Dental restoration is any procedure that restores a tooth to its natural size, shape, structural integrity and function. There are many forms of dental restoration, from filling a cavity to replacing a tooth with a prosthesis. The two primary events that necessitate restoration are cavities and trauma to the mouth. Due to their variety, different restoration procedures require various lengths of time to complete. Not following proper self-care after dental restoration raises the chances of restoration failure.
The simplest and most common form of dental restoration is filling a cavity. After a dentist removes a cavity with a drill, he or she has a number of choices when choosing a proper filling material. For many years, a silver amalgam was the most popular choice of filling material, but concerns over mercury content have led many dentists to rely upon different filling materials. The most popular choices are a gold or silver-palladium alloy. Though more costly, certain composites are available that match the color of the tooth.
Another form of dental restoration occurs after a root canal. After a dentist removes the diseased dental pulp, a large gap is left that requires reinforcing. Instead of metal, plant material from the gutta-percha tree is placed into the empty dental roots. The properties of gutta-percha make it a very close match to natural dental pulp. Finally, a dentist caps the tooth with the same metal alloy used in filling a cavity.
Dental restoration can also require the services of an oral surgeon. After losing a tooth to either a cavity or dental trauma, a dentist may recommend a dental implant. The first step is for an oral surgeon to insert a titanium pin into the jaw bone. This pin will eventually anchor the prosthetic tooth. After a healing period of three to six months, implanting the prosthetic tooth on top of the pin is a simple procedure performed by both oral surgeons and dentists.
Though dental implants require multiple visits to an oral surgeon, most dental restoration procedures can be completed in one trip to a regular dentist. Even so, it is a patient's responsibility to administer self-care after all restoration procedures and follow the instructions of his or her dentist/oral surgeon. Smoking is not advised for anyone who has undergone dental restoration. For example, smoking greatly increases the failure rate for dental implants; most oral surgeons will not install dental implants until a patient stops smoking.