than veneers.
- Cosmetic imperfections – Bonding provides an affordable smile makeover option.
- Sensitive teeth – Requires minimal drilling compared to fillings.
When to Choose Fillings Over Bonding
Here are some situations where fillings may be the better option over dental bonding:
- Moderate to large cavities – Fillings are better for repairing more extensive decay and damage.
- Back teeth cavities – Durability of fillings makes them ideal for molars.
- Multiple repairs needed – Fillings will likely be more cost effective for multiple teeth.
- Long-term solution – Fillings generally last longer than bonding.
- Budget concerns – Silver amalgam fillings are the most affordable option.
Longevity of Dental Bonding vs Fillings
One of the biggest factors when weighing up between bonding and fillings is durability:
- Bonding – Lasts 5-10 years before repair or replacement needed. More prone to staining and chipping over time.
- Composite fillings – Lasts approximately 5-7 years on average. More durable than bonding but not as long-lasting as other materials.
- Amalgam fillings – Can last 10-15 years with proper care. The most durable option, but aesthetics are poor.
- Gold fillings – Extremely durable and can last 20+ years if no new decay. Optimal choice for longevity.
While bonding generally doesn’t last as long as most fillings, keep in mind it is intended for minor repairs. When used appropriately, bonding should provide 5+ years of service before needing repair or replacement.
Maintenance of Dental Bonding and Fillings
Proper oral hygiene and regular dental visits can maximize the longevity of any bonding work or fillings. Recommended care includes:
- Brush twice daily for 2 minutes.
- Use fluoridated toothpaste.
- Floss daily.
- Avoid sticky, hard, sugary foods.
- See your dentist every 6 months.
- Repair cracks or loose fillings immediately.
- Consider dental sealants to prevent decay around fillings.
With excellent care, bonding and fillings can potentially even outlast their average lifespans. Developing good maintenance habits keeps your smile looking great.
Aesthetics of Dental Bonding vs Fillings
For most people, aesthetics play a significant role when considering different dental repair options. Here is how bonding and fillings compare visually:
- Bonding – Mimics the natural shade of surrounding teeth when done properly. Material can be shaped for seamless, even results.
- Tooth-colored composite fillings – Does a reasonably good job blending in thanks to variety of color shades available. Slight color differences are often still noticeable.
- Amalgam (silver) fillings – Very obvious and unattractive. Not recommended for visible areas of front teeth.
- Gold fillings – Obvious gold color. Mostly used for back teeth and not a cosmetic choice.
For repairs to front and visible teeth, dental bonding offers the most natural and attractive results that blend beautifully with your surrounding teeth.
Example Smile Makeover Using Bonding
As you can see, minor bonding work can make a dramatic improvement to the aesthetics of stained, chipped, gapped, or misshapen teeth.
Considerations for Bonding vs Fillings
When deciding between bonding and fillings, keep these key considerations in mind:
- Extent of damage – Minor issues suit bonding; more significant problems may need fillings.
- Cost – Bonding more affordable for small repairs, while fillings better for large cavities.
- Durability – Fillings generally last longer than bonding.
- Aesthetics – Bonding blends more beautifully for visible repairs.
- Insurance coverage – What you’re covered for will impact out-of-pocket costs.
Talk to your dentist about whether bonding or fillings will be the most suitable option, taking into account factors like the location of damage, your budget, and aesthetic goals.
While both bonding and fillings have their place in repairing damaged teeth, bonding does offer advantages for minor cosmetic repairs. The ability to quickly treat small chips and cracks at an affordable price while mimicking the natural shade of your surrounding teeth makes bonding an excellent choice over fillings in many situations.
However, more extensive cavities and decay that require replacement of lost tooth structure are best treated with longer-lasting fillings. Composite and amalgam fillings also tend to be more cost effective options for large multi-surface repairs.
Talk to your dentist about whether bonding or fillings are right for your particular needs. With the right choice, you can protect your oral health while keeping your smile looking beautifully natural.