If your smile is plagued by significant trauma or decay, a full-mouth reconstruction can be life-changing. Sometimes referred to as a full-mouth rehabilitation or restoration, this course of treatment combines multiple procedures to address major smile imperfections and restore your teeth to their natural shining brilliance.
Who Is a Candidate for Full-Mouth Reconstruction?
You may be an excellent candidate for full-mouth reconstruction if you meet one or more of the following criteria:
You need to replace missing teeth
Several of your teeth are compromised by tooth decay or gum disease
Your teeth are significantly worn as a result of grinding or injury/trauma
You have a genetic condition that results in sparse or malformed teeth
Your smile has been compromised by numerous large fillings
Your dental issues are too complex to remedy with a single procedure
To sum it up, a full-mouth reconstruction may be ideal for anyone in need of a significant smile makeover.
What Goes Into a Full-Mouth Reconstruction?
In most cases, a full-mouth reconstruction will begin with a thorough cleaning. The dentist will treat any cavities, gum tissue bacteria, or inflammation so that the mouth is healthy enough to support the major procedures required for a restoration. Depending on the amount and types of damage affecting the mouth, the dentist may recommend fluoride treatments, tooth fillings, scaling and root planing (deep cleaning), root canals or—in some cases—tooth extractions.
Once the initial prep work is complete, the required procedures will vary. They may include one or more of the following:
Bone grafts and sinus lifts
Dental crowns and bridges
Porcelain inlays and onlays
When you go in for your initial consultation, your dentist will take X-rays and conduct a thorough assessment of your teeth and overall oral health. Then they’ll be able to recommend the best treatments to give you both the cosmetic and restorative benefits you’re looking for.
If your smile is compromised enough to require a complete reconstruction, there’s a high likelihood that you have missing teeth or teeth that are damaged beyond repair. The good news is that dental implants have come a long way and have an outstanding success rate. They look natural and can last a lifetime.
The dental implant procedure is completed in three parts: first the post is placed, then the abutment, and finally the crown. These procedures are spread out to ensure ample healing time, and the whole process can take about 6 to 9 months. During the healing process, you’ll usually be provided with a temporary denture to help preserve your smile.
Bone Grafts & Sinus Lifts
If damage to the jawbone is a factor, an oral surgeon can restore your facial aesthetic and bone density using a bone graft or sinus lift. With a bone graft, extra bone material (usually from an animal, a donor, or elsewhere on your own body) is implanted into the jaw. Over time, it fuses with the existing bone and provides a strong foundation. A sinus lift works similarly but is applied to the maxillary sinus in the upper jaw.
Though bone grafting of the upper and lower jaw has aesthetic benefits of its own, it's most commonly combined with the dental implant procedure. If the jaw lacks the necessary bone density to support implants, a bone graft will be placed first. Because common bone grafts are over 99% successful, they’re an excellent solution for most patients who otherwise wouldn’t be candidates for dental implants.
If your teeth have some structural and cosmetic damage but are still strong enough to retain, you may be a candidate for dental crowns. Usually made from porcelain, dental crowns look similar to implants. But rather than being surgically placed in the mouth, they’re placed over existing teeth. Think of them like tooth-shaped caps that provide structural support while improving the look of your smile.
If your tooth is cracked but still firmly attached to the root, you may be a good candidate for a crown. If tooth decay has set in, a dentist will need to treat it before the crown is placed. If the tooth root is damaged or severed, the dentist may recommend extracting the tooth and placing a bridge or implant instead.
A dental bridge contains multiple crowns fused together. Most commonly, it’s used to help to fill in gaps where individual teeth are missing—in other words, “bridging” the gap. For example, if you have a missing tooth surrounded by two healthy teeth, a bridge may be used in the vacant space. The false tooth (known as a pontic) is connected to crowns on each side. The crowns are placed over the healthy (or damaged) teeth, while the pontic fills in the gap.
As with individual crowns, dental bridges are most commonly made of porcelain. Porcelain is the most durable, stain-resistant, and natural-looking material available for most tooth restorations and is therefore the gold standard among dentists.
Braces and Invisalign
For patients with teeth that are healthy but misaligned, the dentist may recommend braces as part of the full-mouth reconstruction. For this treatment, you will need to have most of your natural teeth intact. Braces are often the first step in a smile makeover that also involves veneers and other cosmetic improvements.
