Restorative dentistry is the branch of dentistry which covers all areas of dental restoration; including preserving dental structures, repairing broken or damaged teeth, and replacing damaged or missing teeth.
The procedures used can range from small repairs such as fillings or sealing cavities, to bridges and crowns, fully replacing one or more teeth with implants – and everything in between.
Restorative dentistry returns to the patient the full use of mouth and teeth, liberating patients in need of general dental care or those who have suffered illness or injury.
The different restorative dental procedures vary based on patient need, severity of damage to the dental structures, patient commitment, and price. The dentist will recommend a treatment plan based on a patient’s current situation and needs. Frequently, a patient will have options to select from.
Here, we will examine 5 main types of restorative dental treatments.
Probably the most well-known, minor restorative procedure is the dental filling. When a tooth has a cavity that does not need more extensive treatment, such as a root canal, the dentist can remove the decay, dry and sanitize the area, and fill it in with a composite resin. In the past, gold or silver was used to fill in the cavity, but current use of resin has been found to be better for the patient.
A root canal is a more extreme version of a filling. With a root canal the dentist removes infected pulp within a tooth’s root canal and replaces it with the filling material. This sealing the tooth and removing all decay.
The filling protects the previously weakened tooth from bacteria, chipping, or breaks. Fillings are restorative in the sense that they repair damaged teeth in order to preserve the tooth and lengthen its useful life. Sometimes, fillings are paired with crowns to provide extra strength and durability for a damaged tooth. With proper care, dental fillings can last 10 to 15 years or longer.
Another restorative dental procedure is the crown. A crown is a protective outer covering that is custom-fitted to fit snug and tight as an outer shell around the affected tooth.
Although dental crowns can be made from any of a number of different materials, they’re most often made out of ceramic; a strong substance that can be matched to the color of the tooth.
A crown is always carefully measured to custom-fit the tooth, creating a tight seal and a high level of protection. First, the dentist will take an impression of the patient’s bite. From this impression a crown will be made which will mesh perfectly with the patient’s other teeth and dental structure. Once the crown has been made, it will be checked and then held in place with a special, strong dental cement.
Crowns are considered a restorative procedure because they help bring back strength and power to the bite and help preserve an existing tooth despite previous injury or decay.
As with fillings, with proper care, dental crowns can last from 5 to 15 years.
While a filling or crown is the best option for prolonging the life of a damaged or weakened tooth, a missing tooth required a different restorative process. One such process is fitting the patient or and installing a fixed bridge.
Patients of any age may experience tooth loss. If this loss occurs, often the best restorative procedure is the traditional fixed bridge.
A fixed bridge fills the gap left by one or more missing teeth. It works much like a real bridge; anchored at both ends by firm structures. In the case of a dental bridge, the structures that support the bridge are two existing teeth. The permanent, prosthetic teeth are placed in the mouth, bridging the gap where the tooth or teeth were formerly missing. These artificial teeth are usually made out of ceramic resin and are color-matched to the existing teeth surrounding them.
The way these bridges are “built” maximizes structure, efficiency, and appearance. Two hollow crown-like structures on either end are bonded to each existing tooth, which act as supports. One of more prosthetic (artificial) teeth, attached to an appliance are place in such a manner as to sit on the patient’s gum line, anchored in place by the real teeth on either end.
Where too many teeth are missing, a procedure called an implant-retained bridge can be done. This type of bridge is similar to the traditional dental bridge, except that it is anchored to dental implants rather than the patient’s natural teeth.
The measurement and design of a fixed dental bridge is both a skill and an art. The dentist will make sure it looks and feels like natural teeth. With proper care, a dental bridge can last 10 to 15 years or longer.
Dentures are an excellent restorative option for those patients missing all their teeth. They are the fastest and most economical way to replace teeth and transform the look and functionality of the mouth.
Not only are dentures available to replace all the patient’s teeth, but they also can be used as partial or implant-secured options for those who are missing only one or a few teeth. Dentures are an excellent choice for those patients who need an immediate tooth replacement solution.
Some patients will decide to be fitted for dentures to wear while they are awaiting other treatments, such as fixed bridges or implants. For some patients, however, dentures make a great long-term restorative dental treatment. They are relatively quick and inexpensive when compared with other solutions.
Dentures, unlike implants or bridges, are not permanent. Patients must remove, clean them, and keep them in water overnight and when they take them out for any other extended period of time. Dentures are not effective in treating bone loss in the jaw.
To make a set of dentures, the dentist will take an impression of patient’s bite and have the dentures custom-fitted to the mouth. Once fitted, dentures are held in place with a special type of dental adhesive, but most patients can keep them in place with their tongue and natural suction as well.
Dentures are usually made of acrylics and ceramics and, with proper care, have an average lifespan of 5 to 10 years.
Dental implants, the closest thing to your natural teeth, are a reliable form of tooth replacement. An implant will replicate the look, feel, and functionality of a natural tooth. However, dental implants are the most invasive restorative dental treatment option, requiring surgery, and a relatively long recovery time.
It is possible to get a full mouth of dental implants if the patient is missing the vast majority of his or her teeth. Dental implants can also be used if the patient is missing one or two teeth. However, dental implants can be effectively combined with other restorative treatments such as bridges and dentures creating implant-supported dentures and implant-retained bridges.
If teeth have been missing for a long time, the patient may require bone grafting, or braces before getting a dental implant. Braces may be needed to move teeth back into position, to make room for the implant, if neighboring teeth have shifted out of place.
Bone grafting is sometimes needed if bone loss has occurred in the area of the missing teeth. In some cases, the jaw bone might be too thin or small in some areas and require bone grafting before the area is strong an dense enough to support the implant.
Normally made from titanium, dental implants are placed within the jaw to act as the root and support structure. A dental crown is placed atop the implant, attached by a screw. Together they create the appearance and functionality of a natural tooth.
Dental implants can last 15 to 20 years.
You deserve to be able to do all the things you want – eat, smile and speak with confidence. And our dental team is committed to helping you by offering the best possible restorative dental treatments to give you back your beautiful smile and the full function of your teeth.
If you have damaged teeth from decay, infection, injury or illness, know that it doesn’t have to last. Restorative dentistry is here for you and it can fix just about any dental problem you might have. We will find the perfect treatment plan for your unique situation.