By: Dr. Jacques Doueck Dds
Much of my dentistry over the past three decades has focused on saving precious tooth structure. I have found that a more conservative approach to dentistry gives us a better chance of keeping teeth for a lifetime.
What is minimally invasive dentistry, and how does it differ from regular dentistry?
The goal of minimally invasive dentistry, or micro-dentistry, is to conserve healthy tooth structure. It focuses on prevention, remineralization, and minimal dentist intervention. Using scientific advances, minimally invasive dentistry allows dentists to perform the least amount of dentistry needed while never removing more tooth structure than is required to restore teeth to their normal condition. In addition, in minimally invasive dentistry, dentists use long-lasting dental materials that conserve the maximum tooth structure, thereby reducing the need for future repairs.
How does it work?
First, your dentist will evaluate your risk for tooth decay. The presence of bacteria, the quality and quantity of saliva, and your diet are all contributors to decay. Your dentist will then use strategies to prevent or reduce your risk for tooth decay. For instance, if you have a high level of oral bacteria, you might be advised to use antibacterial mouthwash or herbal lollipops that fight bacteria, limit the intake of certain carbohydrates, and practice good oral hygiene.
Which minimally invasive dentistry techniques are most commonly used?
- Ozone and remineralization: Tooth decay is a bacterial infection. Ozone is used to prevent decay by disinfecting the tooth. Remineralization is the process of restoring minerals, which can actually reverse the damage caused by tooth decay and acid erosion.
- MI paste™is usedto repair the damage caused by acids in the mouth and bacteria.
- Fluoride plays a very important role in making the teeth acid resistant.
- Air abrasion: When a tooth cannot be remineralized and decay has occurred, your dentist may use air abrasion to remove the decay. Air abrasion is used instead of a traditional drill and usually does not require anesthesia (injections). It resembles microscopic sandblasting and uses a stream of air, water and super-fine abrasive powder.
- Glass Ionomer fillings release fluoride inside the cavity which protect teeth from bacterial damage. These fillings fit into the grooves and depressions of the tooth and act as a barrier, protecting against acid and plaque.
- Onlays: Usually dentists use crowns to restore a tooth, but onlays do not require your dentist to remove as much of the tooth as would a crown.
· Bite splints: Many people grind their teeth at night. Grinding, or bruxism, may cause serious damage to the teeth, and even result in the need for crowns. Grinding, which often begins in the teenage years or early twenties, can be detected and corrected before too much damage is done. Dentists can create bite splints for you to wear at night or during stressful times when most teeth-grinding occurs.
Why should your dentist go through all the trouble of pursuing minimally invasive dentistry? Because nothing else can match the strength, comfort and permanence of your natural, Gd-given teeth.