And Other Questions About Restorative Dentistry
One of the biggest focuses of modern dentistry is the prevention of oral diseases and the preservation of every one of your beautiful, natural teeth.
But what about those teeth that are too far gone for a filling? What restorative procedures and outcomes are available to those who have lost, or are about to lose, a tooth? Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about restorative dentistry.
How strong are dental implants compared to teeth?
Dental implants consist of three parts: a post with screw-like threading, an abutment which screws into the post, and a crown—the tooth-shaped, ceramic piece that sits on top of the abutment.
The post is the first step of the implant process. It is surgically placed within the jawbone where the root of the tooth once resided. This post, once the jawbone has healed around it, is what gives the implant a stronger base than even a natural tooth. Just as importantly, however, the post takes on the role of preserving the health of your jawbone and, in turn, the stability of all your other natural teeth still residing there.
Why do implants require so many appointments?
The dental implant process is different for everyone. One of the most intensive restorative procedures, implants require accessing the jawbone to surgically place the post. The healing process for this step alone is at least three months as the bone itself needs to heal and accept the surgical post, which is made from biocompatible materials, as a part of your body.
Once the bone is completely healed you’ll come in for the second step of the process—placing the abutment within the screw of the post. Once placed, the dentist will then take an impression of your bite to begin the process of fabricating a crown. Your dentist will craft a crown that is the right size, shape, and color to fit within and match the rest of your smile.
Once your custom crown has been fabricated, you’ll return for your final appointment to have it placed on top of the abutment and any adjustments made to ensure it is a perfect, comfortable fit.
Why do dental implants cost so much?
Dental implants are certainly an investment—and there are several factors that contribute to the dental implant procedure being a costly one. However, these same factors also make the procedure a wise choice. Unlike other restorative options, dental implants are able to help preserve your overall oral health after the loss of a tooth and prevent further complications from occurring years down the line.
Receiving a dental implant draws on your dentist’s skills, time, resources, advanced education, and up-to-date technology to create a smooth, comfortable experience and virtually perfect end product. From the biocompatible titanium alloy surgical post to the artfully fabricated custom crown, every step of the process has been carefully refined to provide you the best experience and results possible.
What is the difference between fillings, inlays, onlays, and dental crowns?
A filling involves treating teeth that have developed cavities. All areas that have become affected by decay are removed while preserving as much of the healthy tooth surface as possible. The area is then cleaned and filled in to protect the tooth from further decay taking hold and spreading.
Inlays and onlays are considered an “indirect tooth restoration.” They are dental prosthetics made in a laboratory and then applied to the natural tooth. Whereas an inlay fits into a hole in the tooth left by decay, an onlay, often called a “partial crown,” replaces one or more of the cusps of the tooth. Both are restorative options for teeth that are too badly damaged for a filling to restore but not damaged enough to require a crown.
Crowns, also commonly called caps, sit on top of a tooth that has become severely decayed or damaged. Crowns are used to protect as much of a natural tooth that is left while preserving the spacing and alignment of the teeth around it. The original tooth is either filed down into a post or restored via filling to be substantial enough to act as a post.
I had a tooth removed years ago. What are my tooth replacement options now?
Whether a denture, bridge, or implant is a replacement option for you very much depends on the state of your oral health.
If you are missing several teeth, for example, some factors that will be taken into consideration when creating your treatment plan are: how many teeth are missing, how much bone density has been lost, how healthy are the surrounding teeth, and how healthy is the gum tissue.
Those with a healthy jaw and gums will be a great candidate for dental implants. An ideal restorative procedure, implants are commonly used when just one or two teeth are missing. That said, however, dental implants can also act as an abutment for a bridge.
A bridge is a dental prosthetic that replaces several teeth. It will either sit on an abutment created from the surrounding natural teeth or from surgically placed dental implants.
Dentures and partial dentures are another type of dental prosthetic that can replace many teeth. Unlike implants, there is no surgical placement necessary. And natural teeth will not need to be filed to a post as they are to support bridges. Dentures are adhered to the gums each day and removed to be cleaned each night. They are an option for those who have gums or a jaw that are not healthy enough to properly support other replacement options.
Do I have to replace a lost or pulled tooth?
Our teeth do more than just help us grind up and chew food. Deep below the gums, where we can’t see, as your teeth are chewing and chomping, the roots of your teeth are stimulating the jawbone. This stimulation is lost when a tooth is lost, and it’s a very important process in maintaining the density and strength of your jawbone.
Continuous stimulation sends a signal to your body that your jawbone is being used effectively. And to continue doing its job effectively, your body needs to keep replenishing the cells that maintain its density and strength.
Without stimulation, your body no longer receives these signals and stops producing as many of those critical cells. As a result, over time the density and size of your jaw bone will begin to decrease leading to loose teeth, gum disease, and even a collapse in your facial structure.
Back up above the gumline, teeth will begin to shift as they no longer have the support of that missing tooth keeping them in place. And as teeth shift, your bite will no longer fit together comfortably leading to pain as well as difficulty eating and speaking.
Replacing a tooth as soon as possible helps to maintain optimal overall oral health and functionality.
Isn’t it cheaper to pull all my teeth to avoid future problems?
While pulling all of your teeth to avoid future complications and costs seems like it may be a financially judicious decision to make, a lack of teeth altogether comes with its own host of health issues.
As we learned about the importance of replacing a missing tooth, the roots of your teeth are maintaining the density, strength, and shape of your jawbone. Without the roots of your teeth to stimulate your jawbone, its size will slowly decrease over time leading to a sunken face.
Dentures are a great restorative option for some people. However, they shouldn’t be the first choice when it comes to restoration of an overall healthy mouth. Dentures can only restore 10% of dental function. Compare that to dental implants which restore an incredible 90% of functionality.
As the jawbone shrinks over time from a lack of stimulation, it creates problems for the comfortable fit of dentures. As the bone continues shrinking, denture sets become loose, ill-fitting, dysfunctional, and even painful. Patients with dentures typically need to have a new set made every three to five years to maintain optimal function and fit their changing jaw structure.
Whenever possible, it is preferable to restore as much of a natural tooth as possible—even if just the root of the tooth. We are fortunate to live in a time where dentistry is so advanced and has many options available to maintain, preserve and restore natural teeth to their optimal health.