Tooth decay is a common problem, and most people have a 95% chance of suffering with some form of it. As soon as it occurs, it is important to remove the decay, then clean and repair the tooth. Missing or lost teeth should also be replaced to ensure you have the highest possible oral health.
Composite fillings are tooth-coloured (compared to the silver amalgam ones) and are usually made from a resin that is mixed with powdered glass quartz, silica or other forms of ceramic. They are aesthetically better than the amalgam fillings, but although they are strong, they might not be as hard-wearing. Your dentist will choose a shade to match your existing teeth, although discolouration may occur over time.
Inlays and onlays
An inlay is a small setting within the biting surface of the tooth. Onlays are to cover larger areas. Gold is usually used, as it is long-lasting, hard-wearing and does not tarnish. Unfortunately a gold inlay can not be made by the dentist while you wait an – impression of the cavity (prepared and taken by your dentist) will be sent to the laboratory, where a technician will make the inlay or onlay. You will go away with a temporary filling, which your dentist will replace with the gold inlay once it has been made. Due to the material used and the longer process, this type of filling is more expensive.
A crown, sometimes called a cap, is a way to cover chipped, broken or weakened teeth, strengthening your teeth and restoring your smile. A crown could also be used to protect the space left from a root filling or to help hold a denture or bridge in place.
Usually your tooth will need to be shaped, under local anaesthetic, and an impression taken by your dentist, which is then sent to the laboratory in order for your crown to be custom-made out of porcelain or porcelain bonded to gold.
Sometimes, especially with root fillings, it is necessary to set a post before fitting the crown. This supports the crown and adds stability and strength. Posts are pre-made from stainless steel and your dentist can cement them directly into the root canal, ready for the crown to be fitted over the top. In certain circumstances it is necessary to custom-make a post, which is easily done by a dental technician.
A bridge is used to fill the space left by a missing tooth, giving you back a full smile. They are only possible if your surrounding teeth are healthy and strong, as it is these which are used to support the bridge. They are usually made from a porcelain and precious metal blend, although non-precious metals are sometimes used.
It is important to replace missing teeth not only to improve the appearance of your smile, but also to prevent weakening of the teeth on either side and decay and gum disease caused by trapped food particles or alterations to your bite.
Your dentist will help you to choose the best method to replace any missing teeth you may have.