Chances are, you don’t have perfect, decay and disease-free teeth and gums. Most patients have at least one cavity and have had a bout or two with minor, reversible gum disease.
Maybe you’ve experienced bleeding gums, tooth sensitivity or lost teeth. If you went to the dentist, the dentist likely treated the condition to halt its progression or to eliminate the condition all together.
This treatment of a dental condition after it’s already begun is called restorative dentistry, which is often partially covered by dental insurance.
While preventative treatments are used to avoid a lot of pain, discomfort, embarrassment, excessive dental office trips, and forking over funds, sometimes things happen that are out of your control. Sometimes you don’t feel the pain and discomfort of a dental problem until it’s too late. Accidents and other things may also occur and necessitate some of these more serious measures.
You don’t have to feel embarrassed about it, though. Most of these procedures are very common, and chances are you’ve already experienced some of them yourself.
The goal of restorative dentistry is to protect and preserve the teeth. Here is a list of the most common procedures:
Fillings. This is a very common restorative dental procedure whereby the dentist will fill a hole in the outer surface of the tooth caused by plaque and tooth decay (cavities). The fillings can be gold, amalgam or composite resin. Resin fillings are the most expensive and least likely to be covered by insurance like amalgam fillings are. Amalgam fillings are most common because they are the least expensive.
Some patients (and dentists) prefer the composite resin fillings because of their appearance and their lack of mercury, which is in traditional amalgam fillings.
Crowns. This is simply a tooth-shaped and colored covering that is cemented over a tooth that is too badly damaged by decay. Crowns are also used on top of dental implants which replace missing teeth. They are often made offsite in a dental lab, resulting in the need for multiple dental office visits. Some dental offices, however, have the technology to make crowns onsite, giving patients new crowns in a single office visit.
Inlays and Onlays. These dental procedures are ideal for patients with chipped teeth or those whose teeth are too decayed for fillings, but not damaged enough for a crown.
Inlays are made of composite resin that is bonded to one cusp of the tooth (located on the chewing surface of the tooth). An onlay covers more than one cusp of the tooth and is sometimes called a partial crown.
Implants. Further, and possibly more serious, dental health issues can arise from missing teeth.
Implants are used to fill in these gaps and preserve the proper stability of a patient’s remaining teeth.
Implants are made of three components: the titanium rod (implant), the abutment and the crown. The titanium implant is surgically inserted into the patient’s jaw where the missing tooth formerly was. The abutment is then placed on top of the implant. Finally, a tooth-shaped crown is placed on top of the abutment.
Implants restore a patient’s smile as well as preserve the strength of the jawbone and proper alignment of surrounding teeth.
Dentures. Some patients, many of which who are older, have lost all or most of their teeth due to a life time of wear and tear. A toothless mouth not only takes away from one’s smile and self-confidence, it can hinder one’s ability to eat and speak.
Patients in these circumstances would be best treated with dentures.
There are two common types of dentures: full and partial.
Dentures have come a long way thanks to modern dental technology. Some dentists now offer patients permanent dentures, called all-on-four dentures that use dental implants to anchor the implants into place in the mouth.
While fillings, crowns, implants, inlays and onlays and dentures are the most common restorative dental procedures, there are other procedures your dentist may recommend to preserve your teeth and smile.
It is important to schedule regular visits with your dentist and have your teeth examined when there’s any kind of pain or discomfort.