Bonded Veneers (Composite): Decent Results But Not Normally Recommended...

Although you may read about bonded veneers (sometimes called composite veneers) online, you'll have a hard time finding a dentist who recommends it often, especially for cosmetic reasons on your very visible front teeth.

"[They] look great the first year, but as time goes by they get stained from coffee, tea, or any food that we eat. They need to be replaced every couple of years and they certainly don't have the same natural look as porcelain," says Dr. Sahafi from California.

Dr. Thomas from Los Angeles echoes the same feeling when he wrote that this treatment "is very 1985 dentistry… I don't even discuss it with my patients… If they have issues with the front of their teeth then [porcelain] veneers are considered the standard."

However, they do have their uses as explained below.

When Are Dental Bondings or Dental Composite Used?

Dental bondings (composite) are great for minor treatments, filling in minor cavities, and repairing chipped teeth. It's appropriate for use in the back of the mouth or areas not easily seen.

It's also used in prosthodontics and pediatric (children's) dentistry. Since it's a quick treatment, it can be handled in the office on one visit.

In general, bonded veneers are made from a durable composite material, which is mostly (about 75%) quartz and resin.

The material is pliable, like a paste and similar to an acrylic, which the dentist can sculpt into the desired shape directly onto the prepared tooth. Then, an intense light is used to cure the material and harden it.

Although you may find dentists willing to use this composite material for aesthetic reasons, and composite veneer kits exist for in-office veneer work, it is not normally the material of choice today.

The main problem is that the material is too porous and structurally weak compared to porcelain, is ceramic-based:

  • Composite bondings tend to stain over time. A porous material is not ideal for a medical restoration that will live inside your wet, humid, moist, slobber-ous mouth, especially when used on your anterior (front) teeth that everyone can see.

  • It doesn't keep it's shiny-ness. Since it is soft, it quickly loses its luster and needs to be polished. Its porousness limits it's ability to keep its shine and gloss (your natural enamel is shiny and smoother in comparison because of its compact and dense molecular structure).

  • It's opaque. It doesn't have the same play with light and color as your natural enamel does. This tends to make bonded veneers life-less and dull, fake looking. Porcelain veneers can be crafted to mimic living enamel.

  • It can break easier than porcelain. Light hardened resin is a weak material all things being equal. The mouth can be a torturous environment, especially if you like chewing on hard food (i.e. nuts, ice), bite your nails or pen caps, grind your teeth when you sleep, or have a lot of stress and gnash your teeth.

What Makes Porcelain Veneers Better Than Bonded Veneers?

Porcelain on the other hand is tough and smooth. It's not porous and doesn't stain, think of glass. It's tough. To create it the porcelain material is fired at high temperatures inside a vacuum kiln. Think at how long ceramic tile lasts and keeps it color.

In addition, the material is very advanced today in terms of colors, translucency (see through-ness), and techniques available to a skilled aesthetic ceramist to craft lifelike dental restorations.

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