Removing a tooth only leads to newer and costlier problems: missing teeth negatively impact our digestion, our remaining teeth and our confidence, so you need to replace the missing tooth. It is best to keep our natural teeth in the mouth for as long as possible, both for our health and our appearance!
Conservative dentistry (conservative dental treatment as a category) is the umbrella term used to lump all procedures together that are performed for the sake of conserving your teeth. Tooth fillings, root canal treatments, and the many kinds of prostheses (like crowns, inlays and onlays) are all part of conservative dentistry. Conservative dental procedures not only preserve your health, they also help to preserve your wallet, as they are much less costly than replacing teeth, which can be quite expensive indeed. If you do not replace missing teeth, your gum line will disappear, and then if you want to replace the missing tooth you will need to spend even more money to do so.
A tooth filling is the kind of conservative dental procedure that seeks to repair decay on the cusps or the crown of the tooth. When treating the affected area, the dentist seeks to preserve as much of the original healthy tooth material as possible. The decayed parts are removed, and the cavity is filled. They used to use amalgam fillings to fill the cavity, but nowadays different filling materials are used, on account of the high mercury content of amalgam fillings. It is well worth to check your old fillings, and have them replaced with newer ones.
This kind of dental prosthesis can be thought of as a go between, somewhere halfway between a filling and a crown. The material used is the same as the crown, a piece of porcelain, but what it does is fill up the cavity or missing part of a tooth, usually on the cusps. The size of the partial crown is what gives it its name: inlays go in the cusps, onlays cover the entire biting surface, and an overlay goes on top like a crown, but is smaller.
Crowns are replacements of the visible portion of a tooth. They do not completely replace the tooth in question, only the visible portion of it. Crowns are always made of porcelain on the outside, but their inner structure can be either metal, or zirconium. Metal internal structures are cheaper, but can show up as dark lines on the tooth surface if light is shining on the tooth. Zirconium plays with the light in the same way that a natural tooth does, and thus prostheses made from this material are completely lifelike, and are indistinguishable from real, living teeth.
A root canal treatment is a last attempt to save a tooth that is quite decayed, but is structurally still sound. The inner, soft structure of the tooth can become infected, and this material is removed, and the hollowed out tooth is then filled up with an antibiotic filling. This may need to be repeated several times until the infection is fought off. At the end, the tooth is filled up with a root filling. The tooth is dead at the end of root canal treatment, as the dental nerve and the internal structure of the tooth is removed, but root canaled teeth, if properly maintained, can stay good for a very long time, serving proper chewing and biting function sometimes even decades after their death.
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