Research has shown that almost everybody has a 95% chance of experiencing some tooth decay. When tooth decay does occur, it is highly important to remove it, clean and repair the tooth with some type of restoration. In addition, lost or missing teeth need to be replaced to protect your overall oral health.
Composite fillings are strong, but may not be as hard wearing as amalgam fillings. Composite fillings are tooth-coloured and are made from powdered glass quartz, silica or other ceramic particles added to a resin base. After the tooth is prepared, the filling is bonded onto the area and a light-shone onto it to set it. The dentist will choose a shade to match your existing teeth, although over time staining can happen.
Inlays and onlay
An inlay is small and within the biting surface of the tooth. An onlay can cover a larger area of the tooth. Gold is the most long-lasting and hard wearing filling material and will last for many years. An advantage of gold is that it does not tarnish and has great strength. One of the differences between gold and other filling materials is that the gold filling is made in a laboratory. Your dentist will usually take an impression of the prepared cavity and send it to the laboratory for the technician to make the inlay or onlay. In the meantime, a temporary filling will be placed in the cavity. After the gold inlay or onlay has been made, your dentist will fix it in place with dental cement. This type of filling is more expensive.
A crown is an artificial restoration that fits over the remaining part of a prepared tooth, making it strong and giving it the shape of a natural tooth. A crown is sometimes known as a ‘cap’. Crowns are an ideal restoration for teeth that have been broken, or have been weakened by decay or a very large filling. A crown could be used for a number of other reasons, for instance:
- You may have discoloured fillings and would like to improve the appearance of the tooth
- You may have had a root filling which will need a crown to protect it
- It may help hold a bridge or denture firmly in place.
In root-filled teeth, it may be necessary to insert a post before placing a crown. A post provides support and helps the crown stay in place. The weakened crown of the tooth may be shortened to gum level. A post can be made of prefabricated stainless steel which the dentist can fit directly into the root canal, or a custom-made post can be constructed by the dental technician to accurately fit the shape of the prepared root canal. The post is placed into the root canal and cemented in position, ready for the crown to be attached.
Bridges are only possible if you have strong enough teeth with good bone support. Your dentist will help you decide which is the best way of replacing missing teeth. Bridges are usually made of porcelain bonded to precious metal. Sometimes, there are other non-precious metals used in the base for strength. There are also new bridges made entirely of a special type of strong porcelain.