What Is Minimally Invasive Dentistry?

What you need to know about minimally invasive dentistry

Minimally invasive dentistry is when the dentist performs the least amount of dentistry to conserve the maximum amount of healthy tooth structure. There are also a number of different materials that can be used to repair and protect teeth so the need for future dental work is minimised. Basically, our aim is for each patient to keep as much of their natural tooth structure as possible.

What is demineralisation and remineralisation?

Demineralisation or losing the enamel from a tooth happens due to the presence of bacteria and acid from the foods we eat and drink. It’s a slow process that happens gradually over time. Likewise, it’s also a gradual process to remineralise and repair the enamel—it just doesn’t happen in a half-hour session.

Remineralisation is one of the most effective ways of practising minimally invasive dentistry. Often I will see and feel affected areas or they will show up in X-rays. Provided the lesion has not progressed into the dentin (the part of the tooth protected by the enamel) then the remineralisation process can be utilised. The process involves the application of fluoride and calcium phosphate to build up the enamel layer. Products such as Tooth Mousse (Recaldent) can be applied in the surgery or the patient can use them at home.

Why is minimally invasive dentistry necessary?

Once bacteria and the acid it produces enter the second layer of the tooth (the dentin), we need to act a little more aggressively. The dentin contains microscopic tubules that can harbour the bacteria. The acid produced by the bacteria dissolves dentin and the tubules lead directly to the pulp in the middle of the tooth.

The dentist has to remove that tissue and fill the space with flowable composite resin. Thankfully, we don’t need to cut away tooth structure like we did in the past. Back then, the cavity was extended for preventative purposes and the space filled with an amalgam that often contained mercury.

How has minimally invasive dentistry changed dental practice?

Utilising minimally invasive dentistry, we now follow the track of the softened tooth and just fill that particular area. In the past, as much as two-thirds of the tooth may have been cut away. Now we preserve as much of the natural tooth structure as possible.

A vey effective preventive measure is to apply a fissure sealant to the biting surfaces of the teeth. First we clean the area using a Microetcher that’s like a sand-blaster for teeth. This effectively removes all the plaque and grubby stuff that can accumulate in the fissures. If the teeth are all healthy, we flow the material over the surface to seal the teeth and protect them from decay. This is minimally invasive dentistry at work!

Any procedures done to the enamel of the teeth is painless and no anaesthetic is required. However, as soon as we cut into the dentin, there will be pain and a local anaesthetic is a necessity. If I even suspect that the dentin of the tooth may need some work, I will give the patient an injection. While it’s important that my patients are as comfortable as possible, I also want to be able to do my job effectively and thoroughly without worrying that it might cause some pain. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.