The process of rebuilding the gums, teeth, jaw or any part (or combination of parts) in the mouth is called reconstructive dentistry. It is usually much more extensive than cosmetic dentistry, requiring sedation. However, the exact difference between reconstructive dentistry and cosmetic dentistry is usually defined—and then only loosely—by insurance companies, since a lot of them will pay for “medical” procedures to repair chipped or broken teeth but will not pay for strictly-cosmetic treatments like laser or chemical whitening.
The need for reconstructive dentistry is usually the result of one of three things: genetic heredity, an accident, or poor oral hygiene. It is most often undertaken for aesthetic reasons; however, it can also be medically necessary if the problem is interfering with normal functions of the mouth, such as speaking or chewing. Medical issues such as TMJ disorders, overcrowding, jaw injuries, and more could all require reconstructive dentistry for a full recovery.
But what exactly does reconstructive dentistry entail? The short answer is “pretty much anything.” Reconstructive dentistry can include rebuilding or repairing dental bridges, the construction of new teeth with a composite material, or making and installing implants to replace missing teeth. It is sometimes even needed to support intact teeth, preventing damage and making sure they remain properly functioning. Essentially, most dental procedures that are not purely cosmetic or simple dental cleaning fall under the category of reconstructive dentistry. A total mouth reconstruction is the most extreme example, but this is rare as many people opt for dentures instead.
Before you think about reconstructive dentistry, you need to consult with a qualified dentist or oral surgeon. He or she will examine your mouth, take a short medical history, and talk to you about your options. You should get the opinion of more than one expert, especially before undergoing a large treatment such as a complete reconstruction. Because these procedures can be quite expensive, you should also check with your insurance company beforehand. Know what they will and won’t cover, and make sure the dentist you choose has a billing staff that is knowledgeable about your insurance policy. A lot of dentists can structure payment plans with little to no insurance coverage, so be sure to talk to your dentist about how you will pay for the procedure.