Tooth enamel is an incredibly strong covering that shields your teeth from hot, cold, and sugary foods and drinks. However, it can chip or crack due to poor oral health habits and the acids in your food.
These acids come from plaque, a sticky film that builds up between your teeth, around tooth fillings, and along the gum line. The acid eats away at the healthy minerals in your enamel and leaves pits in the surface of your teeth.
Tooth-colored fillings, sometimes called composite resins, are a type of restoration that can be used to repair tooth decay. They’re made from a blend of plastic resins and silica fillers that mimic a number of properties, including translucency, of natural tooth structure. These qualities help the restoration strengthen the teeth they’re covering, preventing further damage and potentially eliminating the need for tooth removal.
Once the affected area has been numb, your dentist will carefully isolate and clean the area, then apply an adhesive before beginning to layer the composite material on the affected tooth. This multistep process takes less than a minute for each application, and the dental professional will use a special light to “cure” or harden each successive layer before applying the next. Once the entire filling is in place, your dentist will check the bite and ensure it’s comfortable before shaping and polishing your restoration.
In more serious cases of enamel erosion, your dentist may recommend dental bonding or veneers, which are thin porcelain shells that are bonded to the front of the affected teeth. Both treatments offer additional protection from erosive foods and beverages, and can also cover minor chips or cracks in your teeth. These treatments are generally recommended for the front teeth, as they’re more visible in your smile. They’re not as durable as a tooth-colored filling, however, and may chip or break over time.
Dental bonding is another quick and inexpensive cosmetic treatment that can repair chips, cracks, stains, or gaps in teeth. This procedure uses a tooth-colored composite resin to make your teeth appear more natural and healthy.
Bonding can also reshape and align your teeth, making them look more symmetrical in your smile. This is an excellent option for patients who do not want more invasive treatment, such as veneers or dental crowns.
Before applying the bonding material, your dentist will clean and prepare the tooth. The tooth surface will be etched to create a rough texture that helps the composite resin adhere to your teeth. A small amount of an adhesive or primer will be applied to the surface of the tooth before a tooth-colored resin is placed and hardened using an ultraviolet light.
A final step involves shaping and polishing the tooth for a natural appearance. It is important to note that bonded teeth are not as stain-resistant as your natural teeth and enamel, so you may need to reduce your intake of foods and beverages known for their staining properties. It is also recommended to avoid habits like biting your nails, chewing on pens, and opening packages with your teeth as these can cause the composite resin to chip and wear down more quickly.
Overall, bonding is a great solution for minor cosmetic issues and can last 3-5 years when properly cared for. However, it is not as long-lasting as veneers or dental crowns.
Veneers are thin coverings that mask flaws on the front surfaces of teeth. Customized to fit each tooth, veneers look natural while hiding dental issues like chips, cracks and discoloration. The process is typically non-invasive but does require the slight removal of enamel. This is to make room for the bonding material that makes the veneers look and feel like a natural part of a person’s smile.
The procedure for veneers varies slightly depending on the type of material used, but the first step always involves an appointment with a dentist. The dentist takes measurements and then sends the impression to a laboratory for the creation of custom shells that match the color, shape and size of the patient’s existing teeth.
If porcelain veneers are used, the next visit is to prepare the teeth for the veneers. This involves cleaning, polishing and etching the teeth to roughen them for the bonding process. Once the teeth are ready, the dentist can apply a special cement to the veneers and then shine a light on them to activate chemicals that help the adhesive harden quickly.
Composite veneers can often be placed in a single visit to the dentist, and they tend to cost less than porcelain ones. Both types are durable, but if they aren’t cared for properly, they can become chipped or damaged. It is important for patients to follow healthy oral hygiene habits, including brushing twice daily and flossing.
Dental crowns, or caps, are placed over teeth to protect them after a serious tooth decay, infection, injury, or root canal treatment. These restorations are made from various materials to match the shape, size, and strength of the natural tooth they replace.
A weakened tooth is more likely to break, especially when it has lost significant tooth structure due to large fillings or trauma. If the cusps, or the tips of the teeth, are damaged, they can become brittle and sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. Crowns cover and restore these areas, and they also disperse the pressure of biting and chewing evenly across all the tooth’s surfaces, preventing the tooth from cracking or breaking.
Dental crowns can even cover a severely discolored or misshapen tooth, and they are particularly useful when the underlying enamel is not thick enough to support dental veneers. However, just like a real tooth, crowned teeth require proper care to avoid complications like dental decay. This includes brushing twice a day and flossing at least once daily, avoiding certain foods that may chip the crown, getting six monthly professional dental cleanings to eliminate plaque buildup, and not clenching your teeth or grinding them. These measures will keep your teeth healthy and your smile beautiful for years to come.