If you have crooked, worn, discolored, damaged, or unhealthy teeth, your dentist may recommend tooth or dental restoration. There are several different types of tooth restoration you may wish to consider.
Tooth restoration can restore the natural function of your teeth, plus prevent additional damage from decay. These procedures can also restore the look of your teeth and can be beneficial for cosmetic reasons.
In many instances, a dental restoration procedure may restore tooth function and appearance at the same time.
There are a number of procedures which can restore the look and function of teeth. The type of restoration procedure you need will be determined by the type and scope of dental damage you have.
Common dental restoration procedures include:
Fillings are used to fill in a cavity, caused by dental decay. This is the most common type of tooth restoration.
Fillings are done in a dentist’s office and don’t require a specialist’s care.
Your dentist will clean out the tooth decay and fill in the cavity. Several different materials may be used in a dental filling, including silver amalgam or composite resin.
If the tooth is near the front of your mouth and visible when you speak or smile, your dentist may recommend using a tooth-colored material for the filling. Options include:
- Composite resins (white filling): These are a newer material used for dental fillings, and are preferred over amalgam fillings for a couple reasons. They look the same color as your teeth, and do not expand and contract or damage teeth, like metal fillings. However, they are just as strong and durable as metal fillings.
- Glass ionomer: This material acts more like a sealant than the composite resins, and is opaque.
- Resin-modified glass ionomer: This is similar to the glass ionomer, but have an enamel color to better match teeth, and is made to last longer.
Talk with your dental professional to determine which filling is best for your teeth.
Dental crowns are a type of cap placed over an entire tooth. Dental crowns are used to protect:
- teeth with cavities too large for dental fillings
- weak or cracked teeth
- worn down teeth
- a vulnerable tooth after root canal
They’re also used to anchor a bridge that replaces missing teeth.
Crowns are placed by a dentist or a dental specialist known as a prosthodontist. If you need a crown, your dentist may be able to make it in their office.
In most cases, a dental professional will take an impression of your tooth and send it to a lab, where your crown will be made. When this occurs, a temporary crown will be placed over your natural tooth until your dentist can replace it with the actual crown.
Implants are artificial roots that hold replacement teeth, such as crowns or bridges, in place. There are two main types:
- Endosteal. In this type, the artificial root is drilled into the jawbone.
- Subperiosteal. The artificial root is placed on or above the jawbone. This type of implant is done when there isn’t enough healthy jawbone to hold an endosteal implant in place.
Dental implants look and feel like natural teeth. They can help improve your bite and speech.
Implants require multiple procedures prior to completion. Though they can take several months to complete, they may last for decades.
Oral surgeons and periodontists are the type of dentists that do implant procedures.
Bridges (fixed partial denture)
Bridges are false teeth (pontics) used to replace missing teeth. They’re attached by crowns on surrounding teeth (abutments), restoring both look and function to your mouth.
Bridges are usually made from porcelain that matches the natural color of your existing teeth. They may also be made from porcelain bonded to a stronger metal underneath.
A bridge may require your dentist to cover the healthy teeth on either side of it with crowns (called retainers) to anchor it in place. In some instances, it may also require the support of dental implants under the new teeth.
There are several different types of bridges, such as:
The number of missing teeth and their location will determine the type of bridge you need. The quality of your abutment teeth, which are the teeth on either side of the bridge, may also be a factor.
It may take several appointments before bridgework is complete.
A general dentist or prothodontist, a dentist who specializes in repairing or replacing missing or damaged teeth, can do a bridge procedure.
Dentures are removable false teeth used to replace missing teeth. Dentures look just like teeth and their surrounding gums.
If you’ve lost all your teeth due to injury, tooth decay, or gum disease, you may get a full set of dentures. If you have some of your own natural teeth, you may get a partial denture to replace your missing teeth.
In some instances, you may have cracked or decayed teeth pulled prior to being fitted for dentures.
Veneers are tooth-colored, natural-looking shells that cover the front of a tooth or several teeth. It’s considered a cosmetic procedure used to perfect the look of damaged teeth.
Veneers may make small or short teeth appear more even. They can also bring uniformity to discolored, cracked, or chipped teeth.
Veneers may be made from porcelain or composite resin. There are two types of veneer procedures:
- Traditional. This requires extensive prep work, including grinding down the natural tooth’s enamel and structure.
- No prep. This requires less preparation and enamel removal. This type of veneer doesn’t need anesthesia.
Veneers may last anywhere from 5 to 15 years with proper care.
