Broken or heavily filled teeth are weaker, and more prone to further damage, or even loss of the tooth, if left untreated. They can affect confidence, may impair eating, cause pain, and as the tooth decay progresses, they will cause increased bacteria and risk of infection. There are various ways the appearance of teeth can be improved and broken teeth can be fixed, and these are referred to as restorative dentistry. Below is an overview of some options that may be available to repair a diseased or damaged tooth. The type of treatment required is dependent on the extent of the damage and the condition of the tooth.
Tooth fillings Fillings are used to repair a cavity in your tooth caused by decay. Most common tooth fillings used are:
These are white-coloured fillings made from resin. After the tooth is prepared, the filling is bonded onto the area and the material is set with a blue light. Together, with your dentist, you will choose a shade to match your own teeth. Please note, these fillings can become discoloured over time and may need maintenance and replacement.
Amalgam fillings are silver-coloured fillings. They are made with a silver alloy, are long-lasting, hard- wearing and have been used as a successful filling material for over 150 years. The disadvantages of amalgam are that they are not tooth coloured.
Glass ionomer fillings form a chemical link with the tooth. They may also release fluoride, which helps to prevent further tooth decay. This type of filling is fairly weak. Because of this, they are usually only used on baby teeth and ‘non-biting’ surfaces such as around the ‘necks’ of the teeth. Little preparation is needed as the filling bonds directly to the tooth.
These can be used in most areas of the mouth. An inlay is small and placed within the biting surface of the tooth. An onlay can cover a larger area of the tooth. Gold is the most long-lasting and hard-wearing filling material and will last for many years. An advantage of gold is that it does not tarnish and has great strength.
One of the differences between gold and other filling materials is that the gold filling is made in a laboratory. Your dental team will usually take an impression of the prepared cavity and send it to the laboratory for the technician to make the inlay or onlay. In the meantime, a temporary filling will be placed in the cavity. After the gold inlay or onlay has been made, your dentist will fix it in place with dental cement. This type of filling is more expensive.
Your dental team can now use digital technology (called CADCAM) to design and prepare perfectly fitted porcelain inlays in just one or two visits. Porcelain inlays can also be made in a laboratory but this will need at least two visits to your dentist. It can also be coloured to match your natural tooth. A great advantage ceramic has over other materials is that it can be hard-wearing, since it is stronger than teeth and thus also long-lasting.
Crowns are an ideal way to repair teeth that have been broken, or have been weakened by decay or a very large filling. A crown could be used for a number of other reasons, for example:
This is a type of all-ceramic crown with an appealing translucent colour which is combined with extra strength and durability.
This crown is made from a single block of lithium disilicate ceramic. This is a top-grade material which has been harvested for its toughness, durability and opaque qualities which makes it a highly prized crown.