Think of dentistry and you probably envision the noisy drill and getting cavities filled. While this is still true, dentists are moving away from restorative procedures and focusing more on minimally invasive dentistry.
What it is
Basically speaking minimally invasive dentistry is the process of using certain procedures and treatments to protect the teeth before decay starts. For decades dentistry has focused on treating a tooth after it is decayed. For example tooth structure was whittled away to fill a tooth with amalgam (silver fillings) which contain mercury. Minimally invasive dentistry focuses on remineralization, prevention and of course minimal interaction with the dentist.
Why It is Important
One significant aspect of this kind of dentistry is the creation of biological conditions in your mouth that form a protective barrier against decay, or more specifically a place where bacteria will not thrive. Fewer bacteria mean fewer cavities. It is also important because since the goal is a healthier mouth with less intrusion from a dentist, materials that are used to treat or protect teeth are also much less invasive than in the past. The idea is that once the tooth is protected by initial procedures there will not be any need for further treatment throughout your lifetime. A new innovative approach to dentistry has long been needed so minimally invasive dentistry offers solutions to the problems created by ordinary "drill and fill" dentistry.
How it Works
Diet plays a part in minimal invasive dentistry. Sugary foods can cause decay faster. Acidy foods can also erode tooth enamel plus bacteria thrive in these when mixed with saliva. The dentist will stress how important your diet is and make suggestions as to changes. Additionally teeth need certain minerals to remain healthy so adding lost minerals back are important. Fluoride treatments are an excellent way to achieve this. Another method involves brushing the teeth with baking soda at night before bed instead of toothpaste. Sealants are placed on remineralized teeth to protect them from becoming decayed at all.
However occasionally some decay does happen so the third and most major difference when practicing this method of dentistry is to adhere to the policy of saving as much of the natural structure as possible. For example with invasive dentistry one method of treatment was to take away enough of the tooth to place a crown on it. With the minimally invasive method of treatment car is taken to only remove what is absolutely necessary to treat the decay. Then a special onlay is placed on the prepared area instead of a crown. This allows the dentist to save as much of the original biology of the tooth as possible.
Also gone is the drilling with metal burrs because metal dental burrs frequently remove too much or can even cause a weakened tooth to crack. Instead an air abrasion burr is used which targets only the decayed area. This burr does not touch the tooth but instead sends s mix of air and gentle sand abrasion to the affected area.
Since this kind of dentistry strives to avoid any in depth treatment such as tooth extraction, root canals or dental surgery it will not introduce new bacteria to the mouth. Anytime you have an involved dental procedure or surgery there is risk for infection above that which is originally present with the dental cavity. Minimally invasive dentistry greatly lowers that risk. In addition since extreme care is taken to protect teeth before damage even occurs or to treat it in ways that complete the treatment in an initial visit, extended care is not needed. For example, as a Houston dentist put it: "prior dentistry procedures such as multi step root canals are becoming a thing of the past. So are silver fillings which at best last 15 years or less before breaking or falling out requiring more work."
As dentists nationwide turn more frequently to minimally invasive dentistry practices to keep patients healthy from the start the dental burr and nerve wracking dental work may soon become a part of the medical history of the past.