Minimally Invasive Dentistry: Practices & Procedures

Minimally Invasive Dentistry (MID) is one of the fastest growing models within modern dentistry.  It is based on the medical model that first seeks to control the disease and then uses minimally invasive techniques to restore the form, function and esthetics of the mouth, teeth and gums.  Dentist who employ these techniques use magnification and advanced technologies to remove the least amount of tooth structure, bone or soft tissue as necessary to eliminate what is unhealthy or diseased.  When the replacement of teeth is necessary, minimally invasive dentistry seeks to make the procedure as conservative and comfortable as possible.

Dentists who practice minimally invasive dentistry are dedicated to dental prevention and patient education while respecting the health, function and appearance of oral tissue by preventing disease from occurring or interrupting disease progress with minimal tissue loss.

How Does Minimally Invasive Dentistry Work?

In order for your dentist to perform the treatments necessary for restorative dentistry, they must first evaluate your risk for tooth decay.  Your dentist will examine the presence of bacteria, the quality and quantity of saliva, and your diet, as they are all contributors to tooth decay.  Your dentist will then use strategies to prevent or reduce your risk for tooth decay and utilize the most invasive treatment options possible.

Minimally Invasive Dentistry Treatments

Some examples of minimally invasive dentistry oral procedures include:

Sealants: Sealants do not require any cutting of tooth structure and can be placed on teeth that may be susceptible to decay at any time.  Sealants fit onto the grooves and depressions of the tooth to act as a barrier against acid and plaque.  They are typically made of plastic resins that protect teeth from the bacteria that cause tooth decay.

Mini Dental Implants: Mini dental implants, compared to standard-size implants allow for placement for patients that do not have the minimum amount of bone in the jaw needed for conventional implants.  The use of mini implants allows conservative placement of implants into bone and avoids bone grafting and significant trauma and expense for patients.  Placement of these smaller diameter implants is a great alternative for fixed or removable prostheses such as dentures.  The procedure to place mini implants and their low cost make them a desirable option to both dentists and patients.

Non-Invasive Periodontal Disease Treatment: Gum disease plagues many Americans but there is renewed interest in periodontal therapy.  Dental hygienists can easily treat patients with moderate periodontal disease with frequent visits for scaling and polishing, antibiological rinses, local and systemic antibiotics as prescribed by dentists, tongue cleaning and increased patient education.  Many treatments are easy as take home teeth bleaching trays formulated with medicated gel compounds that directly treat the affected tissue areas, initiating a healing process that begins almost immediately.  These conservative approaches retain teeth without the trauma of conventional periodontal therapy or the inevitable tooth extraction required if periodontal disease is allowed to go without treatment.

Inlays and Onlays: Typically crowns are used to restore teeth but inlays and onlays do not require dentists to remove as much of the tooth structure.  Crowns are often used because it is believed to be simpler and more predictable than the inlay or onlay procedure.  Inlays are similar to fillings except that they are custom-made to fit the cavity and are typically the same color as the tooth.  Onlays are used for used for more substantial reconstruction however do not require the dentist to remove as much of the tooth as a crown.

Minimally Invasive Veneers or Tooth Bleaching: To address the concern of tooth sensitivity and failing veneers, ultra-thin veneers have been perfected that eliminate the invasive and excessive tooth preparation that was required for older, traditional veneers. Additionally, discolored teeth that are acceptable in anatomy and occlusion that may have been candidates for crowns may be eligible for more conservative tooth bleaching procedures.

Air Abrasion: Air abrasion technologies work on the principle of high-speed particulate matter aimed at a treatment area as an alternative to invasive drilling.  The pinpoint accuracy of abrasion dentistry allows dentists to remove cavities or unhealthy tooth structure and often times forgoes the need for local anesthetics or sedation medications.  If a tooth cannot be remineralized and decay is present air abrasion dentistry is a popular solution that is highly effective and minimally invasive.  

Remineralization: Remineralization repairs damaged teeth by restoring minerals.  It is an effective treatment that often stops or reverses early stages of tooth decay.  If a cavity is remineralized, it can avoid a filling by restoration of calcium and fluoride deposits.

Laser Dentistry: Dental lasers are one of the most popular advances in both cosmetic and restorative dentistry.  They are used to treat both hard and soft tissue and the process involves little to no pain, quick healing times, and higher accuracy levels than traditional treatments.  Dental lasers are used for gum treatments, shaping, contouring, and other full mouth makeover dentistry procedures.

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Dentistry

Minimally invasive dentistry is not yet a household name but many dentists are employing the advances in dental technology for the benefit of long-term dental health to their patients.  This type of dentistry recognizes that original healthy tissue is of more value than some sort of prostheses.  The most common characteristic of minimally invasive dentistry is the preservation of tissue, preferably by preventing disease and intercepting its progress, but also removing and replacing it with as little tissue loss as possible.  

Additionally the advent of modern minimally invasive dentistry techniques gives the dentist and the patient more treatment options than ever before.  In many circumstances, the preservation of tooth or tissue structure that is saved by a minimally invasive procedure can actually be more affordable for patients and redeem more attractive results.  Although dentists may not be as handsomely rewarded for such procedures it goes a long way to address a patients problem and not suggest the restorative procedure with the most financial gain.   Given the youth of these types of procedures, some patients are still convinced that the only things that count are prosthetic replacements.  Patients should therefore be educated that the procedure to help them avoid having a filling is better than actually having one.

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