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In dental materials, composite resins are just about the most exciting thing to come down the pike in a long while. Resins may well symbolize the value of long-term, persistent research. From humble beginnings in 1956, the search for an effective adhesive dental filling has culminated in resin materials - versatile, relatively strong, with cosmetic superiority. Quite a return from plastic mixed with glass beads and such.
What's amazing about filling a tooth with resin (vs. gold or silver amalgams) is the nature of the bond to the tooth. The enamel is first treated with a mild acid to create microscopic pores on the surface of the tooth. Once the resin is applied, a mechanical - not chemical - bond is formed. Sort of like dental velcro. Then the resin can be sculpted, tinted, and polished to look like the real thing.
So what do composite resins mean for cosmetic dentist patients? Let's count the ways.
The best bargain in cosmetic dentistry, and proven cavity fighters to boot, are pit and fissure sealants. Sealants are a composite resin painted on back teeth, where tooth decay typically occurs in children. One sealant session, with check-ups now and then, provides cavity prevention - indefinitely.
Dental bonding is an umbrella term for placing composite resin restorations, from tooth-colored inlays to reshaping chipped teeth. For the right candidate, bonding is a comfortable, quick alternative to dental crowns, and a real boon to simple cosmetic dental care procedures. Less of your healthy tooth is removed, so it's essentially a conservative tooth restoration procedure.
In adults, a receding gum can expose the roots of teeth, an uncomfortable situation at best. Along with other adhesives, we apply resins directly to the root surface to help prevent tooth decay, and make the teeth less sensitive to hot and cold.
Teeth straightening just became easier. We can use resins to bond braces directly to teeth, so heavy bands around teeth, in some cases, can be dispensed with. The new invisible braces, along with bonding, make adult orthodontics an appealing alternative to crooked teeth.
Well, not really. Composite resins may never replace old standby filling materials, especially on back teeth. But resins have taken their rightful place in cosmetic dentistry, complimenting metal amalgams, and they can only get better.
We've come a long way from the "yank 'em" philosophy of early dentistry, before techniques and materials gave us the wherewithal to save teeth. These days, there's rarely a case we can't salvage. It's a good time for dentists - saving teeth is why we get up in the morning.
The way we see it, a missing tooth is more than just a hindrance to normal chewing, more than a cosmetic bother. It's a threat to the entire architecture of your mouth.
The mouth is dynamic. Where there is a missing tooth, neighboring teeth drift, gum disease may crop up, even the unprotected bone ridge is susceptible to damage.
So we replace the missing tooth with a dental bridge, or rescue a broken down tooth with a dental crown.
Bridges are partnered with crowns to resolve gaps left by missing teeth. The idea is to replace teeth with false, or "pontic" teeth, anchored to crowns at either end, and fixed in place. Quality bridgework looks and feels very natural, one of dentistry's mainstays and our first restoration choice whenever possible.
Partial dentures, too, are dependent on your remaining teeth for support, but are attached by clasps or "precision attachments." Complicated partials can be engineering marvels, filling in for missing teeth on both sides of the dental arch. The success of partials depends in part on the strength of attachment teeth.
Complete dentures are not the end of the line, dentally speaking. A good, well-fitting denture can come close to a full complement of teeth, and contribute to a youthful aspect, as well.
Dental implants are the newest remedy for missing teeth, to replace a single tooth, or to support an overdenture. People who have implants all agree: why didn't I do this sooner?
Replace missing teeth with cosmetic dental work? Do it. Restorative dentistry has a way.