For decades, dentists have been using the same traditional techniques to fix cavities and broken down teeth, and they unfortunately are still being used today by the majority of dentists. These procedures often require extensive tooth removal, use metal materials in the mouth, and place foreign materials underneath the gum line.
None of these enhance the overall health of your mouth, in fact they can cause irreparable damage.
What is Healthy Dentistry?
Healthy Dentistry is a new style of dentistry that incorporates removing as little tooth structure as possible and keeping everything above the gum line. This is referred to as “Supra-gingival Minimally Invasive Dentistry”.
Taking away too much tooth structure weakens the remaining tooth and can cause irreparable damage to the nerve, often leading to a root canal (figure 1). By removing only affected tooth structure and preserving the rest is beneficial in that it reduces prep time, is less damaging to the tooth and surrounding gums, is less painful, and has a faster healing time (figure 2). Using high quality materials combined with retaining maximum tooth structure also maintains and enhances the natural luster and esthetics of the tooth.
Figure 1 : A traditional crown preparation on a molar tooth. On average 75% of the tooth is removed. The margins are also placed below the gum line and the tissues appear very red and irritated.
Figure 2 : A very conservative crown preparation on a molar tooth. Note the amount of healthy tooth structure remaining as opposed to a traditional crown prep.
Healthy Periodontium (gums and bone)
The definition of a healthy mouth is the absence of disease. Unfortunately, over 75% of our population have some sort of oral infection and most people are not even aware of it.
The most common, and potentially destructive, is Periodontal Disease. This is a chronic, bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth, which if left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. It has also been linked to many health issues such as heart disease, stroke, low birth weights, respiratory problems, and many more. It is a chronic progressive disease that is incurable, just as is diabetes or high cholesterol.
The good news is that it is easily treatable and can be properly maintained given the right tools and education from our office. We do simple non-surgical procedures using special tools and medicaments to get rid of the infection, and provide you with easy-to-follow homecare strategies to ensure stability and long-term success!
This photo shows a patient with gingivitis. The gums are slightly red and bulbous, and bleed when a cleaning is performed.
This photo shows early stages of periodontal disease. Note the red coloring of the gums and how they are pulling away from the teeth. Dark spaces in between the teeth begin to affect the smile.
This photo shows advanced periodontal disease. The gums are very red and bulbous. Roots are exposed and spaces are forming between the teeth, leading to shifting and loosening of the teeth.
Healthy (White) Fillings
Fillings are placed in teeth where there is a small area of decay or a crack in the tooth. Traditionally, large areas of tooth structure are removed along with the affected area so that a silver (amalgam) or white filling could be retained. These preps are more aggressive and often go below the gum line.
With advances made in dental materials, composite, or white fillings do not require this excessive removal of tooth because these materials bond to the tooth instead of relying on mechanical retention. More healthy tooth structure is maintained and the fillings stay away from the gums to avoid any gingival irritation.
Composite filling prep – A very small, minimally invasive preparation for a tooth-colored filling. Much less tooth is removed as compared to an amalgam (silver filling) prep. The margins are left above the gum line and the tissues are untouched.
This photo shows a molar tooth after the removal of an old silver filling. Note the large amount of tooth structure that was drilled out to place that type of filling, and the bleeding gums from having a metal filling placed below the gum line.