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Thanks in large part to advances in technology and increased fluoridation of our water supply, the state of oral health is better than ever before. Nevertheless, dental disease and breakage is a fact of life and sometimes repairs need to be made. Luckily, teeth restoration is safer and less painful than ever before as well, and patients have a plethora of options available to them on their path to a healthy smile.
It is the primary responsibility of the dental professional to inform and educate the patient on his or her treatment options, with special attention to efficacy and comfort. Here are just some of the conditions that might require dental treatment:
Amalgam is a mixture of mercury, silver, tin, and copper, and it is used to repair teeth that show signs of decay or fractures. Sometimes referred to as “silver fillings,” amalgam has been used for over 150 years and is one of the easiest and most cost effective solutions to treating cavities. Mercury is extremely toxic and may be released into the body which can pose health risks. Mercury evaporates at room temperature, and if inhaled, the vapor can pass into the bloodstream through the lungs.
Although they are quite durable and can function for many years, amalgam fillings will need to be replaced after enough time has passed, increasing the risk of exposure.
Those who wish to avoid unattractive silver fillings or prefer to avoid being exposed to mercury can opt for a composite filling, also known as a “tooth-colored filling.” Composite fillings are made from a mixture of plastic and glass, and they are used for much the same reason as amalgam fillings.
The most obvious benefit of composite fillings is their color. Unlike amalgam fillings, which are an unsightly silver color, composite fillings are tooth-colored and blend in nicely once applied. For this reason, amalgam fillings are most commonly used for the rear teeth and composite fillings are used for front teeth.
Put simply, the purpose of a root canal is to save a tooth. This is achieved by removing the nerve and pulp of the tooth, cleaning its inside of any bacteria and decay, and sealing the canals and pulp chambers to prevent re-entry of bacteria.
While undergoing a root canal may sound daunting, the alternatives are considerably worse. Doing nothing will allow the tooth decay to progress beyond the point of repair, and pulling the tooth altogether will result in compensation and misalignment of the surrounding areas. Cleaning the tooth of decay and returning it back to its place is the most effective way to prevent losing high-risk teeth.
In cases where a tooth is fractured, has a cracked filling, or is decayed to a large degree, simply filling the problem area with amalgam or composite is no longer an option. In these cases, the dentist will need to physically remove a small part of the patient’s tooth and replace it with an exact replica. This restoration is called an inlay or an onlay, depending on the size and coverage of the restoration.
In order to create this restoration, the dentist will need to create impressions of the patient’s teeth using a mold. This mold is then used to create a gold or porcelain restoration that will precisely fit the patient’s tooth and bite.
Porcelain inlays and onlays are used as intermediary solutions to defective fillings and tooth decay; they are more invasive than a simple filling but less invasive than placing a crown.
Inlays and onlays are made and applied the same way. The difference between them lies in the damaged area that the restorations are meant to repair. Inlays are placed within the cusps of teeth, while onlays are larger, repairing damage to one or more cusps. For this reason, onlays are often called partial crowns due to the size of coverage they provide.
When all of the cusps of a tooth are damaged or show signs of decay, a porcelain crown (or cap) may be required to replace the compromised tooth structure. A crown, usually made of porcelain, is a tooth-shaped cap that is placed over a tooth. This will aid the tooth in strength, size, shape and appearance. Porcelain crowns are tooth-colored and can function well for many years.
Like inlays and onlays, placing porcelain crowns requires two separate appointments. In the first appointment, the dentist will make precise impressions of your teeth using a mold. This mold will be used to make the actual crown as well as a temporary crown that the patient will use for about two weeks until the real crown is made in a lab.
Also known as “false teeth,” dentures are prosthetic appliances used to replace missing teeth and tissue. They appear like normal teeth and can help restore your smile if you’re missing some or all of your teeth, not to mention improved mastication and digestion.
The two main kinds of dentures are complete and partial dentures. As the names suggest, complete dentures are utilized when all the teeth are missing, and partial dentures fill in the space created by missing teeth and restricts movement of remaining teeth.
The purpose of dental bridges are exactly what they sound like: to bridge the gap between a missing tooth (or teeth). Dental bridges are composed of a false tooth/teeth (which replaces the missing tooth) surrounded by two or more crowns (which go over anchoring teeth that have been recontoured). False teeth (called pontics) are most commonly made of porcelain due to its similarity in color to natural teeth.
While dental bridges are meant to function for a number of years, they will endure normal wear and tear and may eventually need to be replaced or re-attached.
During the first visit, surrounding teeth (called abutment teeth) are recontoured by removing some of the enamel to make room for the crowns that will be placed on top. The next step is to make precise impressions of the patient’s teeth. Performed in a lab, these impressions will serve as the model for all components of the bridge. Finally, your dentist will provide a temporary bridge that will serve to protect exposed gums and teeth.
During the second visit, the temporary bridge is removed and the porcelain bridge is put in its place.
Veneers are extremely thin, tooth-colored porcelain “shells” that cover the front side of your teeth for an instantly beautiful smile. Best of all, there is absolutely no pain to the procedure.
Dental implants are a great option for replacing missing teeth, improving chewing ability, eliminating bridges, and replacing dentures.
Several implants may provide a base for a series of artificial teeth known as a fixed bridge. Implants can even be used to secure a full set of removable dentures for people who have no remaining natural teeth.
Dental implants are medical-grade titanium roots for replacement teeth that have been gaining popularity over the past 40 years. If given enough time, these implants actually start to blend in with your jaw on a cellular level. This creates a permanent, sturdy solution to missing teeth unavailable to patients with dentures. They allow the patient to eat, speak, and smile confidently for many years.