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Restorations offer a second chance at winning smile

It’s an established fact that genetics have an impact on a person’s overall health. But did you know they can also determine how teeth develop?

Characterized by very small teeth, microdontia is a common oral health problem that often runs in families. Adults affected by microdontia may have small teeth with gaps between them, making them look like primary (baby) teeth. Teeth that are too small may not fit together or chew properly, which can cause excessive wear and tear.

But there’s good news for people with microdontia: modern dentistry offers many techniques that can help restore teeth and improve smiles.

Dr. Charles W. Wakefield, professor and director of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry, says that depending on the severity of microdontia, patients can choose composite bonding, veneers or crowns that can change both the size and shape of the teeth to provide a more “adult” appearance.

“Composite or porcelain veneers don’t remove excessive tooth structure and are very conservative restorations,” said Dr. Wakefield. “Composite bonding is used most commonly for younger patients whose teeth haven’t fully erupted or for patients on a tight budget, but it doesn’t last as long as porcelain veneers. Restorations made from porcelain often have superior durability and appearance.”

If you’ve decided that you’d like to improve your smile, the American Dental Association recommends you first visit a dentist. Some of the more popular treatment options include:

  • Composites: Composites are tooth-colored fillings that are designed to match the color of your teeth. They are a mixture of glass or quartz filler that provide good durability and resistance to fracture in small- to mid-size restorations that need to withstand moderate pressure from chewing. They are generally used on either front or back teeth.

    Composites are “bonded” or adhered in a cavity. This can allow your dentist to make a more conservative repair to your tooth, meaning less tooth structure is removed when the dentist prepares the tooth. This may result in a smaller filling than that of a metal (amalgam) filling. It generally takes longer to place a composite filling than it does for a metal filling because composite fillings require the tooth be kept clean and dry while the cavity is being filled.

  • Veneers: Veneers are thin, custom-made shells crafted of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front side of teeth. They are an option for correcting stained, chipped, decayed or crooked teeth. Veneers are made by a dental technician, usually in a dental lab, working from a model provided by your dentist. Placing veneers is usually an irreversible process, because it's necessary to remove a small amount of enamel from your tooth to accommodate the shell.

    Your dentist may recommend that you avoid some foods and beverages that may stain or discolor your veneers such as coffee, tea or red wine. Sometimes a veneer might chip or fracture.

  • Crowns: To help restore a tooth to its normal shape and size, you may need a crown to cover it. A crown can make your tooth stronger and improve its appearance.

    A crown can help strengthen a tooth with a large filling when there isn’t enough tooth remaining to hold the filling. Crowns can also be used to attach bridges, protect a weak tooth from breaking or restore one that’s already broken. A crown is a good way to cover teeth that are discolored or badly shaped. It’s also used to cover a dental implant. If your dentist recommends a crown, it is probably to correct one of these conditions.

For more information on these and other restorative treatment options, visit MouthHealthy.org.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

01/23/13

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