While there are certain things you can do to avoid tooth decay and tooth loss - like brushing, flossing and seeing your dentist regularly - you can't always dodge the kind of accidents that might cause physical damage to your teeth.
Fortunately, restorative dentistry, which involves repairing and restoring damaged, decayed or dislodged teeth, is available to anyone who needs it.
Restorative Dentistry Basics
Two of the most common treatments in restorative dentistry are dental crowns and dental bridges. With new dental technologies like CEREC®, dental crowns can be placed in just one dental visit. On the other hand, dental bridges typically require at least two trips to the dentist. Let's take a look at some common dental problems and the corresponding restorative dentistry solutions.
Problem: A Broken Tooth
Restorative Dentistry Solution: Dental Crown
A dental crown is exceptionally versatile and may be used for a number of purposes ranging from covering stained teeth and protecting teeth from tooth decay to restoring a broken tooth and holding a dental bridge in place. Made from a variety of restorative dentistry materials, dental crowns can either blend right in with your natural teeth or add a little "bling" to your smile. Patients who prefer the natural look typically choose porcelain, ceramic or composite dental crowns; those who want some extra shine can choose from gold, nickel or chromium dental crowns.
Problem: Missing Teeth
Restorative Dentistry Solutions: Dental Bridges, Dentures & Dental Implants
A dental bridge is a dental appliance that's used to fill the gap created by a missing tooth. Made of a pontic (artificial tooth) and dental crowns, a dental bridge is permanently fixed to abutment teeth (the teeth that are on one or both sides of the gap). There are three types of dental bridges: a traditional bridge, which is made of porcelain or porcelain fused to metal; a cantilever bridge, which is used when only one abutment tooth surrounds the gap; and a Maryland bonded bridge, which is primarily used for front teeth.
Dentures are another popular solution for replacing missing teeth. Partial dentures are available in removable or fixed form and are used to replace one or several missing teeth; full dentures are removable and replace all missing teeth, either on the upper or lower mandible or both. Compared to dental implants, dentures are the more affordable option but can take some time getting used to. Periodic denture relines are also necessary to ensure that your dentures fit properly and last for years to come.
Dental implants are the crème de la crème of missing teeth solutions. They can be used to replace one, several or all of your teeth. Because they're surgically implanted into the jawbone, patients often rave that dental implants look and feel just like natural teeth. The downside is that dental implants can be costly and typically take several months to complete, unless you go with a same-day solution like Nobel Teeth in an Hour™.
Cosmetic Restorative Dentistry
For some patients, having a healthy smile is enough, but for others, aesthetics are just as important. This growing demand for picture-perfect smiles has changed both the techniques and the materials used in restorative dentistry. Now, many restorative dentistry treatments have cosmetic benefits built in, making it easy to have both optimal dental health and a beautiful, natural-looking smile!
Problem: Cracked or Chipped Teeth
Restorative Dentistry Solutions: Cosmetic Dental Bonding, Porcelain Dental Veneers
Cosmetic dental bonding is an easy fix for minor cracks or chips in teeth, protecting them from further trauma and even brightening up a tooth at the same time. Like dental crowns, cosmetic dental bonding is versatile and can be used to close diastemas (gaps in between teeth) and alter the shape of teeth. Another plus is that cosmetic dental bonding is less expensive and less time-consuming than dental crowns.
Porcelain dental veneers are relatively new on the cosmetic restorative dentistry scene. Made popular on smile makeover TV shows, veneers are wafer-thin porcelain or ceramic shells that are placed over your natural teeth. On the plus side, porcelain dental veneers can completely transform the color, shape and alignment of your teeth in one fell swoop. In general, porcelain dental veneers only take one visit, too. On the minus side, they can be costly.
Problem: Dental Cavities
Restorative Dentistry Solution: Composite Dental Fillings
It's estimated that about 90 percent of people in the U.S. have cavities. In fact, dental cavities are on the rise particularly among children, possibly due to the increased consumption of sugar-laden sports drinks, energy drinks and flavored waters. The good news is if you have a dental cavity today, you don't have to wind up with a mouth filled with silver tomorrow. Today, a tooth filling can be made from natural-looking restorative dentistry materials such as composite resin. Composite resin fillings - also called white fillings - match your natural tooth color, virtually masking any signs of cavities!
Problem: Large Dental Cavities
Restorative Dentistry Solutions: Porcelain Inlays and Onlays
When left untreated for too long, cavities can get rather large. At this stage, a regular dental filling won't suffice; you'll likely need a porcelain inlay or onlay. Porcelain dental inlays fill cavities located in between a tooth's cusps and porcelain dental onlays fill cavities on the cusps. (The easiest way to remember the difference is to focus on the prefixes - in- and on-.) The porcelain used for inlays and onlays match the color of your natural teeth, creating a flawless appearance.
Find a Restorative Dentist
When your teeth experience any sort of trauma, resist the temptation to brush it off! One trip to a restorative dentist can ensure that a chip, crack, break or cavity doesn't get worse and wind up costing you more in the long run. Many restorative dentists now use laser dental technologies and different types of sedation for patients who are afraid of going to the dentist.