Restorative dentistry involves managing the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease in teeth and their supporting structures. The aim is, as the name implies, to restore teeth to a functional and aesthetic state after damage and decay. The goal is usually to preserve existing teeth as much as possible. The type of restoration depends on a variety of factors, including the extent and nature of the damage. If you have chipped, fractured or decayed teeth, you may be considering one of the following restorative procedures.
The most common dental restoration is the filling. Most often used to treat teeth affected by plaque, the decayed part of the tooth will be removed and a gold, silver amalgam, or composite resin will be used to fill the remaining hole. Not only limited to decay, fillings can also be used to repair cracked and broken teeth. Amalgam is the traditional material used to treat cavities, but composite resin is becoming popular due to its natural tooth color. The material also bonds better to the tooth and requires less surrounding space to be removed to fit.
Inlay and onlay restorations
For teeth that are too damaged for a regular filling, inlay and onlay restorations are an option. These are indirect restorations, meaning that they are created outside of the mouth, usually with dental impressions of the prepared tooth. An inlay repairs between cusps (raised point on surface) of a tooth while an onlay is usually larger and covers one or more teeth including the cusp area. Like fillings, these types of restoration can be made from a variety of materials such as porcelain or composite resin. Inlays and onlays are a treatment option more conservative than a crown but usually stronger and longer lasting than a filling.
When there is not sufficient tooth structure to support a filling or regular inlay/onlay restorations, a crown is usually the next step for treatment. A dental crown acts as a ‘cap,’ fully encasing the visible portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line. This helps restore the tooth’s functionality, shape, size, appearance and strength. A crown can also be used to cover a dental implant, hold a bridge in place and/or protect a weak tooth from breaking.
To replace missing teeth, the two most popular restorative options are bridges, implants and dentures. Bridges replace missing teeth by using the surrounding teeth as support for a false tooth (or teeth). The false tooth material is made from gold, alloys, porcelain, or a combination of these and is usually cemented permanently in place. Bridges help relieve stress on remaining natural teeth and restore proper function. Crowns on the neighboring teeth help to anchor the bridge in place. Replacing missing teeth in this way can improve smile as well as bite, providing better aesthetics, comfort and functionality.
Dental implants are a more modern option to replace missing teeth and involve replacing a tooth root with a small metal post. The post is then fitted with a replacement tooth, designed to compliment or match remaining teeth. The metal implant provides a strong foundation for the fake tooth since it is attached directly to the jawbone and is often considered a more natural option than dentures. Not everyone is a candidate for implants however; a strong jawbone is needed in addition to healthy gums.
A removable replacement for missing teeth and surrounding tissue, dentures are made of acrylic resin sometimes combined with metal attachments. When all teeth are missing, complete dentures are used. When some teeth remain, partial dentures are an option, retained by metal clasps attached to the surrounding teeth. Dental implants and bridges are commonly chosen over dentures as they provide the closest experience to having natural teeth. As previously mentioned however, not all patients are eligible for these treatments.
There are now plenty of options for people with damaged or missing teeth due to decay or injury. Restorative dentistry can significantly change the functionality and appearance of teeth, impacting positively on many aspects of a person’s life. If you have fractured or missing teeth, do not hesitate to contact your dentist to consider your options.
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