What Is the Difference Between Dental Bonding & Veneers?

Dental bonding and veneers are cosmetic dentistry procedures for improving your smile. Both will mask imperfections in teeth, but there are differences in the procedures, materials and cost.

Description of Veneers

Veneers are thin shells of porcelain that cover the fronts of teeth, something like artificial fingernails. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, also known as the AACD, states that the function of veneers is to cover up gaps between teeth and hide crooked, misshapen or stained teeth. The dentist will first reshape your teeth by removing some enamel to allow for the added thickness of the veneers. Then, a molded image is sent to a dental lab where the porcelain veneers are made to exactly fit over your teeth and cover any imperfections. Finally, the veneers are applied to the natural teeth with adhesive material. The entire procedure usually requires three office visits over several weeks, reports the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.

Pros & Cons of Veneers

Because veneers are custom-made for each patient's teeth, it's nearly impossible to tell the difference between veneers and natural teeth, reports the AACD. "Porcelain veneers also have a translucent quality that make them look like natural teeth," says Kimberly Harms, DDS, a dentist in Farmington, Minnesota, and consumer adviser for the American Dental Association. Veneers won't change color over time, and they resist staining from coffee, tea, wine and smoking, says Harms. The downside: Veneers are pricey. As of 2010, the average cost was $800 to $2,000 per tooth, depending on geographic location and the expertise of the dentist, according to Harms.

Description of Dental Bonding

The Academy of General Dentistry describes dental bonding as a cosmetic dentistry technique that uses a composite resin to mask imperfections. The resin is matched to the color of the patient’s teeth and applied freehand by the dentist. “It’s like putty and can be molded and shaped to cover up imperfections, but it doesn't have the translucent look of veneers,” says Harms. The function of dental bonding is to make chipped, discolored or short teeth look better, according to Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. Bonding can also be used to protect part of the tooth’s root that becomes exposed when teeth recede. Little or no tooth preparation is needed, says Harms.

Pros & Cons of Dental Bonding

Bonding is easier, faster and less expensive than veneers. The entire procedure can be done in one office visit, according to the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. As of 2010, the average cost was $200 to $700 per tooth depending on geographic location and the experience of the dentist, says Harms. Unlike veneers, coffee, tea, wine and smoking can stain the material used in dental bonding, particularly in the days following the procedure. And, dental bonding isn’t meant to make over an entire smile. “Bonding is best for minor imperfections and repairs, such as chips,” says Harms.


Because veneers and dental bonding materials aren’t as strong as natural teeth, the AACD recommends that you avoid biting your nails, opening nuts with your teeth, and chewing on pens, ice or other hard objects. "This could cause veneers, as well as dental bonding, to chip or fall off,” says Harms. However, you won’t have to change the way you floss or brush, reports the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. With proper care, dental bonding usually last two to five years, while veneers can last 15 years or more, says Harms.