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Restorative dentistry is a branch of dentistry that focuses on replacing damaged or missing teeth. More specifically, these dentists primarily remove and repair cavities and provide treatment for other oral conditions. They also specialize in treating patients who need dental repairs due to trauma or injuries.
This branch of dentistry also incorporates treatments from other dental fields, including endodontics, prosthodontics, and periodontics. This is because many patients require multifaceted care, which means they may require treatment from more than one specialist.
Restorative dentists treat patients at every stage of life, including children, teens, adults, and seniors. Although, adults and older people seek restorative treatment most often.
The goal of restorative dentistry is to save teeth and also restore the natural look, shape, and feel of natural teeth by:
Restorative dental materials are the foundation of tooth structure replacement. In particular, they fabricate cavity fillings, crowns, implants, dentures, and other restorations. For example, common materials include:
Cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry use some of the same materials and procedure codes. However, if treatment is needed because of a disease, it is considered restorative. Even if the end result is an improved appearance, it is still a restorative procedure.
Additionally, cosmetic (esthetic) dental procedures improve a patient’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. Rather, they are solemnly used to improve appearance.
Restorative solutions include bridges, dentures, fillings, crowns, inlays, onlays, implants, and bonding:
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 the normal size, shape, and function of a tooth.
There are several factors a dentist will consider before determining a patient's candidacy for a dental crown. These factors include, but are not limited to, function and location of the tooth, gum tissue positioning, and the color of surrounding teeth.
Dentures are either removable or fixed sets of prosthetic teeth that replace multiple missing teeth. When someone loses all of their teeth, usually from advanced dental decay or gum disease, custom dentures are a standard solution.
Depending on the patient, there are five different types of dentures to choose from. For example, popular types of prosthetic teeth include complete dentures, fixed partial dentures, removable partial dentures, implant-retained dentures, and immediate dentures.
After an extraction or tooth loss, a dental implant is commonly used to replace the permanent tooth. During the procedure, a dental specialist surgically places an implant (artificial tooth root) into the patient's jawbone. The implant also mirrors the shape of a screw and bonds with the natural bone. Oral surgeons and periodontists perform implant procedures.
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. Bridges are the result of extreme dental decay, missing teeth, or extractions.
Dental bridges are more affordable than implants and the recovery time is faster, but they do not look as natural. They are also more prone to fracture and decay than implants.
Bonding procedures incorporate composite resins (tooth-colored fillings made of glass and plastic). In essence, dental bonds can fill cavities, repair cracked or chipped teeth, and cover the surfaces of discolored teeth. They also fill small gaps between teeth, which can be useful for those with diastema.
Depending on needs, there are three different dental bonding treatments available, including indirect dental bonding, composite veneer bonding, and composite bonding.
Inlays and onlays are partial tooth-colored or gold restorations that restore smaller areas of missing or damaged tooth structure. They are slightly less invasive than crowns and consist of indirect restorative materials. In other words, dental lab technicians make the repairs outside of the mouth.
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Sakaguchi, Ronald L., et al. Craigs Restorative Dental Materials. Elsevier, 2019.