Dental treatment should generally take place every six months, but it is occasionally recommended beyond a routine cleaning.
Restorative dentistry involves the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of oral diseases. Your dentist may suggest a treatment plan to restore teeth that are decayed, chipped, cracked, discolored or even missing. Teeth that are affected by any of these developmental or trauma-related defects can qualify for restorative care. Whether it's a filling, crown, implant or bridge, there are several options available depending on need.
The Dental Visit
Your dentist will diagnose your oral health condition during a routine visit using visual, mechanical and radiographic techniques to analyze your teeth's surfaces. Some restorative dentistry treatment is minimally invasive and can be performed by your dentist in one appointment. More complex dental treatment may require multiple dental visits. Certain dental procedures require the attention of a dental specialist, such as an endodontist, prosthodontist or maxillofacial surgeon.
There have been many recent advances in aesthetic dental care, and your dentist can discuss options that will enhance the effectiveness of your treatment, and what to expect following the procedure. Your dentist may need to use different types of sedation or anesthesia as well, allowing you to remain free of discomfort or anxiety throughout the procedure.
There are four primary types of dental materials used to restore teeth: porcelain, dental amalgam, composite resin and gold. Composite resin include ceramic or plastic compounds that can be used with other materials like glass ionomers. There are also other precious and non-precious metals similar to gold, and almost as durable. In addition, talk to your dentist about the presence of mercury, which, although harmless in most restorations, some practices prefer not to use.
In any of the above materials, there are a variety of treatment options designed to restore the surface of teeth or replace missing teeth. Fillings, for example, often use amalgam to restore the tooth's surface, and are generally placed on posterior or teeth located in the back of the mouth. Amalgam fillings are an alloy, which does contain mercury or a mercury substitute. Composite fillings, on the other hand, are resins used for tooth-colored restorations and are used in both front and back teeth. Many people prefer these because they're hard to notice when in their mouth.
Veneers are a layer of material (porcelain or composite), and are tooth-colored similar to composite fillings. They are bonded or cemented to the surfaces of one or more teeth, mainly those in the upper and lower front teeth (incisors). They help to improve the appearance of teeth that are chipped, cracked or uneven.
Crowns and Bridges
Crowns are a type of restoration covering the entire portion of a tooth that has been damaged, chipped, cracked or, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site, subject to extensive restoration that threatens the rest of the tooth. They can be fabricated from gold, porcelain or another ceramic material. Bridges, however, are a prosthetic replacement of one or more natural teeth. They consist of crowns that are adjacent to the space with a replacement tooth (pontic) attached to the crowns.
For every condition in between, there's a restorative measure to treat it. These include:
- Removable Partial — A prosthetic device containing artificial teeth supported on a framework and attached to natural teeth with retainers. Because it is not cemented into the mouth, it can be removed or placed in the mouth. It is not worn during sleep.
- Implant — A tooth replacement wherein a titanium screw is placed in the jaw bone and a crown is connected to the implant. According to the Journal of the ADA, it can provide a more natural look and feel.
- Inlay — A cemented restoration designed to restore up to three surfaces of a tooth. It can be fabricated from gold, porcelain or other ceramic materials.
- Onlay — A cemented restoration designed to restore the chewing surface and some of the surface along the sides of teeth that are located in the back of the mouth. Similar to an inlay, it can be fabricated from gold, porcelain or another ceramic material.
- Bonding — Often known as composite bonding, this treatment can help to reshape or lengthen the front central teeth.
Oral Health Care
Remember that bacterial plaque can form around dental restorations and contribute to the recurrence or progression of a problem. Conditions like tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease can be prevented by controlling this plaque, the primary cause of these types of infections.
Plaque and tartar control through a consistent oral hygiene regimen involves brushing at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and fluoride toothpaste such as Colgate Total® Advanced Whitening. In addition to daily floss, mouthwashes are also effective in strengthening your tooth's surfaces, so your teeth can be restored to their normal state before restorative dentistry becomes absolutely necessary.
About the author: Yolanda Eddis, RDH, BASDH, MHSc, is a clinical registered dental hygienist for the United States government. She is a member of the American Dental Education Association and Esther Wilkins Education Program, and is a Colgate Oral Health Advisor. Her research interests include community outreach projects. Eddis received her Masters of Health Science degree in a generalist concentration at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.