Your permanent teeth are designed to last for the rest of your life. But, sometimes, circumstances can keep your teeth from surviving as long as you do. There are a number of reasons why a tooth might be damaged, from tooth decay to gum disease and from an injury to biting down on something hard.
Although once upon a time, you might have simply had to live with a missing or otherwise damaged tooth, these days you have more options than ever when it comes to repairing or restoring the tooth. The option that is best for you depends on the extent of the damage and on how long you want the restoration to last.
When you think of ways to repair or restore damaged teeth, a filling might be the first thing that comes to mind. It’s certainly the most common dental restoration option. While fillings won’t restore or replace entire teeth, they are used to correct damage caused by tooth decay. If you have a cavity, for example, your dentist will most likely use a filling to correct it.
Fillings are available in a variety of options and materials. Silver amalgam fillings were once fairly common, as they are cheap, easy to apply and pretty durable. The drawback of silver fillings is that they are clearly visible on the tooth. Composite resin or porcelain fillings might not have the durability of silver amalgam fillings, but they are usually the same color as the tooth and much less noticeable.
Bonding is a quick option for restoring a chipped or broken tooth. The treatment involves applying a composite resin to the affected tooth, then shaping the resin until the issue with the tooth is corrected. A dentist can use bonding to reattach a piece of the tooth that has broken off or to fill in a chip or crack.
One advantage of bonding is that it is usually a one-and-done treatment. A patient only has to go in for treatment or correction once. There’s no need to wait for a replacement restoration to come in from the lab or for the patient to return for a follow-up.
While bonding or a filling might be sufficient to correct smaller issues on the teeth or to fix small areas of decay, a more extensive restoration is often needed when there is a considerable amount of decay. In some cases, a crown, which covers, or "caps," the top of the tooth might be what a patient needs when there is a lot of decay or when the tooth cracks.
A crown is made to fit perfectly in the patient’s mouth and is often colored to match the shade of a person’s teeth. For the most part, other people aren’t able to tell that someone has a crown, unless that person decides to share the news.
Although crowns are fairly durable and can last for many years, you do want to take care to protect yours. Avoid chomping down on hard objects, chewy foods or pieces of ice. If you’re a teeth grinder, talk to your dentist about wearing a night guard or finding other ways to relax your jaw.
Dentures are designed to replace missing teeth completely. Depending on how many teeth a person is missing, he or she can have a full set of dentures, a single denture, or a partial set. Although dentures are meant to replace the entire tooth, they are also designed to be removable, so they aren’t anchored to the gums by a root. Instead, they are often held in place by pastes or clips.
One major advantage of dentures is that they are often an affordable restoration option. But, they also have several drawbacks. Since they aren’t a permanent part of a person’s mouth, they can move around, cause wear and tear on the surrounding teeth, and are generally uncomfortable. There have also been instances of people accidentally swallowing their dentures, if they didn’t take the dentures out at night or if the dentures came loose while eating.
You might think of dental implants as dentures’ more sophisticated younger sibling. They are more expensive than dentures, but they also have a number of benefits. For one thing, an implant replaces the damaged or otherwise lost tooth root, meaning that is firmly positioned in a person’s bone and gums, then covered with a realistic looking crown. Since a person can’t remove the implant, there’s no risk of swallowing it. Implants are also much more comfortable than dentures and can be brushed and cared for like the natural teeth.
There are many reasons why you might need a replacement tooth or a restoration at some point in your lifetime. Knowing your options will allow you to make the best choice for your situation. In Miami, Dr. John Paul Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas specialize in dental implants. If you are dealing with a severely damaged or lost tooth, call (305) 447-1447 to schedule a consultation with the periodontists and implant dental specialists today.