What Restorative Dentistry Can Do for You
Restorative dentistry is a group of procedures intended to repair your teeth from damage that impacts their health and/or function. While the procedures will usually beautify your smile, the cosmetic aspect of treatment tends to be secondary, although still of great importance. Restorative dentistry is used to repair:
- Tooth decay (cavities)
- Chipped teeth
- Cracked teeth
- Infected teeth
- Worn teeth
- Eroded teeth
- Failing restorations
- Missing teeth
Usually, we have multiple options for addressing each of these problems, which gives you choice in how to address your concerns about the health, function, and beauty of your smile.
Here are some of the more common options for repairing each of these types of damage to your teeth.
Cavities are caused by oral bacteria living on your teeth. The bacteria eat sugar and other carbohydrates, then secrete acid. The acid eats away your tooth enamel, creating holes in your teeth. These holes are concentrated in specific locations, so they’re treated with fillings. For small cavities, we prefer composite tooth-colored fillings. For larger cavities, we prefer ceramic inlays and onlays. If a cavity gets large enough that the tooth has lost structural integrity, a dental crown might be the best choice.
A chip is when a small piece of a tooth breaks off. Usually, the chip only affects the outer layer of the tooth, called enamel. A chipped tooth is usually considered a cosmetic problem, but it can lead to sensitivity and may make your tooth vulnerable to future damage. We usually recommend dental bonding or porcelain veneers for chipped teeth. For large chips, a dental crown might be a better choice.
A cracked tooth can be a relatively minor injury, essentially a chip that didn’t come off. However, it can penetrate deep into the tooth, compromising its strength. Sometimes it penetrates into the interior part of the tooth, the pulp, which can lead to infection, or into the tooth root, which means the tooth might have to be removed. Minor cracks might not be treated immediately. Larger cracks could benefit from a dental crown that strengthens and protects the tooth. If the crack reaches the pulp, we might recommend root canal therapy before a crown. If the root is damaged, we will talk to you about tooth replacement options.
The interior of the tooth is the living part, called the pulp, which isn’t necessary after the tooth stops growing. It is this part of the tooth that is responsible for all your toothaches. So when bacteria invade this part of the tooth, it can cause excruciating pain. If your tooth is infected–or at risk of infection–we recommend root canal therapy. If the tooth is too badly damaged to survive the procedure, we might recommend extraction and replacement instead.
When you clench and grind your teeth, have an unbalanced bite, bite problems like TMJ, or chew non-foods, you can wear your teeth down significantly. Worn teeth look small and make you look older. They can also be painful, and are at risk for future problems, like an infected tooth, cracked teeth, and more. Depending on the severity of the wear, we might treat worn teeth with dental bonding, porcelain veneers, onlays, or dental crowns.
Tooth erosion occurs when acids in your mouth attack your teeth. Acids might be in your food and drink, or they could come from your stomach. Stomach acid comes up because of reflux or during purging behavior associated with some eating disorders like bulimia nervosa. While cavities are related to concentrated acid damage, tooth erosion results in more widespread damage and requires more general treatment. Dental crowns are great for restoring teeth and protecting them from future acid damage. However, if your teeth are too badly damaged, we might have to talk about tooth replacement options.
Dental restorations can be very long-lasting. Many will stay in place for decades when properly placed and cared for. However, they might fail because the tooth decays under them or trauma damages them. A failed restoration puts your tooth at risk and should be replaced as soon as possible. The new restoration should be at least as large as the one it’s replacing