Everything you need to know about composite bonding vs veneers

Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images

For anybody reading this who hates their teeth: I hear you. Been there, done that... for years. So, after trying Invisalign braces (twice) and copious teeth whitening methods, I decided it was time to explore other options – and in the process, came across composite bonding for teeth, as well as composite veneers. But I had no idea which would be the best option (or, if I'm totally honest, what the difference was).

Of course, it's important to state that no cosmetic dentistry decision should be taken lightly and it definitely won't be the right choice for everyone. Nor are cosmetic procedures necessary, as there's so much power to be gained by embracing what makes us unique. But, after decades feeling self-conscious every time I smiled, I knew that for me, taking action was definitely the right choice.

Pretty much everything I found on Google seemed to suggest that composite bonding could finally be the magical, non-invasive tooth 'tweakment' of my dreams and would come in at a lower cost than porcelain veneers. The thought of which I've always found terrifying (we've all seen photos of people with tiny, pointed gnashers that have been filed into oblivion beforehand, right?).

So, armed with plenty of questions on what the difference between composite bonding and composite veneers is, the cost and what the aftercare is like, I booked in for an appointment with the multi-award-winning dentist, Dr Rhona Eskander PGDIP BChD MJDF, the woman behind London's Chelsea Dental Clinic and a known cosmetic dentistry legend.

This is my personal experience of having composite veneers (as well as undergoing gum contouring) and a thorough rundown of composite bonding vs composite veneers, with help from Dr Rhona...

What is composite bonding?

While it's often touted as a 'quick-fix cure' to any and all teeth issues, Dr Rhona explains that in reality, composite bonding is actually often only suitable for adding to the edges of the teeth, to repair chips or to fill in gaps.

"It's a white filling that's been around for many years and was often used on the back teeth," she adds. "But as time has gone on, that white filling has been adapted and changed to be more suitable for use on the front teeth. It can be an extremely aesthetic material if used in the right hands."

Composite bonding doesn't require drilling the teeth when it's initially placed, however the tooth surface is still altered – something that's irreversible. "Moreover, replacement of bonding will likely require drilling down of the teeth," says Dr Rhona. "Minimal prep veneers are a great alternative, which are much longer lasting than bonding."

How quickly composite bonding needs replacing depends on a variety of factors, from diet, to whether or not you have regular maintenance check-ups, but the rough timeframe is anywhere from two to ten years (as a reference point: the small bit of bonding I had done after my Invisalign lasted for about seven years before looking totally haggard).

I'm sure by now we've all seen Molly-Moe Hague's posts about having her composite bonding "polished off" in a bid to look more natural, and while that is possible, when done by an experienced practitioner, the tooth enamel will still never be exactly the same afterwards.

How much does composite bonding cost?

Prices vary, but Chelsea Dental Clinic (who are the higher end of the scale) charge £475 per tooth and offers interest free finance. It always pays to shop around and find a clinic where you feel comfortable, listened to and that has experienced practitioners with evidence of their work readily available. I can attest that Dr Rhona has (and does) all that and more – she's thoroughly committed to her patients and is beyond talented.

Composite bonding before and after pictures:

This is an example case of a patient who underwent a gum lift (by Dr Mitul Shah), followed by having composite bonding by Dr Rhona, to make them appear whiter, more evenly sized and straighter:

Photo credit: Dr Rhona Eskander
Photo credit: Dr Rhona Eskander

What are composite veneers?

So, after learning that I wasn't a good candidate for composite bonding (turns out, it's really isn't the 'quick-fix for everyone', guys!), this was the option I went for, along with a gum lift. But what actually are composite veneers?

Essentially, it's when the composite resin material covers the entire surface of the tooth (much in the way that a porcelain veneer would) - rather than just the edges, or when filling a gap, like composite bonding. Composite veneers are pretty much irreversible, requiring renewal anywhere from every two years to ten (depending on how well maintained they are). Your enamel can be damaged in the process of renewal, too.

