Many people have to undertake extensive dentistry and find it expensive. But is it good long-term value? Even if they don’t ask, the dentist should.
“Having made this investment in my teeth, how long will the restoration last?” It’s a question that many patients ask their dental practitioner – often when synthetic materials are used to replace damaged or missing natural tooth structure.
Three classes of materials
1. Filling materials – These mostly comprise non-metallic, plastic-like quartz composite that is prepared in various tooth colour shades. It is applied by the dentist in teeth where there is enough natural tooth material to support such ‘fillers’. Note that old-style silver-mercury ‘amalgam’ is used far less frequently today.
2. Hard reconstructive materials – These will commonly contain gold, an alloy of gold, other metals such as nickel, chrome or titanium, and porcelain. Crowns and bridges use a metal base with a porcelain top covering. It’s the closest that one can get to a tough-wearing tooth that looks natural.
3. Dental implants – When teeth are missing, a ‘bionic’ titanium post is placed into the jaw bone below the empty place and a crown secured on top of the post. This is called a ‘dental implant’. It’s the most permanent solution for restored dental function.
Each of these treatments has a different cost and life-span. But they all last longer if certain conditions are applied:
The mouth needs to be as hygiene and plaque and tartar-free as possible. The site needs to be dry and free of any infection or decay.
Restorative materials are accurately formed and fitted, with no compromise in quality. They fit perfectly where they are supposed to go.
Correct material selection
Restoration suits the degree of tooth damage that must be repaired. If the remaining natural too enamel is weak, the tooth may need a crown and not composite filling. If the restoration very deep, it may require root canal treatment and a crown.
Points to bear in mind
At every point, dental treatment must be performed in careful stages to ensure the most durable results.
Fillings need to be done in dry conditions, where the filler leaves no air pockets and is applied and hardened in layers. Lab-prepared items such as crowns must be accurately crafted and have high pressure resistance. Implants need a highly skilled professional approach.
Perhaps one of the most pertinent question in dentistry is not “How much did I pay for my teeth?” but rather “Are my teeth still in good shape years after I had them fixed?”
The bottom line
Successful dental restorations depend on high clinical standards, the correct use of advanced materials and the ability of the dentist to align with the patient’s long-term interests.