Restorative Dentistry involves replacing missing teeth or repairing teeth that are broken or have cavities. While cosmetic dentistry focuses on improving the esthetics of your smile, restorative dentistry focuses on improving your function – the ability of your teeth to chew and hold up to the intense forces they take on in your mouth.
Tooth colored Fillings
When caught early, small to moderate sized cavities can be cleaned out and replaced with a filling. Tooth-colored filling material (composite resin) has many benefits, including its ability to bond to the tooth and its ability to be used with conservative tooth preparation (less drilling). With newer filling materials, many times you will not be able to see where the filling ends and the tooth begins. Gone are the days of dark silver fillings in your mouth!
When a large portion of a tooth is missing due to previous fillings or significant wear, fractures, or cavities, a crown (or “cap”) is used to restore and protect the tooth. A crown will typically cover most of the tooth surface, and can be made of a variety of materials. In most situations we use all-ceramic crowns, and these crowns appear nearly identical to natural, healthy teeth.
A bridge is used to fill a gap where there is one or more missing teeth. A porcelain/ceramic false tooth (or pontic) fills the space above the gums where there is a missing tooth, and is attached to crown-like supports that are cemented on teeth adjacent to the space. A Dental Bridge has the following benefits:
• Replaces a missing tooth quickly
• Provides a natural appearance for missing teeth
• Restores chewing ability
• Protects other teeth in the mouth that are at risk for increased loads when there are missing teeth
A Dental implant is an excellent treatment option for certain situations where there is a missing tooth or teeth. A dental implant procedure uses a titanium implant in the jaw bone to replace a missing tooth root. Once the implant is fully integrated into the bone (typically 3-6 months), a crown can then be attached to the implant, replacing a missing tooth. Implants can also support screw-in bridges or snap-in dentures. Benefits of dental implants include:
- Usually the top treatment option for a missing tooth
- Preservation of the jaw bone (which would otherwise slowly shrink over time)
- Support for remaining teeth
- Prevention of tooth movement and tipping into open spaces.
Partial Dentures and Complete Dentures
Dentures are custom, removable oral appliances that are used to replace missing teeth for both esthetic and functional reasons. These can be taken in and out of the mouth by the patient.
Partial dentures are partially supported by any remaining teeth. A ‘partial’ can be a fine option to replace missing teeth in certain circumstances – particularly when preparing for an implant or waiting for an implant to integrate, replacing several teeth when all the remaining teeth and gums are healthy, or when implants or bridges cannot be done due to health, dental complications, or finances.
Complete dentures are used when all the teeth of an arch are missing (all upper teeth or all lower teeth). The ability of dentures to stay properly seated varies depending on the quality of the remaining gum tissue and bone, as well as other factors. One way to increase the retention and function of your dentures is to have implants placed, which can then be used as locations where a new or refitted denture can snap in or be screwed in.