Traditional braces are somewhat invasive and can take up to 2 years to work. That’s why more and more dental professionals, like Dr. Glosman, are using clear alternatives like Invisalign. These custom-designed aligners are virtually invisible and can work in 12 to 18 months (sometimes less). They’re also removable unlike traditional braces.
Porcelain Inlays and Onlays
Porcelain inlays and onlays are an attractive, high-quality alternative to traditional fillings. If you need to have cavities filled as part of your restoration, or if your natural teeth require some degree of reconstruction, inlays and onlays may be the solution.
Though they serve the same basic function as traditional fillings, they closely resemble natural tooth enamel, so there are no unsightly discolorations or gaps. The porcelain material blends seamlessly with the surrounding enamel.
Porcelain veneers are a cosmetic solution for healthy teeth that have aesthetic flaws. A veneer is a thin shell (again, usually made of porcelain) that is secured over the front of the tooth and designed to blend perfectly with the color and shape of the surrounding teeth. It may be used to cover a misshapen tooth, discoloration, misalignment, or other common cosmetic issue.
When designed as part of a full-mouth reconstruction, dental veneers are usually the final step. Once the restorative concerns have been addressed, your dentist can take your smile to the next level by addressing any remaining cosmetic issues. Porcelain veneers are ideal for this purpose because they can completely conceal even dramatic cosmetic flaws. And as long as they’re constructed from premium porcelain and placed by a skilled cosmetic dentist, they can last for 15 or sometimes 20 years before replacements are needed.
How Long Does a Reconstruction (Full Mouth) Take?
The time required for a full-mouth restoration can vary depending on the extent of the damage and the procedures required. In most cases, though, a skilled dentist and oral surgeon should be able to complete the process within 1 to 3 years.
If you need dental implants, you should estimate 6 months to a year for the complete round of implant treatments. When the initial posts are placed, they may require up to 6 months to heal. Then the abutments are placed, after which you’ll need a few more weeks of healing time. Finally, the dentist places the crowns. If you need a bone graft or sinus lift, this can add an additional 3 or 4 months to the treatment process. Throughout the process, you’ll have a temporary denture to hide the work in progress and preserve your smile.
If you need braces or Invisalign as part of your reconstruction, you can estimate 1 to 2 years for the teeth straightening process. If you opt for a transparent solution like Invisalign, most people won’t routinely notice this aspect of your treatment.
Smaller procedures—like crowns, bridges, and veneers—can usually be carried out in a matter of weeks. There’s generally a short wait as the lab creates your custom restorations, but in most cases, these procedures can be completed in just 2 to 3 appointments.
What Is the Cost of a Full-Mouth Reconstruction?
In most cases, you can expect to pay between $50,000 and $100,000 for a full-mouth reconstruction. A full set of dental implants can cost between $40,000 and $60,000 per industry averages (though this can vary), and smaller procedures like veneers and crowns can run between $900 and $2,500 per tooth. Invisalign treatments commonly run between $3,000 and $7,500.
Unfortunately, most insurance carriers still don’t cover dental implants, but certain other aspects of your full-mouth reconstruction may be covered (at least in part) if you have a legitimate restorative need. For example, many dental insurance plans provide coverage for crowns and bridges. Some plans may also cover part of the cost of an Invisalign treatment.
For those aspects of your reconstruction not covered by insurance, flexible payment options may be available. Your dentist can work with you to determine the true cost of your reconstruction (accounting for any procedures covered by insurance) and help you to sort through your financing options. The costs may seem significant, but there are always options.
How to Choose a Dentist for a Full-Mouth Restoration
A full-mouth reconstruction is a complex process that requires a skilled hand (or, in many cases, several skilled hands). Your average neighborhood dentist may not be equipped to manage the complexities of such a treatment plan.
When comparing your options, make sure to choose a dental professional who:
Has experience with full-mouth reconstructions and all of the procedures therein (or who works alongside dentists, oral surgeons, periodontists, and other specialists who know the procedures).
Has an excellent track record and stellar reviews and testimonials.
Understands your concerns and is able to overcome any objections or hesitations you have (e.g. by offering sedation dentistry to help with dental phobia)
Offers convenient financing options to help you pay for the course of treatment.
Skilled dentists and oral surgeons can accomplish incredible things with the technologies and procedures available today. So if you’ve been hesitating to proceed with your full-mouth reconstruction, now is the perfect time to get the smile you’ve been dreaming of.