Sure we can!
And we don't have to take away half your tooth to do it, either.
Folks, I was at a very international sort of symposium at my alma mater, Penn, recently. There were brilliant lecturers there to be sure. Some of these folks though have an inherent bias against utilizing the principles of dental adhesion. Rather than place something on a tooth, they removed significant tooth structure and sprayed porcelain about like it was Tom Sawyer's infamous whitewash. It was beautiful porcelain, to be sure, but that was beautiful human enamel that went up in a slurry into the dental evacuation unit, too.
Let's have a look, then, at a rather extreme case of employing dental adhesion principles to accomplish an interesting patient goal.
Here's our gal:
Well, her teeth, anyway. She's a dear friend of ours who was about to undergo Invisalign therapy, more or less along with my own treatment, as it turned out. She wanted to know if, besides aligning her teeth overall, we could replace the worn areas on her upper canine teeth, those third ones from the center with the straight edges.
Now, some people have canines that are too pointy in their view. We gently level these when asked to and these patients are always quite happy. My patient was making the opposite request. 'Fascinating!' As a certain science officer was known to remark from time to time...
Keep in mind, we can't do anything if there's no room against the lower teeth. Orthodontic treatment allows us to make room, which is nice. Also, many many of us hit on our canines first when we slide to the side. Wearing down the canines until all the back teeth hit- 'group function'- isn't a bad thing at all, it's quite natural. Sometimes though, the appearance suffers. If we align the teeth to maintain group function, we can indeed put the tops back on.
For more on alignment and wear, see my recent post:
So we aligned my friend's teeth and towards the end used sectional veneers to add porcelain just where it was needed on her canines and also on her front right tooth, which was a bit too uneven to simply polish down to straightness:
The onliest places her canines were touched with a drill was on the inner side. The physics of the situation gives us more strength if we place a small platform there that resists the forces of biting. Here are closer views:
Please note! That is all her own lovely enamel that you see there, just added to with porcelain that matches. Most of the European lecturers and indeed most of the Yanks at that conference I attended would have crowned these teeth entirely, removing all their enamel and then hovering obsessively over Hans-Ulrich or Massimo, their uber-skilled ceramists, as they labored to precisely match the hue, chroma, value, translucency, opacity and surface texture of the patient's adjacent teeth.
Snaps for Massimo and Hans, but isn't the patient's own natural enamel, if it's beautiful to begin with, the best substance to use here? I will stand by this concept until the day I hang up my dental mirror and retire.
This all comes from a failure to adopt innovations once they are proven. If interested in this sort of thing, see my post:
The point is, dental adhesion is a proven concept with a vast body of research to back it up. We can now bond to both enamel and dentin with enough strength to make carefully planned and executed adhesive restorations last a very long time in most people's mouths.
One of the great researchers in this field is Ray Bertollotti, DDS, PhD. I did shoot him an email before this case concerning the specifics of the preps and here's what he said:
"If you need to build in cuspid rise, then a lingual bevel and no incisal prep. If not, reverse this and leave a lingual butt joint and incisal bevel at about 45 degrees. The facial bevel will give better esthetics."
That quote was more for the dentists in the audience. Yet, if you're a patient reading this, isn't the minimally invasive gist of his advice comforting?
If a patient's teeth have fractures, extensive old fillings or decay, deep intrinsic stains or some other major issues, by all means, let's use beautiful modern porcelain all over the place. But when everything is ideal except for some part of a tooth that's missing due to wear or fracture-
Let's just put back what's been lost!