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Updated on February 2, 2023
5 min read

Restorative Dentistry: Types of Procedures & Materials

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What is Restorative Dentistry?

Restorative dentistry is a branch of dentistry that focuses on replacing damaged or missing teeth. This is done to improve overall dental health and restore chewing function.

Restorative dental procedures can save teeth and restore their natural look, shape, and feel by:

This branch of dentistry incorporates treatments from other dental fields, including endodontics, prosthodontics, and periodontics. Many people need multifaceted care, which may require treatment from more than one specialist.

Who Needs Restorative Dentistry?

Most general dentists remove and repair cavities and provide treatment for other oral conditions. They can also treat people with:

  • Damaged or injured teeth
  • Missing teeth

General dentists treat patients at every stage of life, including children, teens, adults, and seniors. However, adults and older people seek restorative treatment most often.

Types of Restorative Dental Procedures 

Restorative solutions include: 

  • Bridges
  • Dentures
  • Fillings
  • Crowns
  • Inlays and onlays
  • Implants
  • Bonding

Dental Crowns

Dental crowns are tooth-colored or metal restorations. In short, they replace substantial missing tooth structure caused by root canals, dental decay, or fractures. 

Crowns also serve as full-coverage “caps” that restore a tooth's normal size, shape, and function. There are several factors a dentist will consider before determining someone's candidacy for a dental crown. 

These factors include but are not limited to: 

  • The function of the tooth
  • The location of the tooth 
  • Gum tissue positioning
  • The color of the surrounding teeth
  • Overall dental and general health


Dentures are removable or fixed prosthetic teeth that replace multiple missing teeth. Custom complete dentures are a standard solution when someone loses all of their teeth, usually from advanced dental decay or gum disease.

complete set of dentures on white background

Depending on the person, there are five different types of dentures to choose from. These include: 

  • Complete dentures
  • Fixed partial dentures
  • Removable partial dentures
  • Implant-retained dentures
  • Immediate dentures

Dental Fillings 

Dental fillings are most commonly used to restore teeth with minor to moderate cavities. They can also repair cracked, broken, or worn teeth.

Fillings are made from various materials, including:

  • Gold
  • Porcelain
  • Silver amalgam
  • Tooth-colored plastic and glass materials

The cost of a dental filling depends on the type and the dentist’s location. Because fillings are used to treat cavities or trauma-related dental conditions, part or most of the procedure is covered by dental insurance.

Dental Implants

image 8

After an extraction or tooth loss, a dental implant is commonly used to replace the permanent tooth. A dentist or specialist surgically places an implant (artificial tooth root) into the jawbone. 

An implant also mirrors the shape of a screw and integrates with the natural bone. Oral surgeons and periodontists often perform surgeries related to implants. 

Dental Bridges

image 6

Dental bridges are full-coverage restorations that cover three or more teeth. However, they only replace one or more teeth, while two real teeth “bridge the gap” on both sides of the missing tooth/teeth. 

Dental bridges are commonly for: 

  • Congenitally missing teeth
  • Teeth that have been extracted

Dental bridges are more affordable than implants, and the recovery time is faster. However, they don’t look as natural. They are also more prone to fracture and decay than implants.

Dental Bonding

Bonding procedures incorporate composite resins (tooth-colored fillings made of glass and plastic). Dental bonding is typically used to:

  • Fill cavities
  • Repair cracked or chipped teeth
  • Cover discolored teeth 
  • Fill small gaps between teeth

Depending on needs, three different dental bonding treatments are available. These include indirect dental bonding, composite veneer bonding, and composite bonding. Dental bonding can also be useful for people with diastemas.

Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays are partial tooth-colored or gold restorations that restore smaller areas of missing or damaged tooth structure.

image 5
3d render of teeth with dental onlay filling over white background

Inlays and onlays are slightly less invasive than crowns and consist of indirect restorative materials. In other words, dental lab technicians make the restorations outside the mouth.

What is The Recovery Time of Restorative Dentistry?

The recovery time for restorative dentistry depends on the type of procedure and the number of teeth that need treatment. Some procedures won’t take more than a few days. Some procedures may even have little to no recovery time.

However, some procedures, like dental implants, may require more recovery time. Your dentist can tell you what kind of recovery timeline to expect in your situation

Restorative Dental Materials

Various restorative dental materials can be used to make fillings, crowns, implants, dentures, and other restorations.

image 7

Common materials include:

  • Metals
  • Amalgam Alloys
  • Polymers
  • Ceramics
  • Composites
  • Glass Ionomers
  • Denture Base Resins
  • Noble and Base Metals

What are the Risks of Restorative Dentistry?

The most common risk is sensitivity and general discomfort after the procedure. It is very rare to get an infection or allergic reaction to the metals used.

Dental restorations have very few risks. However, there are a few instances that can cause potential problems.

Dental crowns can get loose or chipped, and fillings can crack. It’s also possible for the procedure to fail and leave gaps in the filling, which can accumulate food debris and plaque. This can lead to tooth decay.

Restorative vs. Cosmetic Dentistry

Cosmetic and restorative dentistry use some of the same materials and procedure codes. However, it is considered restorative if a disease requires treatment. Even if the result improves appearance, it is still a restorative procedure.

Additionally, cosmetic (esthetic) dental procedures can help improve a person’s smile and self-image.

Examples of esthetic treatments include veneers and teeth whitening. These treatments are considered cosmetic because they are elective and not medically necessary. Instead, they are solely used to improve appearance.


Restorative dentistry focuses on repairing damaged or missing teeth. It is used to improve dental health and restore chewing functions.

These dental procedures aim to save teeth and restore their natural look, shape, and feel. There are different types of procedures for restorative dentistry, including: 

  • Bridges
  • Dentures
  • Fillings
  • Crowns
  • Inlays and onlays
  • Implants
  • Bonding

Restorative dentistry also uses different types of material to restore teeth. These dental materials are used as the foundation of tooth structure replacement.

Last updated on February 2, 2023
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 2, 2023
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Blue Ocean Publishing Group.The Million Dollar Smile, Changing Lives with Cosmetic Dentistry.” 2018.
  2. Dofka, C. “Dental Terminology.” Delmar, Cengage Learning, 2013.
  4. Rinzler, C.” The Encyclopedia of Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery.” Facts On File, 2009.
  5. Sakaguchi, et al. “Restorative Dental Materials.” Elsevier, 2019.
  6. Butterworth, et al. “Restorative dentistry and oral rehabilitation: United Kingdom National Multidisciplinary Guidelines.” The Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 2016.
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