Tooth bonding is used to perfect the appearance of discolored, cracked, or chipped teeth.
Your dentist will apply a composite resin to your tooth that matches the color of your natural teeth. The dentist will mold and shape the resin, then harden it with an ultraviolet light.
Tooth bonding isn’t as sturdy as a veneer or crown. Bonded teeth may chip easily, requiring an additional restoration procedure.
Tooth restoration costs vary based upon the type of work you’re getting done, your geographic location, and any insurance you may have.
Dental health insurance plans vary. Check to see how much your plan will pay for the procedure you have in mind. In some instances, they may pay for one type of dental restoration but not another. This may help you to determine which procedure you wish to have done.
Some dental health insurance companies have lifetime or annual maximum coverage caps. There may also be required wait times you must adhere to in order to be eligible for coverage.
Here are some cost estimates for each type of procedure:
Fillings are typically covered at least partially by dental health plans. If you’re paying out of pocket, your cost will be partly determined by the type of material used to fill in the cavity.
The size and location of the cavity can also impact cost. In general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $400 for a dental filling. X-rays and other incidentals, such as additional anesthesia, may be added to this cost.
Crowns are partially covered by dental health insurance, provided they’re medically necessary. If the crown is for cosmetic purposes only, your plan may not cover it.
Crowns can be expensive if you pay the entire cost out of pocket. Based on the materials used, a single crown may cost between $800 to $2,000.
Dental implants may not be covered by dental health insurance plans, although some may provide partial coverage for parts of this procedure.
Implants can range from $3,000 to $6,000 per tooth, if you’re paying out of pocket.
Dental insurance plans typically cover around 50 percent of the cost of dental bridges. The cost of a bridge will be determined by the number of teeth you need, and the type of bridgework being done.
In general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 per bridge.
Dental insurance plans usually cover around 50 percent of the cost of dentures. If you don’t have dental insurance, you can expect to pay $900 to $1,500 for a partial denture and $1,500 to $2,000 or more for a full denture.
Veneers are considered a cosmetic procedure, so insurance plans don’t usually cover them. Typically, you can expect to pay around $900 to $2,500 per tooth.
Bonding is sometimes considered a cosmetic procedure and isn’t always covered by insurance. If you have dental insurance, find out whether it’ll pay for part of the cost of this procedure before you have it.
If you don’t have coverage, you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $600 per tooth.
Tooth enamel that has been damaged can’t be restored. Dental restoration procedures cover weakened teeth, but can’t bring back enamel that has been lost.
Weakened enamel can be strengthened, however, by bolstering its mineral content. This process is known as remineralization.
Strategies to try at home for strengthening weakened enamel include:
- Brush regularly with a remineralizing toothpaste, such as fluoride toothpaste.
- Chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva production, which will help neutralize acids that erode teeth.
- Drink lots of water, such as tap water containing fluoride.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks that erode tooth enamel.
In some instances, typically in children, a dentist may recommend that sealants be placed over the back teeth.
This will help prevent enamel loss or damage. However, it won’t restore enamel that’s already been lost.
Sealants are adhered to each individual tooth and hardened in place with ultraviolet light. They remain on teeth for several years.
Sealants do contain a trace amount of bisphenol acid (BPA). The benefits of sealants typically outweigh any potential risk from this chemical, since it’s a very small amount and usually lasts for only 3 hours after sealants are placed. Research from 2016 shows that it’s generally considered safe.
If you have discolored teeth, you may try to whiten them at home naturally or with products such as whitening strips or gels.
Tray-based tooth bleaching may provide more significant whitening results. These trays fit over your teeth and use a peroxide-based bleaching gel to whiten teeth. They may be custom fitted by a dentist or purchased over the counter.
In-office tooth whitening typically provides the most dramatic results. Your dentist will use a strong bleaching solution coupled with light or heat to whiten teeth.
It’s important to stay ahead of dental problems by seeing your dentist regularly.
Teeth that hurt or bleed should be assessed quickly. Any signs of infection, such as oozing or swelling, also require immediate care.
If you have cracked, discolored, chipped, or missing teeth, talk with your dentist about dental restoration procedures that can improve the appearance of your teeth and help you avoid additional tooth damage.
Tooth restoration procedures can be done for cosmetic or health reasons. There are several types you may wish to consider, depending on your dental needs.
Tooth restoration can bring more uniformity to your smile, if you’d like. It can also restore each tooth’s natural function, making it easier to chew and speak.
If you have dental health insurance, it may cover some of the cost of many tooth restoration procedures.