Modern cosmetic dentistry focuses on the principle of minimally invasive dentistry which serves to preserve as much natural tooth structure as possible when restoring worn or damaged dentition. Once natural tooth structure is lost, either from decay, gum disease, or drilling by the dentist it cannot simply grow back. It is forever gone and its maintenance can become an issue as restorative devices have a finite lifespan and will not last forever.
Minimally invasive cosmetic dentistry then serves to conserve healthy tooth structure by allowing the dentist to perform the least amount of dentistry needed. This entails never removing more tooth structure than is required to restore teeth to their optimal condition. In addition to performing only what dental treatments are necessary to regain dental health, cosmetic dentists also use durable dental materials that conserve maximum tooth structure so that the need for future repairs is reduced.
Dentistry at its core is ideally preventative but the need to restore teeth to their original condition is often needed as decayed, damaged, or otherwise unattractive teeth can result in more severe and costly treatments down the road. Dentists use digital x-rays and other various methods to spot signs of tooth decay in their early stages. When cavities are found, minimally invasive cosmetic dentistry treatments such as air abrasion and dental lasers are used to remove the absolute minimum amount of tooth structure necessary to eliminate cavities. Most of the time patients are excited to hear that the need for needles or local anesthetics is unnecessary given the minimally invasive approach. Dentists attempt to catch problems early as the removal of tooth structure causes the tooth to become weaker so early detection can result in the smallest restoration possible.
Currently minimally invasive cosmetic dentistry approaches involve the use of air abrasion, laser treatment or treatments that are designed to repair teeth rather than to replace them. The focus lies heavily within the field of cavity repair but has also been seen in other cosmetic dentistry fields. One of the early leaders of preventative dentistry, Dr. Miles Markley, described minimally invasive dentistry best:
“the loss of even a part of a human tooth should be considered a serious injury and dentistry’s goal should be to preserve healthy and natural tooth structure.”
The avoidance of aggressive preparation treatments will aid in the health of millions of teeth and assist in their long-term function and appearance.
Often minimally invasive cosmetic dentistry can be explained best through the use of examples. Often cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry overlap in that many patients want the benefit of improved oral health and overall appearance. Minimally invasive cosmetic dentistry serves this goal well.
Inlays and Onlays- Inlays and onlays require much less removal of healthy tooth structure than dental crowns. Dental crowns require much of the tooth to be removed so that the crown can fit properly. Removal of healthy teeth structure increases the risks of both tooth fracture and the need for root canal treatment after the crown is completed. This is not to say that dental crowns should be avoided. It is just an example of where a minimally invasive cosmetic treatment such as an inlay or onlay is a more conservative option.
Dental Implants- When a patient is missing a tooth they have different options in the form of a dental bridge or dental implant. Dental implants are an example of a minimally invasive cosmetic dentistry option as dental bridges require the grinding down of the surrounding teeth in order to support a bridge. Teeth that have been grounded down in order to support a bridge are at more risk of root canal therapy in the future.
Gum Disease- Traditional gum disease treatments require the removal of bone and tissue around the teeth to create shallower gum pockets and allow easier cleaning and maintenance. Minimally invasive treatments such as laser therapy have the ability to kill bacteria and remove diseased tissue without the need for surgical removal of bone and tissue.