Nothing will ever perfectly replace your natural, healthy teeth. However, due to issues such as decay, cracks / fractures, dental abscesses, periodontal disease and other factors, it’s sometimes necessary to restore areas of damaged teeth (or replace teeth altogether) with alternative materials. At Natural Smiles Dental Care, we aim to ensure that the dental materials placed in our patient’s teeth and mouths for treatment will be safe for the whole body. This approach is known as biocompatibility of dental materials.
Composite (White) Fillings
Composite (white) fillings are the most common type of dental restoration, and are made out of a strong composite resin that is matched to the surrounding tooth color. White fillings are often preferable over silver (mercury) amalgam fillings because:
At our office, we are very careful to select BPA free and bis-GMA free composite and bonding agents, in order to keep the dental materials as biocompatible as possible.
Inlays, Onlays, & Crowns
A porcelain inlay or onlay is used when the cavity is too big for a white composite filling but isn’t so big that a crown is required. An inlay fits within the cusp tips of the tooth, whereas onlays will overlay one or more cusps in order to protect and strengthen the tooth.
A crown may be recommended when a white composite filling is not enough to repair extensive decay, replace large existing fillings, repair a broken, brittle or cracked tooth, or if a tooth is especially sensitive. The most common type of crown that we see is called a PFM (porcelain-fused-to-metal) and this type of crown has a metal substructure underneath a porcelain coating. Oftentimes this metal layer contains nickel, and unfortunately, it is estimated that 20% of the population has a nickel allergy. Also with the presence of more than one metal in the mouth, a phenomenon can occur called “oral galvanism,” which literally means that your mouth is acting like a small car battery or a miniature electrical generator. At our office, we therefore recommend all-porcelain crowns in almost every case. Our doctors are passionate about preserving as much tooth preparation as possible, and adhere to the principles of biomimetic dentistry, which advocates for returning the tooth to its original strength, function, and esthetics.
Porcelain veneers are one of the best, most esthetic means of creating a more beautiful smile. These ultra-thin (1mm or less) “facings” are bonded to the surfaces of your teeth, and are an immediate way to straighten, whiten, close spaces, or repair teeth.
All teeth being prepared for veneers are “reduced” slightly so that the veneers won’t look or feel thicker than your teeth have always felt. Veneers are by no means the only alternative esthetic enhancement, but they give a truly remarkable smile transformation.
Tooth replacement options
When a tooth has been extracted or is missing, the three main options for tooth replacement are implants, bridges, and partial dentures.
An implant is made from either titanium or porcelain, and is surgically placed into the bone. After a few months of healing time, a permanent crown is placed on top of the implant. The surgery is done at another clinic, and the patient then returns to our office for the permanent crown.
A bridge is a useful option if there are teeth on either side of the extracted tooth. The adjacent teeth are prepared for crowns, and the bridge is cemented in permanently, with the replacement tooth connected to the crowns on either side. The bridge can be made entirely of porcelain, and looks very esthetically pleasing, without the time and expense of a surgery.
A partial denture is a removable appliance that relies on the existing teeth for retention. It is the least invasive and least expensive option, but it is removable and thus must be removed and cleaned everyday during brushing and flossing. Partials are now made entirely of acrylic, and they hook onto the remaining teeth in the arch.
At our office, we strongly recommend dental materials testing using our EAV BioScan device in order to choose the most biocompatible restoration materials for our patients.