Conservative dentistry is the practice of preserving your teeth for as long as possible—basically, it means making options like permanent dentures, implants or porcelain veneers a last resort. When a dentist has to remove “bad tissue,” they should minimize how much tooth is removed. There are certain conservative procedures where the goal is preserving a tooth as long as it’s viable.
Conservative dentistry can be applied to a wide range of dental procedures including whitening, orthodontics and even your regular cleaning. It starts by carefully assessing the mouth to see just how much irreversible damage is present, and then a plan is formed. Tooth integrity is upheld whenever possible, and a treatment plan is created so that there are minimal repeat occurrences and no unnecessary or excessive procedures. For example, during a routine procedure like a filling, a conservative dentist will precisely remove only the dead or irreversibly damaged areas while leaving as much of the healthy material as possible. A tooth colored filling is a common procedure that’s ideal for conservative dentistry. The fillings can help preserve a tooth’s integrity, making it an ideal match. How long tooth restoration takes will depend on how many teeth are involved and how severe the damage is. However, the end goal is retaining as much of the tooth as possible.
Like conservative healthcare across other medical fields, prevention is the key. That’s why conservative dentists will encourage patients to keep their six-month checkups, and sometimes even more frequent. Patients will appreciate how this can be much more cost effective in the long run. Catching dental diseases early is crucial for providing the best treatment and conservation of teeth. A conservative dentist also values education, information and working as a team with the patient and dental specialists. Measures you take daily to reduce gum disease can make dentistry a natural (more affordable, less uncomfortable and less invasive) option in the future. Not all dentists practice conservative dentistry, but it’s an important mindset to have. Patients who are interested in teaming up with a conservative dentist can check which professional organizations their dentist belongs to—it’ll be easy to see which organizations favor conservation. Word of mouth (so to speak), information on websites and reviews can also clue you in. Of course, the best method is simply to ask. Think conservative dentistry is for you? Meet with your dentist about plotting out maximum tooth preservation and get on the path to keeping your teeth and gum tissue for as long as possible.
For an in-depth overview of conservative dentistry, take a look at this guideline from the National Library of Medicine.