The United States has been in the grip of a dental crisis for years now. Most Americans don’t have dental insurance and rural areas don’t have enough dentists to meet existing need. Instead, as reported in the Washington Post, many individuals with pressing dental health issues are forced to wait in line at emergency pop-up clinics, traveling many miles and waiting all night to be seen. Despite the difficulty of accessing dental care though, when individuals do receive treatment, it can be a transformative experience.
Restorative dentistry helps people regain function, access proper nutrition, and simply boosts confidence and improves mood. Indeed, the simple act of smiling makes people happier and reduces stress, but those who are missing teeth are more likely to hide their smiles out of embarrassment. Giving patients back their smiles, then, is a kind of holistic care that reaches the body and the soul.
A Growing Niche
Unlike traditional dentistry, which focuses on identifying and fixing basic problems like cavities and providing cleanings, restorative dentistry focuses on work like placing dental implants and crowns. These procedures are part cosmetic – fixing an aesthetic issue – and part functional, but it’s a growing sector. Estimated as a $14 billion industry in 2016, restorative dentistry is expected to grow to $24.5 billion by 2025.
Repair And Prevention
Despite being perceived as heavily aesthetic, restorative dentistry actually provides a number of important health benefits. For example, dental implants not only make it easier for patients to chew and restore their smile, but also can prevent additional tooth and gum issues. Too often, when someone is missing one or more teeth, the surrounding teeth may shift to fill the space and may become crooked or loosen in the process. Patients may also experience gum recession and loss of bone in the jaw. The whole mouth becomes structurally unsound.
Improved Materials And Procedures
In addition to providing improved dental health, restorative dentistry has made progress over the last few years due to material innovations. In particular, the rising use of bioactive materials in dental repairs means that tooth maintenance is essentially ongoing. When a dentist makes a repair with such products, it resolves the initial issue, such as a chipped or cracked tooth, but can also help heal pulp damage, or even help connect dental implants to the jaw bone by growing new osteoblasts. This provides for much more secure and lasting repair than those done with older materials and can reduce the need for follow-ups.
Because more than 40% of Americans don’t have dental insurance and because dental insurance often only covers some portion of the costs, about 50% of Americans avoid the dentist – until disaster strikes. This makes it more likely that patients won’t receive any kind of dental intervention until it’s too late to do a root canal or provide a filling. Instead, patients arrive in dire need of extractions, already missing teeth, or with severe tooth damage. It’s not how dentistry was necessarily meant to function, but it’s the nature of the industry today.
For desperate patients, restorative dentistry can provide the functional and confidence boost needed to fully participate in life and even make it easier to get a job by improving self-presentation; good teeth provide dignity and confidence. And though the repairs are often expensive, they’re absolutely necessary. Good oral health impacts overall wellness and patients should be encouraged to pursue the treatment they need to thrive.