Minimally invasive dentistry may not be a term with which dental patients are familiar, but many dentists use such techniques every day in their practices. Procedures such as remineralization, sealing, inlays and onlays help to conserve healthy tooth structure, which is better for the long-term health of teeth, according to the February 2007 issue of AGD Impact, the monthly newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). They allow dentists to perform the least amount of dentistry needed while not removing more of the tooth structure than is required.
One technique used in minimally invasive dentistry is remineralization, which is the process of restoring minerals. It can repair the damage created by the demineralization process, which creates cavities.
Another technique used is sealing. Sealants are usually made of plastic resin and protect teeth from bacteria that cause decay. They fit into the depressions of the tooth and act as a barrier to protect against plaque. Dentists who use minimally invasive techniques also use inlays and onlays instead of crowns to restore teeth because they do not have to remove as much of the tooth structure as is required with a crown.
When presenting patients with a treatment plan, Lawrence Bailey, DDS, FAGD, AGD spokesperson, focuses on the fact that patients' costs have been managed and that time in the dental chair will be reduced. "When I explain that I won't have to cut their tooth down to a peg in order for them to walk out of the clinic with a beautiful smile," Dr. Bailey says, "they recognize that as an additional benefit."
Dr. Bailey has also found that the prevention aspect of minimally invasive techniques is good for patients who have undergone such procedures because they adopt healthier lifestyles and pass prevention techniques on to others. Overall, Dr. Bailey feels that "minimally invasive procedures help patients feel good about receiving dental treatment and create a new attitude about dental and oral health care."
Facts about minimally invasive dentistry: Reviewed: January 2012