Dr Rhona describes composite veneers as almost a "blueprint of porcelain veneers for the future", noting that composite veneers more prone to staining and chipping, in contrast to their porcelain or ceramic cousins. They require upkeep (think: regular scale and polish appointments) and can lead to sensitivity. Plus, there's the risk of needing a root canal in future and there's no guarantee of successful results.

The actual fitting of the veneers needed an anaesthetic and took a couple of hours – I wouldn't describe it as painful, but it was uncomfortable and there were a couple of sensitive points that definitely made me flinch.

That said, there are strong plus-points to consider: they're a quicker option than braces and are considerably cheaper than porcelain veneers. For me, the whole process took over a year, but that's factoring in the initial consultation, lockdowns, having to wait six weeks after the gum lift and undergoing whitening, too. It's recommended you whiten your teeth with bleach to your ideal colour before composite bonding or veneers are applied, so that the chosen material can be made into a perfect colour match (you cannot whiten bonding or veneers). Other cases are far quicker than mine.

This is a picture of my teeth before and after having composite veneers and a gum lift. Before, in my eyes, they weren't straight enough, the composite bonding that had been used by my previous dentist to reshape one of my teeth and to fill in the gaps (that she created for Invisalign... but then never closed) was noticeably yellower. The altered tooth also looked an odd, unnatural shape:

Photo credit: Dr Rhona Eskander
Photo credit: Dr Rhona Eskander

I also hated my pointy 'fang' tooth and the 'smaller-looking' one next to it, which in dental terms was described as being "lower than the right lateral incisor tooth and as such, needed to be reduced slightly as part of the bonding procedure". This is also where I had the gum raised, to ensure a natural-looking symmetry with the other front teeth:

Photo credit: Dr Rhona Eskander
Photo credit: Dr Rhona Eskander

Finally, after hating my teeth for my entire adult life, I'm so happy with the results – and all the more so because they still look incredibly natural. One fear I had going into this was that I'd come out ginormous TOWIE teeth that would look 'too perfect' or obviously fake, but Dr Rhona assured me that would never happen – and she was absolutely true to her word.

In fact, after I initially had the veneers put on, I pranged out a bit at the loss of my slightly rabbit-y front teeth, but after discussing this with Dr Rhona, she booked me back in for a lunchtime appointment, re-worked her magic and I left looking, and feeling, more like myself... only a million miles better. So many people now comment on how white my teeth look and how nice my smile is. It's been such a game-changer for me (bring on the cheesy grin selfies) and I'm so much more confident now.

How much do composite veneers cost?

One main advantage that composite veneers have over porcelain veneers is that they're cheaper (but can require more frequent maintaining over the years, so it's important to do the maths before committing). Chelsea Dental Clinic charge from £450 per tooth for composite veneers (and for comparison, charge from £1,050 per porcelain veneer).

What's the best way to take care of your composite bonding or veneers?

Your general health, along with your diet and committing to regular dental checkups, can all have an impact on how long your composite bonding or composite veneers stay looking bright, white and chip-free. Since having my composite veneers fitted, I've ditched my morning coffee due to my fear of staining, have waved goodbye to wine (well, bar the odd glass), sodas and have tried to limit dark sauces, like soy or tomato. I've also switched my former go-to whitening toothpaste to a standard one, containing fluoride.

"I don’t recommend whitening toothpastes as they're abrasive and can cause damage in the pursuit of removing stains," explains Dr Rhona. "Instead, my choice would be PÄRLA, an eco-friendly toothpaste tab, designed by dentists. It's effectively a dehydrated toothpaste, contains only clean ingredients and is sold in reusable glass jars."

*The smile makeover was gifted by Chelsea Dental Clinic exchange for an honest review.

Dr Rhona Eskander PGDIP BChD MJDF is a multi-award winning dentist, with an extensive history of cosmetic and restorative work. She is also a co-founder of PÄRLA toothpaste tablets. Contact Chelsea Dental Clinic for more information, or to book a consultation with Dr Rhona. You can also find her on Instagram.

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