Fact Checked

Restorative Dentistry: Procedures and Treatments

Written by Fernanda Elizalde

November 29, 2022

Medically Reviewed

By Dr. Greg Grillo, DDS

Like all areas of medicine, dentistry includes specialties, including cosmetic and restorative dentistry. Read on to learn about restorative dentistry, what separates it from cosmetic dentistry, and associated common procedures and treatments.

What Is Restorative Dentistry?

Restorative dentistry focuses on improving patients' oral health and ability to chew correctly. Any dental process that repairs or restores damage in the teeth and jaw falls under restorative dentistry.

While some restorative dentistry procedures overlap with cosmetic dentistry, restorative procedures don't include teeth whitening, veneers, or enamel bonding. Cosmetic dentistry focuses on the tooth's appearance; restorative procedures focus on repairing decayed, broken, or missing teeth.

Restorative dentistry is considered essential dental care, while cosmetic dentistry is considered elective.

Snow Magic Strips

What Are Common Restorative Dentistry Procedures?

Restorative dentistry services focus on repairing the teeth and gums' normal, healthy function. Restorative dentists always try to preserve your natural teeth, but in some cases, they may need to replace missing teeth, rebuild gums, and repair bone loss. Several standard procedures fall under restorative dentistry.


Fillings are the most common restorative procedure. When a tooth develops a cavity due to bacteria destroying the tooth enamel, it creates a hole, and a dental filling repairs the damaged tooth.

When you have a cavity filled, your dentist removes the decayed area of your tooth, then uses a composite material that matches the color of your tooth to fill the hole. The procedure stops the tooth decay from progressing and further damaging the tooth.

Dental Crowns

A dental crown may be necessary when a patient has a larger cavity or a broken tooth. Before placing a dental crown, your dentist will alter the damaged tooth, remove some of the enamel, and fit a tooth-shaped cap over the tooth.

Your dentist may choose a dental crown when a tooth is badly decayed or when the affected tooth is significantly damaged. The crown will cover the entire tooth down to the gum line so the tooth can't get damaged further.

Dental Bridges

Your dentist may recommend a dental bridge to replace one or more teeth that are damaged or missing. A bridge has artificial teeth in the center and dental crowns on both sides, and bridges cover areas where a tooth or teeth are missing.

To install dental bridges, your dentist will extract any damaged teeth that they can't repair. Then they'll shave down the existing teeth on each side of the gap. Next, they'll use composite bonding to attach the bridge to the surrounding teeth and then fit the crowns over the natural teeth.

Inlays and Onlays

For a cavity that's too large for a filling but too small for a crown, your dentist may recommend an inlay or onlay. Inlays and onlays are custom teeth restorations that are permanently bonded into place.

Inlays and onlays fit inside the damaged tooth, but onlays extend onto a back tooth's chewing surface, replacing one or more cusps. In addition, the bonding process used in applying inlays and onlays can improve the tooth's strength and seals the filling to the tooth.

Root Canals

When a cavity or cracked tooth extends deep into the tooth structure, reaching the pulp, it can require a root canal. A root canal addresses bacteria and infections that have permeated the tooth's pulp and works to save tooth structure.

In root canal therapy, the dentist removes the infected pulp, including the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth. Then they clean and disinfect the area, removing any traces of disease, before filling the canals with a rubbery material. Finally, they place a filling and seal the tooth to prevent further infection.

Frequently, patients with root canals also require a crown to reinforce and strengthen the tooth.

Dental Implants

When you have a missing tooth, a dental implant provides a similar structural replacement for your original tooth, using a threaded post that serves as a new "root" for an artificial tooth. A dental implant, along with a crown, offers the same function as a natural tooth. 

In addition, dental implants allow patients to receive the benefits of crowns and bridges without altering the adjacent teeth. Bridges and implants combine to create a more substantial, higher standard replacement for missing teeth.


Dentures also replace missing teeth, and patients with tooth loss have several options through dentures. While complete dentures replace an entire arch of teeth, partial dentures replace damaged or missing teeth in different areas of the arch or mouth.

Traditional dentures rest on the gums, and the jawbone provides support. Implant-supported dentures are similar in structure; however, they attach to dental implants and offer more stability than their conventional predecessors.

snow teeth whitening kit

Which Restorative Dentistry Procedures Require Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery?

While a general dentist can perform many restorative dental procedures, such as fillings and root canals, other, more complex dental restoration services require an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS).

An OMS specializes in complex dental issues and is often the best resource for:

  • Dental trauma or accidental injuries
  • Disease
  • Misshaped teeth
  • Dental implants
  • Bone grafting

    Many restorative dental procedures, such as dental implants, require preliminary steps. Choosing an OMS certified by the American Dental Association can ensure that these precision-focused treatments have the best outcome.


    Why Do Dentists Always Try to Save Teeth?

    With so many advancements in dental implants, partial dentures, and dental procedures, it can seem like a false tooth is just as good as your natural tooth. However, all dentists want to save your natural teeth to prevent the need for further dental procedures, reduce bone loss, and keep the remaining teeth from shifting, so you can retain a normal bite. However, the goal is always to find a solution that fits your goals and budget.

    What Are My Options for Treating Tooth Decay?

    Painful toothaches are often a sign of tooth decay, and a restorative dental procedure can repair damaged teeth affected by cavities and decay. Choosing the proper approach depends on the level of decline you're experiencing.

    As cavities grow, they'll need more intensive procedures. Your options, in order of severity, are:

    • Filling
    • Crown
    • Root canal
    • Tooth extraction

      A tooth extraction will require further procedures to maintain your oral health.

      What If I Have Several Damaged, Broken, or Chipped Teeth?

      When you have several issues with your oral health, you may need a complete dental restoration or full-mouth rehabilitation. In this case, your dentist will take X-rays and pinpoint areas where you have damaged gum tissue and teeth.

      Once your dentist identifies all of your dental issues, they can create a comprehensive plan to address your concerns, combine treatments, and ensure that you're not paying for unnecessary procedures.

      How Do I Care for Restorative Dental Work?

      Fortunately, caring for your restored teeth is similar to caring for your other teeth. You need to:

      • Brush your teeth twice a day
      • Floss around your teeth, implants, crowns, and bridges daily
      • Use a high-quality mouthwash to prevent plaque buildup and cavities

        In addition to these general oral health guidelines, you should avoid hard or sticky foods that can pull at or damage your dental work.


        Staying on top of your oral hygiene is the best way to avoid the need for restorative dental procedures. However, accidents, trauma, and genetic conditions can create dental issues that require restorative dentistry services. Thankfully, new technology makes those procedures more accessible and results in a more natural appearance.

        You can keep your mouth healthy and teeth at their best with Snow oral health products and regular dental examinations.

        Snow Whitening Toothpaste