What Is Conservative Dentistry?

Mary McMahon

Conservative dentistry preserves the teeth in the mouth as much as possible. Dentists performing procedures to remove damaged or diseased tissue attempt to limit the amount of healthy tooth removed, and focus on procedures that will conserve the teeth when it is a viable option. Extractions may be considered if a patient’s tooth is too badly damaged to save. Services like braces, teeth whitening, and regular cleanings can also be available through a dental practice that focuses on tooth conservation.

Conservative dentistry seeks to limit the number of teeth removed due to damage, or preserve healthy portions of otherwise damaged teeth.
Conservative dentistry seeks to limit the number of teeth removed due to damage, or preserve healthy portions of otherwise damaged teeth.

In this approach to dental health, practitioners carefully evaluate dental problems to determine the extent of an issue and develop a plan of approach. Their goal is to maintain the integrity of the tooth in the mouth while successfully treating the problem and preventing a recurrence. During a procedure like a filling or a more invasive root canal, the dentist carefully removes infected, dead, and damaged material while leaving healthy material behind. A variety of approaches can be used in conservative dentistry to control the operating field and treat the tooth.

A dentist examines a patient's teeth.
A dentist examines a patient's teeth.

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Once the dentist has cleaned the tooth thoroughly, filling can be added to preserve the integrity and prevent a recurrence by sealing the opening. This tooth restoration process can take varying lengths of time, depending on the extent of the damage and the number of teeth involved. At the end, the patient retains the majority of the intact tooth. Followups can confirm that the tooth remains healthy and doesn’t have any additional problems, to make sure the procedure was successful.

Braces can be available through a dental practice that focuses on tooth conservation.
Braces can be available through a dental practice that focuses on tooth conservation.

Part of conservative dentistry, as in other fields of this health care profession, is preventative care. Dentists regularly inspect their patients for signs of dental disease, recommend cleanings to keep the surface of the teeth clean, and can provide advice on reducing the risk of tooth and gum disease. They may work with other care providers as necessary to coordinate treatment for a patient. For example, a patient taking medications that contribute to dry mouth might need extra dental care to keep the teeth in good condition.

Patients interested in conservative dentistry can find practitioners in their area in several ways. Many belong to professional organizations which provide free listings of their members. Practices may also advertise conservative dentistry services in their names or on their informational materials. Word of mouth can be another way to locate a dentist, and can offer the added benefit of coming with a review of the services offered to allow a patient to determine if the practice will be suitable.

A man with white teeth.
A man with white teeth.

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