The Changing Face of Dentisty

Dr Christiaan Vorster: Prosthodontist BChD, MChD (Prosthodontics)

The damage or loss of even a single tooth can have considerable impact on any patients’ everyday life and self-esteem. Restoring and replacing teeth has been the mainstay of modern dentistry for many years. But it is only recently after the advent of dental implants and all-ceramics prosthetic teeth that patients have been able to enjoy restorations that feel, function and look like natural teeth.

All ceramic materials stand out for their highly aesthetic and natural appearance, long lasting quality, variety of colours and biocompatibility with the human body. All-ceramic restorations do not have a metal core therefor light can shine through the restorations as it does with natural teeth. In addition, the adjoining gum will show no dark metal edges.

Ceramic material is colourfast and wear-resistant. If a tooth is only damaged to some extent e.g. due to caries, a filling will normally be sufficient. An alternative to a conventional filling is a ceramic inlay or onlay. An inlay is a resistant ceramic filling, which is used for smaller defects or decay and is difficult to distinguish from the natural tooth structure.

Fractured, discoloured or slightly malpositioned teeth can also be easily and quickly treated with veneers. Veneers are thin laminates made of ceramic, which are bonded to the tooth without having to sacrifice a lot of your own tooth structure and do not cover the entire tooth. In certain instances, no tooth preparation is required for the veneers to be placed. The completed restoration is as true-to-nature in appearance as your neighbouring teeth.

Teeth, which demonstrate extensive damage, can be restored or optically enhanced with all-ceramic crowns. Older restorations that are unsightly can also be given a natural and unobtrusive appearance. When teeth are missing, bridges supported by teeth or implants can also be manufactured from all-ceramics without a dark metal core or margin. Zirconium oxide is the material of choice for frameworks, as zirconium oxide is biocompatible, translucent and exceptionally strong.

These days, prosthodontists and dentists are seeing patients with tooth structure loss as a result of acid erosion and grinding due to a stressful and demanding life. This in turn leads to severe damage to the teeth that affect the overall aesthetics of a patients’ smile as well as optimal masticatory function and speech. All-ceramic materials and techniques make replacing lost tooth structure less invasive and much more pleasant while providing far better aesthetic results than a few years ago.

Another important aspect in daily practice is that people lose their teeth for a number of reasons; from accident and illness to deficient care. Whatever the reason, the immediate consequences can have a negative impact on their quality of life. People may no longer eat many of the foods they once enjoyed. Self-conscious about their physical appearance, they stop laughing and smiling spontaneously.

Dental implants are widely recognized to be the most successful method of tooth replacement used today. Planned by specially trained clinicians like prosthodontists, implants and modern prosthetics are hard to differentiate from your natural teeth. The colour, shape and contour of replacement teeth can be adapted to match that of your natural teeth with all ceramic restorations. With dental implants, healthy teeth do not have to be compromised.

Missing teeth can and should be replaced. This is because each and every gap in your mouth poses potential problems for long-term dental health. Adjacent teeth can collapse into the gaps, while teeth in the opposing jaw can grow into the gap. Long-term missing teeth also cause the bone to be resorbed. This weakens the adjacent teeth until they can also be lost. In fact, even one missing tooth can lead to the loss of additional teeth and ultimately a permanent change in your facial appearance.

Maintaining your natural bone if one of the most important advantages of dental implants. With missing teeth, the bone begins to resorb over time. Significant bone loss can shrink the contours of the jawbones, causing wrinkled lips and a sunken mouth and chin. Dental implants can help counteract that by preventing resorption of the jawbone, stimulating bone growth and stopping bone loss.

There are a wide variety of prosthetics and implant solutions available. Crowns, bridges or full arch prosthetics are securely anchored to integrated dental implants. The stable retention of prosthetic solutions and implant supported tooth replacements offer strength, reliability and durability similar to that of natural teeth.

Prostheses fixed on implants are also more stable, more comfortable and more functional than conventional dentures. This eliminates some of the main problems of conventional dentures like poor fit, gum irritation, pressure points, speech and taste impairment. The result is an aesthetically comfortable, reliable and stress-free solution. With proper care and good oral hygiene, a prosthetic solution will last for many years.

All-ceramic cosmetic dentistry and implants all fall under the field of prosthodontics. Most people have never heard of a prosthodontist. Some have called prosthodontists ‘The Best Kept Secret in Dentistry’. Prosthodontists have rigorous training and experience that gives them an in-depth understanding of the dynamics of the smile, the preservation of a healthy mouth and creation of dental replacements.

Prosthodontists specialise in the restoration of oral function and aesthetics and are frequently called upon to treat aesthetically demanding cases and full mouth rehabilitations on teeth or implants. A prosthodontist may be considered as the ‘architect’ of a restorative dental treatment plan and will be with you every step of the way, restoring proper function and aesthetics of your mouth, face and jaw.

Prosthodontists are also expert in diagnostic and treatment planning and deal with complex dental problems on a daily basis. They normally work in a team to achieve aesthetically pleasing, optimal long-term dental health. Close co-operation exists within the team, consisting of general dentists, maxillo-facial and oral surgeons, periodontists, orthodontists and dental technicians.

Modern dentistry is undergoing a rapid advancement of solutions and products to satisfy all patient requirements, improving daily chewing function and restoring personal appearance. With today’s latest technologies and materials, individual teeth or even a full complement of teeth can be replaced for natural-looking appearance and optimal function. Modern all-ceramic dental restorations help thousands of people improve their lives. Advancements in technology utilising smile designing software allow you not only to virtually see how great  your smile can look before any treatment begins, but also to better predict what material option would best suit your treatment needs.