During the past decade, there have been many dramatic dental developments, most of which are due in large part to new and improved bonding materials. So-called "adhesion dentistry" has drastically changed the way dentists now combat dental disease.
One of the most exciting of the new changes is the renaissance of the onlay restorations.
These restorations replace only the defective part of the tooth, while preserving the good part of the tooth. Instead of having to completely grind down the tooth (as for a crown), the preparation for the onlay is much more conservative, replacing only what is necessary to restore the tooth to its original form. We can now practice tooth augmentation, not tooth amputation. Granted, there are still situations in which the teeth require full coverage (crowns), but in many cases, we can provide a welcome alternative- the onlay.
New tools, new techniques, and new materials herald an exiting new era for the dental profession. Intraoral cameras, surgical telescopic glasses, and decay stains have made clinical dentistry more precise as well as more oriented towards prevention. New bonding agents, dental implants, air abrasion units, and lasers may also be found in your local dentist's office. With all of the new technology at our disposal, now is a great time for modern dentists, and an even better time for their patients to experience dentistry in a pain-free environment.
With the aid of an intraoral camera, a dentist can magnify images of the teeth several times larger than life and project the images on a monitor to show the patient. Tooth defects such as small fractures, decay, and faulty old fillings can be spotted and treated before something more serious occurs to the tooth. As a diagnostic and educational tool, the intraoral camera is an invaluable part of a modern dentist's initial and follow-up exams. I have found the cameras indispensable and have one in every treatment room. As people say, the camera doesn't lie.
In addition to the intraoral camera, surgical telescopes may be worn by the dentist in order to magnify the small field in which we work. The better a dentist is able to see, the more precise he can be. I have two pair of telescopes- one is 2.5X magnification for general work, and another is 4.8X for finishing work. Conditions that frequently are undetected with the naked eye are readily apparent with magnification. I feel that magnification is a critical new tool in the early detection and treatment of dental disease.
Another vital aid in microdentistry is the use of decay stains, which when applied to the teeth, stain otherwise undetectable areas of decay. Traditionally, dentists have been taught to use a metal explorer tool to probe the teeth and to use x-rays to find indications of decay. The problem arises when the areas of decay are present in grooves or other areas of the teeth that are not accessible to the explorers. With the use of the decay stains, we can detect decay far earlier. Usually, by the time decay shows up on an x-ray, it is quite extensive. It is much better to take care of the decay when it is small and has not affected much of the tooth. Minimally invasive dentistry is also made possible by the new "fifth generation" bonding materials, which allow dentists to preserve much of the healthy tooth structure while merely replacing the defective part of the tooth. Previously, when silver fillings were used, much of the healthy part of the tooth was ground away along with the defective part of the tooth simply to aid in the retention of the filling. Today, with the new white fillings, only the defective part of the tooth needs to be replaced.
In addition, the mercury in the silver fillings expands and contracts when we eat hot and cold foods, causing the larger fillings to crack the teeth. In dentistry, we used to have a saying that every large silver filling grows up to be a crown, but it doesn't have to be that way anymore. Although some dentists still use the same silver filling material which was used fifty years ago, better alternatives are now available.
Similarly, if a larger defect is present on the tooth, we no longer have to grind down the whole tooth and put a crown (cap) on it. Since our adhesive materials work so well, we can now place on onlay on the tooth instead . In over 50% of the cases that used to need a crown, we can now save most of the natural tooth with an inlay or an onlay.
There has never been a better time in the history of the world to be a tooth. With proper treatment, nobody should ever need to use dentures in the future. If you take proper care of your teeth, they will last you a lifetime. As comedian Soupy Sales quipped, "Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you!" We are finding more and more that dental health is intimately connected to physical health, and a beautiful smile is always good for self-esteem. So remember to see a dentist often- even if nothing hurts- because what might be lurking undetected in your mouth could hurt you later!
Call Dr. Gowey for a consultation today!