The dental community is increasingly subscribing to the idea that less is indeed more; the less the invasive the dental procedures are, the better. This is where the concept and practice of Minimally Invasive Dentistry comes in.
Minimally invasive dentistry stresses the fact that tooth decay is an infection caused by bacteria in your mouth. The idea is to detect decay early at the microscopic level, controlling the infection and focusing on tooth preservation and repair, and removing or altering as little of the original tooth as possible. Minimal intervention by a dentist is the norm, and the goal is to maintain a healthy tooth structure. The process begins with an evaluation of your teeth and assessing your individual risk for developing new tooth decay. Once the dentist has an idea of the quantity and quality of the risk factors involved, and whether you are at high, moderate, or low risk for new disease, a strategy is devised to prevent or reduce the risk of tooth decay. This could involve diet or lifestyle changes, topical rinses with fluoride or antimicrobials, dental sealants, fillings for already damaged teeth, or any combination thereof.
Where dental procedures are absolutely required, there are several minimally invasive techniques that are used. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Remineralization – Remineralization helps prevent early tooth decay from progressing into a full-blown cavity. The process involves rebuilding the enamel of the lost tooth by restoring the lost minerals. There are several ways to do this, including fluoride-containing toothpastes and rinses, or chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow after meals. Saliva is critical for washing food debris from your teeth and supplying much-needed minerals.
- Air Abrasion – Air abrasion is an alternative to the traditional drill. Think of it as blasting away the decay using microscopic abrasive powder and high-pressure air. It can cause less damage to the tooth than the traditional drill.
- Sealants Dental – Sealants are a kind of plastic resin used to coat the teeth. This resin acts as a barrier against bacteria and acids, preventing bacteria and food debris from invading the pits and grooves on the chewing surface of the molars where tooth decay is common. They do not require any cutting or drilling of the teeth.
- Adhesive Materials – Tooth colored resin plastic materials (composites) are bonded to the tooth and require the least amount of tooth preparation. These work best when cavities are small. No filling lasts forever, so see your dentists regularly to catch any problems early when minimally invasive dentistry techniques can be best applied.
So the next time you visit your dentist, check with him/her about your risk factors for dental disease and about minimally invasive dentistry.