What is Restorative Dentistry?

Restorative dental treatments may be needed as we age or suffer an injury, to restore our natural smile and prevent future oral health problems. 

Restorative dentistry is the term used for replacing and repairing missing or damaged teeth to revive normal function and appearance. Restorative dentistry uses a range of services including fillings, crowns, bonding, onlays, inlays and veneers. 


Few people consider fillings as part of the restorative dentistry toolbox. But filings aren’t just for fixing holes in teeth caused by cavities. The hard resin of composite fillings can restore a tooth to its original strength and appearance. Fillings can also repair minor surface damage. 


Crowns restore a tooth to its original shape, size, strength and appearance. We design a tooth shaped cap to go over a tooth that is chipped or cracked. A crown can be placed over the top of an implant or an original tooth. Crowns are made from a range of materials including porcelain, resin, metal and ceramic. The material used in the crown will determine the item number for quoting to your health insurance fund and used on the invoice. All the materials used make a crown strong, so they don’t need any special care. Just brush and floss as you do your other teeth. 

Some crowns are made in the dental surgery and adhered during one appointment while other crowns are made in a dental laboratory so we need two appointments. During the first appointment, we make the impressions for the lab, and the tooth is prepared for the crown. We may need to fit a temporary crown to protect the natural tooth and gum, to allow you to continue chewing as normal and for cosmetic reasons. A temporary cement is used to attach the crown so we can easily remove it at the next appointment when the permanent crown has arrived for fitting. 


Bonding is one of the more minor procedures in restorative dentistry. It’s used for fixing a tooth that has decay, a crack or is discoloured. We apply a composite resin in a colour similar to the natural tooth to a liquid on the tooth that allows the bonding agent to stick.  Bonding can build up the size of a natural tooth to close a gap or build height. A bonded tooth isn’t as strong as a tooth that’s sporting a crown or veneer, so take care and avoid hard foods.   


Onlays are like partial crowns used on the back teeth when there is damage to one or more cusps. The cusps are the pointed part of the molar used for crushing and tearing food as you chew. If the damage to the cusps is too significant, then a crown is needed which covers all four or five cusps. But an onlay is suitable if there is enough undamaged tooth to support the partial cap. An onlay helps conserve a tooth and protect it from fracture while eating. 


Inlays are pre-moulded fillings that fit into the grooves of a tooth but don’t go over the tooth’s cusps. The tooth may need an inlay because of decay or from injury. 

Inlays and onlays are made from porcelain or composite resin material using dental impressions of the tooth. The laboratory will match the material to the colour of the tooth so it’s an almost invisible repair. We may fit a temporary inlay while waiting for the permanent one to be made. 


Veneers are thin casings that are permanently bonded to the front surface of the teeth. Made from porcelain or composite resin materials, veneers can hide the natural tooth’s shape, colour and position. You may need just one veneer to cover an injured tooth or veneers for multiple teeth. Veneers are used to cover teeth that are crooked, chipped, grey from injury or yellowed from age. They made older veneers quite thick, but today’s veneers are much thinner and more natural looking because of their semi-translucent properties. Veneers last 15 to 20 years before they need replacing.     

FAQs on Restorative Dentistry

What is the difference between onlays and inlays?

An onlay is a cap that covers the cusps (pointy part of a molar) while inlays fill the area between the cusps.

Do people still have dentures fitted?

In the past, dentures were the only option for an older person who had lost multiple teeth. Today, dentures are still used but there are other options for patients to consider. A dental implant or bridge may be preferred over dentures because they’re a long-lasting, permanent fixture that may be more comfortable. 

How do I know which treatment method to choose?

There are several factors to consider when choosing your treatment including your age, lifestyle, budget and desired outcome. Your specialist can give you the pros and cons of each treatment and provide their expert opinion on which one is best.

If you need any restorative dentistry work, leave it to the experts. Prosthodontists are specialists in complex restoration cases. Make an appointment today by calling (08) 9321 1632 or contact us online.