Dental Treatment Information
A composite filling is a tooth colored quartz-like material. After tooth decay is removed and cleaned, this tooth colored material is layered into the tooth. Each layer is hardened or cured with highly intense visible light, and the final surface is shaped and polished to match the tooth. The final restoration is virtually invisible.
Composite fillings are more than just attractive. They are environmentally non-toxic because they use no mercury. They are stronger than silver fillings because they bond directly to the surface of the tooth. They protect the tooth from fracturing because they don't require the severe 'undercut' (removal of healthy tooth structure) of a mercury filling.
A crown (often called a cap) covers the tooth and restores it to its original shape and size. Decay is removed and cleaned from the tooth and a highly accurate impression or mold is made of the prepared surface. This mold is used to create a model of the tooth which is then sent to a special laboratory that will create a gold or porcelain (tooth colored) crown. The crown is then cemented onto the prepared surface of the tooth.
Crowns are incredibly strong due to the fact that they are created in a laboratory. This protects and strengthens the remaining tooth structure. In the hands of a skilled dentist, a crown will fit almost perfectly onto the prepared surface of the tooth, reducing the size of the seam between the crown and the tooth. This helps keep decay from eventually occurring under the crown.
Crowns should be placed before the tooth is so decayed that it may fracture. This can often help prevent the expense of root canal therapy in the future. It can also prevent the possibility that a fractured tooth may need to be removed, requiring the expense of a bridge or implant to replace the missing tooth.
A bridge is a single appliance that is generally attached to two teeth on each side of the space where a tooth is missing. An artificial tooth attached in the middle of the bridge fills in the gap where the missing tooth was. The teeth on either side of the gap are prepared for crowns (see crowns) and a highly accurate impression or mold is made of the prepared area. This mold is used to create a gold or porcelain (tooth colored) bridge in a special laboratory. The bridge is then cemented onto the prepared surface of the teeth, effectively creating the appearance of a 'new' tooth.
In some instances, a resin-bonded bridge may be used. In this case, the two teeth on each side of the gap are not prepared for crowns. Instead, the bridge consists of a false tooth with metal brackets on the back of each side of the gap. The brackets are attached to the backs of the real teeth on each side.
Unlike dentures, a fixed bridge is never removed. It is stable in the mouth and works very similar to natural teeth. By filling the gap and stopping the movement of other teeth, a fixed bridge is an excellent investment, providing better chewing ability, heading off jaw joint problems and saving money that might otherwise be spent on future dental treatment.
A porcelain laminate (often called a veneer) is a thin shell of porcelain that covers the front of each tooth. They bond directly to the front of the tooth, similar to the way artificial fingernails work. Each porcelain laminate is a work of art, carefully crafted in a laboratory to fit your individual smile.
In the hands of a highly skilled dentist, porcelain laminates can provide you with an incredibly natural, beautiful smile. They are virtually undetectable and can dramatically improve your appearance. They are durable and long-lasting when compared to other cosmetic treatments.
Plastic whitening trays will be made from models of your teeth. You will then place a special whitening gel in each tray and wear the trays in your mouth for several hours per day. (Many patients wear their trays after dinner and before bed.) A significant change in tooth color is usually seen in just four to six weeks.
Modern tooth whitening systems are highly effective and have dramatic results. Many celebrities consistently whiten their teeth to improve their appearance.
A dental implant is an appliance used to replace the roots of teeth. The implant is surgically attached to the jaw bone and an artificial tooth is attached to the top of the implant, creating a natural looking, undetectable replacement for the missing tooth. In the event that more than one tooth is missing, several implants may provide a base for a series of artificial teeth known as a fixed bridge (see fixed bridges.) Implants can even be used to secure a full set of removable dentures for people who have no remaining natural teeth. This can greatly improve chewing ability and reduce the risk of choking.
It generally takes about six months for the surgical implant to heal before the final installation of the artificial tooth or teeth can be finished.
Dental implants with artificial teeth are the closest thing to regrowing your natural teeth. They are strong, stable, durable and virtually undetectable. By filling gaps left by missing teeth, implants can provide better chewing ability and head off jaw joint problems. They are far superior to removable dentures.
Inside each tooth is a pulp chamber that contains the nerves and blood supply for the tooth. When the pulp becomes infected due to decay or injury to the tooth, the pulp must be removed from the center of the tooth and the canals of each root. Once the infected pulp is removed, the remaining chamber is filled with a rubber-based material to seal it off.
All teeth that have had root canal therapy must be protected with a tooth-like artificial covering known as a crown (see crown section.) This is because teeth that have had the pulp removed are more susceptible to fracture.
Root canal therapy is an excellent way to save a tooth that would otherwise die and need to be removed.
Cleanings & Exams
Professional cleanings (dental prophylaxis) performed by a certified dental hygienist form the foundation for preventing gum disease and tooth decay. In a professional cleaning, your hygienist will:
- Remove plaque from the teeth -- Plaque is a sticky substance that forms in the mouth from food, saliva and bacteria. Plaque sticks to teeth and causes tooth decay and gum disease.
- Remove calculus (tartar) above the gum line -- Calculus is plaque that has hardened on the tooth surface and is difficult to remove. (Calculus below the gum line indicates gum disease and requires a different procedure to remove it.)
- Polish and remove stains from teeth
Dental examinations help to diagnose disease before it becomes hazardous to your health. In addition, regular examinations can save you money by alleviating problems while they are small and before they become expensive to repair, or in some cases, impossible to repair. Your dental examinations generally include the following:
- Oral cancer screening
- Gum disease evaluation
- Visual examination of tooth decay
- Examination of diagnostic x-rays to see cysts, tumors, invisible decay and other problems that can't Be seen by the naked eye
- Evaluation of status of current restorations (fillings and others)
We cannot express enough how important it is to see your dentist regularly. Remember, preventing disease is always better than treating disease.
Gum disease (Periodontal Disease) is responsible for about 70 percent of adult tooth loss. It is characterized by swollen, inflamed gums surrounding the teeth. Plaque, a sticky substance that forms in the mouth from food, saliva and bacteria gets inside the space between the gum line and the tooth. If not removed, plaque hardens into a substance called calculus or tarter that is very difficult to remove. Eventually, the bacteria in the plaque and tarter eat away at the fibers that hold the gums to the teeth, creating deep pockets. As bacteria spread, the pockets become deeper until the bacteria finally eat away the bone that holds the tooth in place.
Think of it as if bugs are eating away at the soil around a tree trunk. Eventually, they eat away all of the soil and part of the tree's roots, causing the tree to collapse.
Gum disease is diagnosed through a process that measures the depth of the pockets around each tooth. Pockets that are greater than 3 millimeters in depth are considered hazardous and will generally require treatment.
Gum disease is treated by carefully removing the bacteria and substances that form in the pockets around the teeth. The removal of this material occurs on a microscopic level and requires great skill. Our dental team has had advanced training regarding how to effectively remove all of the bacteria.
This process of removing the bacteria usually requires several visits to our office. Once the bacteria has been removed, the pockets must be cleaned and maintained on a regular basis by a certified dental hygienist. Otherwise, the bacteria will return.