Humans have been restoring teeth for thousands of years. The earliest dental restorations date back to the ancient Egyptians, with dental bridges made out of wire and “donated” teeth.
We’ve come a long way in the last five thousand years since then, in both the technologies used and the treatments on offer, but one thing’s the same: when we damage or lose our teeth, we like to fix it.
Today, there are almost as many ways to restore teeth as there are to damage and lose them in the first place. Common dental restorations include:
Dental veneers are thin shells of material, typically porcelain or composite resin, that get placed over a tooth. They’re basically like fake nails for your teeth.
Veneers are used to cover chips and cracks, particularly on the front teeth. Composite resin veneers are cheap and fast to put on, but only last a few years and are prone to cracking. Porcelain veneers are more expensive, but are much more durable and will last significantly longer.
Crowns and Bridges
A dental crown is a cap that sits over a damaged tooth. The purpose is to provide a good biting surface and maintain the structural integrity of the tooth. Without a crown, a damaged tooth can end up breaking after a while. Bridges are basically two or more crowns together, used to replace several missing teeth in a row. The crowns at the end of the bridge are either mounted on remaining healthy teeth, or are supported with dental implants.
Inlays and Onlays
Inlays and onlays are a kind of halfway point between veneers and crowns. Rather than replace the whole crown of a tooth, they replace specific parts.
Inlays are used to cover up cracks or holes in the “dips” of teeth, known as cusps. Onlays cover the raised ridged areas.
These are useful for chipped or cracked teeth that don’t quite need a full restoration, or to plug gaps left by root canals or tooth fillings.
Dentures have been around for many years. They’re used to replace part or all of an arch of missing teeth.
Dentures can be made of many different materials depending on budget and aesthetics. In the past they simply sat on the bare gums of the wearer, but more and more today they’re being supported or stabilized by dental implants.
This has breathed a second life into the restoration, which for many years had been negatively associated with the image of teeth falling out at an awkward moment.
Dental implants are the pinnacle in tooth restorations. A single dental implant can completely restore the look, shape, feel, and function of a natural tooth. They’re the closest thing you can have to a real tooth in your mouth after it’s been taken out.
Dental implants are also used to support other restorations, such as bridges and dentures. This allows them to be much more stable than they used to be in the past, and thus much more effective treatments.