General Dental Visits
An oral examination is a visual inspection of the mouth, head, and neck, performed to detect abnormalities. Radiographs allow for a more complete examination, helping the doctor to detect cavities, problems in existing dental restorations, gum and bone recession or other abnormal conditions within the mouth, head and neck area.
A dental cleaning, also known as an oral prophylaxis, is the removal of dental plaque and tartar (calculus) from the teeth. Specialized instruments are used to gently remove these deposits without harming the teeth. First, an ultrasonic device that emits vibrations and is cooled by water is used to loosen larger pieces of tartar. Next, hand tools are used to manually remove smaller deposits and smooth the tooth surfaces. Once all the tooth surfaces have been cleaned of tartar and plaque, the teeth are polished.
Scaling and root planing is a non-surgical procedure used to treat gum disease. During the scaling process, specialized dental instruments are used to remove dental plaque and calculus from beneath the gums. Planing is the procedure used to smooth the tooth roots after the scaling process. Root planing helps the gums heal and reattach themselves to a cleaner and smoother root surface.
Root canals are most often necessary when decay has reached the nerve of the tooth or the tooth has become infected. When root canal therapy is performed, infected or inflamed pulp is removed from the tooth chamber. The inside of the tooth is then cleaned and disinfected before being filled and sealed to limit the possibility of future infection. Soon after the root canal is performed, the tooth is restored with a dental crown or filling to protect the tooth and restore normal tooth function.
A tooth that can not be saved with restorative procedures may need to be removed. Before removal of the tooth, the area will be numbed with anesthesia. The tooth is loosened from the jawbone and surrounding ligaments and tissues with a gentle rocking motion. Once it is loose, it is gently removed. Stitches may be necessary after the removal of a tooth.
Composite fillings use tooth-colored material to restore teeth with cavities and maintain a natural appearance. Once the decay is removed, the tooth is filled with a composite material which is then cured using a specialized light to harden the material. Composite fillings can be done in one visit.
An inlay or onlay is a partial crown restoration that can be placed when there is not sufficient tooth structure to support a filling but enough tooth structure left that a full crown is not needed. Inlays/onlays are made of porcelain or gold, and they aesthetically and functionally replace the missing tooth structure.
A crown is a dental restoration that completely covers the outside of a tooth that is cracked, broken, worn down, or severely decayed. Dental crowns are usually completed in two visits. During the first visit, the tooth is prepared (shaved down) and an impression is taken. A temporary crown is placed while the permanent crown is fabricated. During the second visit, the permanent crown is carefully fitted and then cemented into place.
A bridge can replace missing teeth without the use of a denture or dental implant. A bridge is composed of two crowns and a replacement tooth or teeth. Crowns are typically placed on the teeth on either side of the space, with the fabricated tooth or teeth attached in between.
For multiple missing teeth, an implant may be used to anchor the bridge.
Dental implants are composed of three pieces: a small screw made of a biocompatible metal called titanium, an abutment which connects the screw and the final restoration, and the final restoration. The screw, which is placed in the jawbone, acts as a replacement for the tooth root, providing a strong foundation for fixed or removable replacement teeth. The screw begins to fuse with the bone over the course of a few months. After the fusing process, known as osseointegration, the abutment is inserted into the screw to allow for the permanent attachment of the restoration.
A denture is a replacement for multiple missing teeth within the same (upper or lower) arch. A denture differs from a crown or bridge in that it does not rely on an existing tooth structure, and it completely replaces the missing teeth.
There are several different types of dentures:
- Full or Partial
- Removable or Fixed
- Traditional or Implant-Supported
Teeth will naturally lose their brightness over time. Drinking coffee or tea, or using tobacco, as well as certain childhood medications can cause teeth to discolor or darken even faster than normal.
Whitening, also known as bleaching, is the procedure used to brighten teeth. There are two different ways to achieve a desired whiter smile: In-Office Bleaching and At-Home Bleaching.
Porcelain veneers are thin pieces of porcelain used to recreate the natural appearance of teeth. To place a veneer, a thin layer of the original tooth enamel must be removed. Afterward, an adhesive layer is placed between the prepared tooth and the veneer. The adhesive is then hardened with the use of a specialized curing light.
Cosmetic bonding is the process of filling or restoring teeth with a tooth-colored material in order to improve a tooth’s appearance. In order to bond a tooth, composite material is added to the tooth structure to adjust the size, shape, or color of the existing tooth.
This technique can minimize or eliminate stains, yellowing or spots by removing a very thin layer of the tooth’s enamel.