Tooth reconstruction is part of the field known as “reconstructive dentistry”. Reconstructive dentistry encompasses all of the procedures dealing with repairing or replacing tissue, bones or teeth in a person’s mouth. Common tooth reconstruction procedures include placing dental crowns or bridges, restoring dental implants, onlays and inlays, replacing metal fillings and, in severe cases, full mouth reconstruction. Mouth reconstruction is not simply a series of individual crowns but a complex treatment involving the muscles, teeth, gums, and sometimes the bone.
Placing Dental Crowns
Dental crowns are materials placed over a decayed, chipped or damaged tooth for protection. Common crown materials include gold, ceramic and porcelain. Often referred to as “caps”, these devices fit over the damaged tooth and can be shaded to offer a uniformity of appearance.
Placing Dental Bridges
Dental bridges are devices worn to fill the space between missing teeth. Bridges normally consist of dental crowns used on two healthy teeth adjacent to a gap area; these crowns serve as “anchors” for a prosthetic tooth that is fitted into the existing gap. The false tooth is normally made of gold, ceramic or porcelain. In addition to enhancing the appearance of a person’s smile, dental bridges can also improve a person’s bite. Removable dental appliances are not called bridges by dentists.
Restoring Dental Implants
Dental implants are prosthetic roots of teeth anchored by a titanium screw that connects directly to the patient’s jaw bone. These are then restored by crowns. These are the strongest, most durable form of prosthetic tooth. Dental implants take several months to create because the titanium screw needs to fuse with a patient’s jaw bone. Temporary dentures or flippers can be used during the interim period, and patients will often be restricted to a soft food diet. Once complete, an implant acts and feels almost exactly like an actual tooth.
Onlays and Inlays
Onlays and inlays are the tooth reconstruction procedures most commonly used to repair cracked or fractured teeth that don’t require a crown, or to fix mild to moderate decay.
Dental onlays are a hybrid of the principles behind both dental crowns and fillings. Onlays are used when a tooth is too damaged to support a filling, but not damaged enough to necessitate a crown. Using an onlay instead of a crown allows the patient to preserve greater tooth structure without suffering the risks of weakening that structure through a filling.
Dental inlays are used to fill damaged cracks or spaces within a tooth. Often made of gold or porcelain, these materials are designed to resemble the color, texture and appearance of your natural teeth.
Replacing Metal Fillings
Dental inlays are commonly used to replace old metal fillings that give patients a discolored appearance in their smiles. Because of their porcelain material, dental inlays give patients a more natural look. Metal fillings do not need to be replaced for any reason other than decay or esthetics.
Full Mouth Reconstruction
In extreme cases, or patients who have suffered severe trauma from an accident, full mouth reconstruction may be required. These procedures are extremely complex, often require several different specialists and are tailor-made to each individual’s specifications. In many instances, full mouth reconstruction will consist of an assortment of the tooth reconstruction procedures discussed above.
Reconstructive dentistry is the primary way to protect damaged teeth, replace missing teeth and reverse tissue or bone loss in the mouth. There are many different styles of procedure, but early action is always the best route for a healthier mouth, better looking smile and lower overall costs. “Reconstructive” dentists are not specialists. Prosthodontists are reconstructive dentistry specialists.