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How A Dentist Fixes Your Decayed Or Broken Tooth In Houston, TX

Repairing your diseased and broken tooth can be done in several ways, depending on the damage’s extent.

By Jennifer
Photography by Pete

featured image

When tooth decay, cracks, and chips happen to your smile, they usually can’t be left alone. Any amount of tooth damage weakens it. Even a small chip can make your tooth much more vulnerable to further breakage. Untreated, existing problems will only continue to worsen as cavities deepen and teeth further break and fracture. Eventually, you become at risk of losing your tooth. Depending on the severity, your dentist may recommend one of several options to repair your chipped or broken tooth.

Dental Bonding and Porcelain Veneers

Not every cracked or chipped tooth requires major restorative work. With surface-level damage, cosmetic procedures like dental bonding and porcelain veneers can restore your tooth’s appearance to better than new. These treatments are focused primarily on aesthetics, and they’re commonly used to fix many more cosmetic problems than simple chips and cracks:

  • Teeth stains and discoloration
  • Minor crookedness
  • Teeth that are too long or short
  • Gaps between teeth
  • Lumpiness and misshapen teeth
  • Dental wear and tear

Bonding works through molding tooth-colored composite resin to your tooth and then hardening it with a curing light once it’s in the perfect shape. We match the bonding’s exact shade to your tooth so that it blends in with your smile, no matter how much or how little bonding is needed to repair the damage.

Veneers instead use thin porcelain shells designed to slip over your teeth and change their entire appearance. They can take on more moderate issues than bonding but also require your enamel to be slightly shaved down to fit them. Are veneers safe long-term? Yes. While they cause permanent changes to your teeth, the tooth preparation process only involves your tooth’s outermost layer. The more vulnerable dentin and pulp layers below are entirely untouched and intact.

Tooth Filling

Once cavities, fractures, and breaks reach past the tooth’s enamel and into the inner dentin layer below, you will need more extensive broken tooth repair. A dental filling is especially common for repairing tooth decay and small cavities. It uses the same composite material as dental bonding but goes a step further. Your dentist must first remove the diseased and damaged parts of your tooth before sealing and repairing your tooth with the composite filling.

Fillings can be used to pinpoint cavities anywhere: front teeth, back teeth, near the gum line, between teeth, and more. Since we use white composite, we can color-match your filling to the rest of your tooth just like we would with bonding. As long as you take good care of your teeth and remember to brush and floss regularly, your filling can easily last over a decade in great shape.

Is A White Filling Better Than Silver?

While silver amalgam fillings are very durable, they’ve been almost entirely replaced by composite fillings by dentists worldwide. Amalgam fillings’ noticeable look and mercury content have made them contentious among both patients and dentists. Some silver fillings can discolor surrounding enamel, making teeth look slightly gray. Amalgam’s mercury content has also made them contentious among both patients and dentists. Plus, as the metal corrodes over time, it becomes prone to expanding and contracting to hot and cold foods and drinks. Eventually, the teeth may crack and become vulnerable to plaque, bacteria, and tooth decay. However, composite is entirely safe and leaves your tooth and its neighbors safe and pearly white for years.

Inlays and Onlays

Dental fillings are usually used for small cavities. Once the infection grows and spreads, a dentist may suggest either a dental inlay or onlay. Inlays and onlays are like partial dental crowns made of durable, high-quality porcelain designed to match your tooth’s natural color. They are most often used for back teeth, particularly molars. From there, they can provide your molars with extra strength and support to withstand the significant pressure your teeth experience every day from biting and chewing.

What is the difference between an onlay and inlay? Inlays focus on repairing the valley of space between the tooth’s bumps, called the cusps. Onlays are instead more extensive than inlays, typically. They repair the tooth’s cusps, though they can also include the space between that an inlay covers. They are both meant to precisely tackle and restore a limited, targeted area of a broken or a diseased tooth. Both inlays and onlays can strengthen and support the damaged teeth. With proper care, they can long-lasting from twenty to thirty years.

Dental Crown

If most of a tooth’s surface is fractured or damaged, your dentist may need to restore your entire tooth’s crown with an artificial one. Dental crowns go further than what onlays and inlays can achieve, allowing us to repair a whole tooth and reinforce it against future cavities and impacts. Like fillings, inlays, and onlays, the injured parts of a tooth are removed before the dental crown is cemented in place. Crowns are comprehensive, so the tooth will need to be reshaped to fit it.

Compared to other restorations already mentioned, crowns are the most durable and longest-lasting. Exactly how long yours last depends on your dental hygiene habits and the material used. What are dental crowns made of?

All-Porcelain: Made of sturdy and durable porcelain, these crowns are color-matched to your teeth to look just as real as enamel. As a completely metal-free option, they’re also a good choice if you have metal allergies. Most patients’ all-porcelain crowns last 5 to 15 years.

Porcelain-Fused-Metal (PFM): Similar to all-porcelain, PFM crowns use their outer porcelain layer to create a natural look for your tooth. However, their hidden metal base underneath gives them even greater strength to resist chips and breaks better. Like all-porcelain, they last between 5 and 15 years, though some last as many as 20.

Metal: Made of a blend of different metals—gold, palladium, nickel, chromium, and more—metal crowns rarely chip or break and last longer than porcelain. Base metals can last between 20 to 30 years with good care. Gold crowns wear down at the same rate as natural enamel, allowing them to last more than 50 years to a lifetime.

Restoring Missing Teeth

Sometimes, a tooth is too badly broken or decayed that no filling or crown can save it. The tooth must be removed. However, once your trick tooth has been extracted, your dentist can restore it with an artificial one. Two of the most popular tooth replacement options are dental bridges and implants.

Dental Bridge

Dental bridges are a common way of replacing one or more missing teeth in a row simultaneously. They typically work using a single appliance composed of dental crowns conjoined to a false tooth (pontic). By placing the crowns on the teeth beside the empty socket, a dentist can bridge the gap in your smile precisely and securely. Depending on your specific needs, there are three main types of dental bridges.

Traditional: Using two crowns and a pontic, these bridges can replace anywhere between one and four teeth at once. They can be placed in the front or back of the mouth, able to withstand the full force of your bite. On average, they last about 10 years, but they can often last over 15 with great care and dental hygiene.

Cantilever: Cantilever bridges only use a single crown as the anchor, which is great when there is only one natural tooth to act as the abutment. They are less stable than traditional crowns and are only possible with missing front teeth.

Maryland: While still relying on two neighboring teeth for support, Maryland bridges are held in place through metal framework extending from the pontic rather than crowns. This framework is bonded to the backs of the abutment teeth, leaving them fully intact. Like cantilever bridges, they are used on front teeth to avoid putting too much pressure on them while chewing and eating.

Dental Implants

Dental implants are a total tooth replacement, restoring everything from the root to the crown. Unlike dental bridges, they are anchored directly in the jaw using a titanium screw rather than relying on neighboring teeth for support. This difference lets implants behave exactly as a natural tooth would. The screw gradually fuses with the jawbone, allowing your normal bite to put the same amount of force that stimulates the underlying bone and keeps it active. Without this pressure, the jaw would gradually shrink and become weaker. However, implants help your jaw stay perfectly intact and healthy.

Implants require that you have enough existing jawbone to support them, which can be tricky for patients with gum disease or who waited too long. With a dental bone graft, your dentist can replace the missing tissues and give your implant a sturdy and healthy foundation. Once the implant is firmly in place, the crown used can last for more than 25 years, while the titanium implant screw can stay in great shape for the rest of your life.

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