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Most often bonding is used in cosmetic dentistry situations to improve the appearance of chipped or discolored teeth, but it is used regularly to close gaps between teeth, modify the color and shape, or elongate teeth as well. Referred to as bonding because materials are bonded to the natural tooth, the procedure is extremely un invasive, requires no anesthesia and can be completed in a single visit in 30 to 60 minutes.

Considered one of the more simple (and less expensive) procedures in cosmetic dentistry, bonding involves applying tooth-colored composite resin (plastic) to repair a tooth or teeth. The process is also used as a cosmetic alternative to some forms of fillings, or to protect a portion of the tooth's root that has been exposed when gums recede.

Preparing the teeth for bonding is painless, and very simple. After a shade guide is used to determine the color that will best match the damaged tooth, a cosmetic dentist will make ready the tooth by etching it to roughen the surface. Abrading and applying a conditioning liquid to the tooth helps the bonding material to better adhere to the tooth.

A putty like resin is then put on the tooth and molded and smoothed. Once the desired shape is achieved, a light or ultraviolet laser is used to harden the materials. The tooth will be shaped and smoothed once more and then polished to match the sheen of the rest of the tooth's surface.

Bonding materials can be stained easily by coffee, tea, smoking, etc, so many dentists will suggest avoiding these things completely for at least 48 hours following the procedure. In addition, materials are not as strong as natural teeth, and it is important to be aware that improper care or chewing on things (like fingernails, pens or ice for instance) can cause repaired teeth to chip.

In most cases, bonding will last for several years, but it depends largely on the amount of bonding that was done, and how well teeth are cared for.