Have you ever heard about conservative dentistry? Do you know what it is, how it works and when it is necessary to restore your oral health?
Let’s take a step back and start by defining conservative dentistry, which can be described as a branch of the so-called “restorative dentistry”. It specializes in the treatment of decayed teeth – a common problem that affects many people of all ages and that generally goes unnoticed until it becomes severe and extremely painful for the patient. As the term suggests, conservative dentistry aims at restoring and conserving the natural tooth by removing the decay and sealing the cavities that result from deteriorated enamel and decayed dentin. In order to do so, dentists use specific methods, materials and technologies.
Essentially, conservative dentistry is the way to go if you suffer from tooth decay. Also known as “caries”, tooth decay is a degenerative disease that affects (and infects!) dentin and enamel, the hard tissues of the tooth Once the infection finds its way through these hard tissues, it reaches the dental pulp, causing severe inflammation and intense pain.
Causes of tooth decay may vary. Among the most frequent ones are poor oral hygiene and subsequent accumulation of bacteria, excessive consumption of sugary foods and drinks, age, low immune system and even predisposing genetic factors.
Whatever the cause is, tooth decay never changes: an increase in the acidity of the pH results in small openings in the tooth enamel, which becomes porous; a condition known as “superficial tooth decay”. At this stage, the disease is still asymptomatic. However, once the bacteria penetrates the enamel and reaches the dentin, it also crosses the tubules and more significant organic content, speeding up the decaying progress. The tooth now presents cavities, since the dentine matrix is no longer intact. Once the infection reaches the pulp tissue, the bacteria and toxic products resulting from the decaying process trigger an inflammatory response that leads to painful symptoms for the patient, who is now suffering from pulpitis.
Other than pain, the patient experiences other symptoms, such as swelling of the gums and tooth sensitivity, especially to sugared foods and drinks.
This is where conservative dentistry intervenes. Its goal is to remove the infected tissue and replace it with an adequate material (such as resinous matrixes, inorganic fillers, silane and activators). If the pulp is especially impacted, the dentist will perform the removal and replacement of that damaged tissue as well, through an endodontic procedure.
In short terms, conservative dentistry is aimed – wherever possible – at the conservation and preservation of your natural teeth, without resorting to their complete removal (tooth extraction), and to “repair” the damage caused by the various stages of tooth decay.