Why knowing the difference between contouring and bonding matters

by | May 31, 2022

Do people with perfect teeth smile more often? It is very likely. Studies have shown that dental aesthetics is related to psychological wellbeing. Research also indicates that those with a perfect smile have a better quality of life. Misshapen, discoloured, or damaged teeth can hamper our confidence to beam brightly.  And nobody should be discouraged from smiling at the world just because they are not born with perfect teeth or have sustained tooth damage.

Learning the difference between contouring and bonding will help you make up your mind about which treatment is right for you. They are some of the simplest dental restoration methods available that can transform your smile.

What is contouring?

Dental contouring, also known as odontoplasty or enameloplasty, is a simple procedure that removes some of the enamel from teeth to alter their shape, length, or appearance. Teeth are sculpted by shaping the enamel. Tooth edges are polished to give teeth their natural smoothness and symmetry.  During the procedure, your dentist will smooth out jagged edges and improve the symmetry of the teeth. Filing the tip of longer teeth to bring them to a uniform height, rounding off and shortening more pointy canine teeth, and filing along the tips of lower teeth to make them appear more level are some of the ways to improve the shape and form of your teeth using contouring.

What is bonding?

Composite bonding can also reshape teeth. However, instead of filing down the enamel, it builds them up using tooth-coloured composite resin. While contouring is only limited to minor changes, bonding can be used to dramatically improve the appearance of teeth. Using composite that matches the natural colour of your teeth, dentists can change the shape of the teeth. Once the desired shape and result are achieved, blue light is beamed onto the treated tooth to harden the composite material. Finally, dental bonding is polished to give it a natural shine.

Contouring vs. bonding: What are the differences?

Types of dental issues they can fix

Tooth contouring is mainly about reshaping teeth, but composite bonding can address a wide variety of dental concerns. Tooth contouring is also used to improve the appearance of the lower teeth without veneering when the upper teeth have been veneered. Sometimes, at the end of orthodontic treatments, tooth contouring is used to add to enhance the end result by shaping the tips of teeth.

These include chipped or cracked teeth, tooth decay, short teeth, stubborn discolouration, tooth gaps, and exposed roots. Sometimes contouring is combined with bonding to fix certain dental issues.

Materials used for dental corrections

Tooth contouring does not use a bonding or external agent. The process only utilises your natural teeth and tools for shaping and polishing.  Tooth bonding uses a bonding material, which is a resin available in different colours to match the natural tooth colour.

Composite resins are polymer-based materials prepared by free radical polymerisation. They are a mixture of organic and inorganic components. As they are not adhesive, they are used with bespoke bonding agents to cement to teeth.

How are the procedures performed?

Contouring is performed using a burr, drill, specialised buffing tool, sanding disc, or lasers. X-rays are obtained before the procedure to assess your enamel for the suitability of the treatment. Those who have weak enamels are not perfect candidates for teeth reshaping.

During dental bonding, a weak acidic gel is used to roughen the surface of the tooth. It helps the resin bond to the teeth. Then the bonding material, which is precisely matched to your natural tooth colour, is applied incrementally to build form and colour. The resin is hardened under UV light. More shaping and trimming are done, and finally, teeth are polished for a natural shine.

Duration of the procedure

Dental contouring can take as little as 30 minutes to complete. If performed in conjunction with dental bonding, it might take longer. Depending on the number of teeth under treatment and the nature of the restoration work, dental bonding can take from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. Both procedures are pain-free. Therefore does not require numbing the area. Dental bonding and contouring do not need downtime. However, in order to protect the bonding, you will need to avoid hard and acidic food and drink.

How long do the results last?

Contouring is a permanent procedure, and it cannot be reversed. Dental bonding can be reversed and isn’t permanent. Bonding can usually last up to 10 years. However, it does wear off with time, loses shine, and picks up stains. Re-contouring, polishing, and touching-up are required to keep it in optimum condition.

Which one is right for me?

If your teeth need to be scaled-down in size & and shape and you have a strong enamel, contouring might be right for you. If you already have tooth sensitivity, contouring may not be right for you as it can increase sensitivity. While an uneven edge can be filed down to make a tooth look even, a chipped tooth needs bonding to repair. Stained teeth that do not respond to normal whitening, slight tooth gaps that need to be filled in, exposed roots that need to be covered, or short teeth that need to be lengthened need composite bonding treatment.

Sometimes, you may need both treatments to correct dental issues. Your dentist will help you decide the best option based on your dental health and needs.

Cosmetic dentistry uses wide-ranging options to improve smiles. And just as much as general dentistry helps us keep our oral health in check, maintaining good dental aesthetics can contribute to self-esteem and positive body image. Mouth Dental specialises in dental cosmetic treatments for perfecting teeth, from advanced orthodontics to high-quality composite bonding.