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Restorative dentistry is a multi-faceted specialty of care that studies diseases of the oral cavity, the teeth and their supporting structures and treats them. For patients with extensive dental problems, restorative dentistry can provide a way to improve speaking and chewing ability, while your appearance and self-confidence.
Restorative care includes:
- Fillings / Cavity as a result of tooth decay
- Bridges for missing one or more teeth
- Complete and partial dentures
- Endodontic therapy
- Dental implants
Restorative fillings are used to fill cavities that have formed, usually as a result of decay or wear-and-tear. The decayed and weakened parts of the tooth are removed using small drills and the cavity is cleaned. If the cavity has spread to the side wall of your tooth, a band will be placed around the tooth with a small wedge holding it in place. This ensures that the filling hardens into the correct shape.
Tooth-coloured fillings matching the colour of your teeth is used to make them natural-looking filling and a blue light is used to make it set within a few seconds.
Both crowns and most bridges are fixed prosthetic devices. Unlike removable devices such as dentures, which you can take out and clean daily, crowns and bridges are cemented onto existing teeth or implants, and can only be removed by a dentist.
A crown is used to entirely cover or "cap" a damaged tooth. Besides strengthening a damaged tooth, a crown can be used to improve its appearance, shape or alignment. A crown can also be placed on top of an implant to provide a tooth-like shape and structure.
A bridge may be recommended if you're missing one or more teeth. Gaps left by missing teeth eventually cause the remaining teeth to rotate or shift into the empty spaces, resulting in a bad bite.
The imbalance caused by missing teeth can also lead to gum disease and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
Bridges span the space where the teeth are missing. They are cemented to the natural teeth or implants surrounding the empty space. These teeth, called abutments, serve as anchors for the bridge. A replacement tooth, called a pontic, is attached to the crowns that cover the abutments. As with crowns, you have a choice of materials for bridges. Your dentist can help you decide which to use, based on the location of the missing tooth (or teeth), its function, aesthetic considerations and cost. Porcelain or ceramic bridges can be matched to the colour of your natural teeth.
Complete dentures cover your entire jaw, either upper or lower. Some people call them "plates" because they directly sit on the gum that covers the bone.
Complete dentures are custom made for you. The process involves multiple appointments, usually about five. The dentist first takes impressions of your mouth. At later visits, you and the dentist select the size, shape and color of the artificial teeth.
Learning to chew food with complete dentures takes patience and practice. You might have to cut your food into smaller pieces than you did in the past when you had your natural teeth. On occasion, one or more of your natural teeth are kept when a denture is made. These teeth usually have root canal treatment and are shortened to fit under the denture. This type of denture is known as an over-denture.
An over-denture has several advantages:
- Your natural teeth help preserve bone.
- Your natural teeth bear some of the chewing pressure. This reduces pressure on other areas of the jaw.
- Your remaining teeth make the denture more stable and less likely to shift in your mouth.
- You feel a better sense of where your jaw is in space and the pressure you are placing on the denture if you have not lost all of your teeth.
- You may find it easier to accept wearing dentures if some of the natural teeth are present.
Lower dentures tend to be more difficult to keep in your mouth than upper dentures. Therefore, an over-denture can be particularly helpful for the lower jaw. However, it is an option for almost anyone who has a few teeth remaining.
Removable partial dentures consist of a metal framework with plastic teeth and gum areas. The framework includes metal clasps or other attachments that hold the denture in place. However, partial dentures are removed easily for cleaning.
Endodontic therapy is a sequence of treatments for the pulp of a tooth to eliminate infection and protect the decontaminated tooth from future microbial invasion. It is commonly referred to as a root canal.
When a tooth has cracked or is threatened by decay it is likely to be infected. To cure the infection and save the tooth, the dentist drills into the tooth's pulp chamber and removes the infected pulp by scraping it out of the root canals.
Once this is done, the dentist fills the cavity and seals up the opening. This procedure is known as endodontic / root canal therapy.
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root used to support restorations that resemble a tooth or group of teeth. It can be used to support a number of dental prostheses, including crowns, implant-supported bridges or dentures.
The placement of dental implants is a three-part process that can take several months. The dentist first places the implant into the jaw, with the top of the implant slightly above the top of the bone. A screw is inserted into the implant to prevent gum tissue and other debris from entering. The gum is then secured over the implant where it will remain covered for approximately three to six months while the implant fuses with the bone.
In the second step, the implant is uncovered and the dentist attaches a post, also called an abutment, to the implant. The gum tissue is allowed to heal. Once healed, the post serves as the foundation for the new tooth.
In the third and final step, the dentist makes a custom artificial tooth, called a dental crown, based on a size, shape, color and fit that will blend with your other teeth. Once completed, the crown is attached to the implant post and you're dental implants are in place.