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Balance between removing and preserving.
There is absolutely no replacement for natural human tissue. This includes human tissue in the mouth, particularly the teeth. There has always been a struggle, however, in maintaining the delicate balance between treatment, which involves the removal of as much decayed structure as possible, and preservation of unaffected tissue.
There was a time when the approach to dental treatment involved much tooth extraction and replacement through dentures and prostheses. Dental materials, equipment, and techniques, however, have much improved. This gives way to a new concept in modern dentistry – minimally invasive dentistry.
Minimally invasive dentistry gives focus on tooth tissue conservation as part of dental treatment and care. The aim of this is to preserve as much healthy tissue as possible, while preventing the further spread of infection, especially decay.
How is minimally invasive dentistry applied to the dental practice?
Thanks to advancements in research, the concept of minimally invasive dentistry has evolved through the development of three major factors that influence and affect clinical practice:
- dental materials;
- dental equipment;
- operatory techniques.
Dental materials in the past relied highly on techniques that could affect healthy tooth tissue. An example would be the use of amalgam, which required a certain preparation technique that would involve removal even of healthy enamel. The same could be said for crown preparations as well.
In recent years though, newer materials such as composites and recent cements, allow for minimal tooth tissue removal while making sure that restorations and prosthesis are kept firmly in place. This is due to the fact that newly developed materials these days highly rely on chemical reactions between tooth tissue and the dental material, instead of preparation techniques.
Newer dental materials have also paved the way for prevention as well as part of minimally invasive dentistry. The application of sealants in newly erupted molars and premolars of children make it easier for children to clean these tooth surfaces. This aids in the prevention of formation of tooth decay, thus promoting preservation of healthy tooth structure at an early age.
Dental equipment, in recent years, have made it possible for dentists to perform dental procedures with more precision. The use of dental loupes and dental microscopes make it much easier for dentists to see very minute structures that would be more difficult to see using just the naked eye.
Access to the root canals during root canal therapy, for example, is made much easier without removing much tooth tissue with the use of dental microscopes. This also leads to a higher success rate for many of these procedures.
With the use of this kind of equipment, it is now possible to remove as much infected tissue as possible so reinfection, which leads to failure of treatment, rarely occurs.
Newer materials and equipment all equate to the development of newer techniques which are now being used by dental practitioners worldwide. Older theories and practices in all fields of dentistry have been revised due to the availability of better technology. There are, therefore, more treatment options for patients that will enable them to preserve their teeth even in old age.
Gone are the days when the only option for a patient was tooth removal. In fact, since minimally invasive dentistry is now the standard for dentists across the globe, tooth extraction is only used as a last recourse of treatment.
Minimally Invasive Dentistry Is Now the Global Standard for Dental Care
The Journal of American Dentistry has stated that advances in science have greatly influenced techniques applied to dental practice. In fact, the aim of minimally invasive dentistry is to ultimately prevent decay from affecting healthy tooth tissue (Murdoch-Kinch, C, et al. JADA.2003. Volume 134:1).
The aim of dental treatment is to restore not only aesthetics, but more importantly, function of the oral cavity. In doing so, preserving as much healthy tissue as possible, becomes part of the goal.
Even if there are indeed a number of treatment options and materials now available that can approximate the strength of tooth tissue, nothing can still replace the original. This is precisely the reason why dentists now advocate for minimally invasive dentistry. Having this in mind, both the dentist and the patient can be kept at ease knowing fully well that the natural dentition can be preserved for years to come.
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