What is Minimally Invasive Dentistry?

What is Minimally Invasive Dentistry?

This term is used rather loosely, but generally it refers to using less invasive procedures to treat dental problems and focusing instead on prevention or reversal of decay.

For decades, dental schools taught “Extension for Prevention” regarding filling teeth. This was a term from a dentist who is considered one of the fathers of modern dentistry, G.V. Black. When drilling a tooth to place a silver filling, a dentist would drill beyond the decay and take out all of the grooves on the top of the tooth, decreasing the risk of future decay. While this may sound too aggressive, it was a predictable technique and many of our older patients still have these fillings which can be 40 to 50 years old and going strong.

Since Dr. Black’s time, dental materials have advanced tremendously and we no longer think that all cavities are the same. The study of dental decay is called “cariology” and it recognizes many types and stages of cavities. One type is “arrested decay” which implies that a tooth had early decay starting in the outer enamel surface but that decay was stopped before it got into the tooth and is now just a scar.   The decay is stopped by minerals in saliva or dental products, usually calcium or fluoride. In our practice, we give a patient the option of filling or just observing early or “incipient” decay in hopes that the decay will not progress.

Another trend that some dentists feel is too aggressive is the placing of crowns or “caps” on a large number of teeth when not all of the teeth need them. Reversible procedures, such as resin bonding or veneers, is less invasive and can be a better option.

Minimally invasive procedures used by Hakala Family Dentistry include:

-sealants on permanent teeth to prevent decay in the grooves

-fluoride products and other remineralization products such as MI Paste, which has calcium and phosphate

-laser cavity detection

-low-exposure digital radiographs

-observing incipient decay by checking every 6-12 months, when a patient prefers this to placing a filling

-attempting to save a tooth rather than extract if that is the patient’s preference and if it is a reasonable choice

-partial crowns (onlays) instead of full crowns when indicated

-bonding teeth with filling material instead of cutting them for crowns

There are many options for almost every dental problem and we do our best to inform our patients of all available options so that the treatment fits each person’s individual needs.