SERVICES – DENTAL TERMS
Bonding is a conservative way to repair slightly-chipped, decayed, discolored or crooked teeth. During dental bonding, we place a white composite filling on your tooth to improve its appearance. The filling, which comes in a variety of tooth colored shades, ”bonds” with your tooth, and matches the appearance of your natural tooth.
We use bonding in place of amalgam fillings. Many patients prefer bonded composite fillings, because the white color is much less noticeable than the silver of the amalgam fillings. Composite fillings can be used on front and back teeth, depending on the location and extent of tooth decay.
CROWNS AND BRIDGES
Crowns and bridges are used to restore and enhance teeth that are damaged, or to replace missing teeth. A crown is used to entirely cover a damaged tooth. A crown not only strengthens a tooth, but it can also dramatically improve a tooth’s appearance, shape and alignment.
Crowns may be used to:
- Replace a large filling when there is little tooth structure remaining
- Protect a weak tooth from fracturing
- Restore a fractured tooth
- Attach a bridge
- Cover a dental implant
- Cover a discolored or poorly-shaped tooth
- Cover a tooth that has had root canal treatment to avoid fracture, re-infection, or tooth loss.
A bridge is one method to fill the space created by missing teeth. A bridge is one or more artificial teeth that are cemented into place using the real teeth on either side for support–hence the name. This is an option for filling the space created by a missing tooth. A bridge replaces the missing tooth, both functionally and cosmetically. Bridge work is as much an art as it is an exact science. Bridge materials include gold alloys, porcelain bonded to metal alloy, or all-ceramic material made to match your natural tooth color.
A dental cleaning is a professional cleaning you receive from a dentist or dental hygienist. Cleanings should be performed regularly to prevent excessive plaque and calculus buildup. Calculus is hardened, mineralized plaque. Lack of regular cleanings will lead to bone loss, unhealthy gums, and tooth decay. Bone loss and build-up of calculus requires scaling, root planing and polishing.
Scaling and root planing is the process of removing plaque and calculus from all tooth surfaces with a variety of methods. Dental hygienists perform scaling by hand or with ultrasonic electric scalers. This sophisticated tool allows dental cleanings to be performed more efficiently and in less time. Both electric and manual scaling methods achieve great results. Polishing completes the cleaning, making the surface of the teeth smooth and minimizing future plaque build-up.
A denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth and surrounding tissues. There are two types of dentures available: partial dentures and complete dentures. Partial dentures are used when some natural teeth remain and complete dentures are used to replace all teeth. Dentures are made to resemble your natural teeth so there should be no noticeable change to appearance. In fact, dentures improve a smile!
Complete Dentures – This restoration method is used to restore smile and mouth function if all teeth have been lost. The dentures are custom-created to resemble natural teeth and are positioned into a patient’s mouth to take the place of where the natural teeth used to be. Complete dentures are removable and may require adjustments in order to create a proper fit with the gums and mouth.
Partial Dentures – A removable partial denture is used when one or more natural teeth still remain in the upper or lower jaw. A fixed partial denture is similar to a removable denture, but it is cemented into place using the adjacent teeth for support. This fills the space created by missing teeth and creates a support for remaining teeth in order to prevent shifting.
Good oral hygiene is a must, because the loss of a single tooth can have major impact on overall oral health and appearance. Although dentists will use every measure to prevent tooth loss, there are still some occasions when a tooth needs to be extracted. A tooth may need to be extracted if the following occurs:
- Severe decay
- Advanced periodontal disease
- Infection or abscess
- Orthodontic correction
- Malpositioned teeth
- Fractured teeth or roots
- Impacted teeth
The dentist may advise to have a tooth extracted after careful examination and treatment—often taking x-rays to understand the shape and position of the tooth and surrounding bone before extracting the tooth. Based on the degree of difficulty, a dentist may refer you to a specialist called an oral surgeon.
A certain amount of discomfort is to be expected following an extraction, but it can be minimized with pain killers and ice packs applied to the face for 15 minutes at a time. Discomfort should lessen within three days to two weeks.
If you experience prolonged or severe pain, swelling, bleeding or fever, call our office immediately.
A filling is a way to restore a tooth damaged by decay back to its normal function and shape. If you have a tooth that requires a filling, the dentist will first remove the decayed tooth material, clean the affected area, and fill the cleaned-out cavity with a filling material. This filling will help prevent further decay by closing off any cracks or spaces where bacteria might enter.
There are a variety of filling materials available including gold, silver, composite and porcelain. Each of the filling materials is briefly explained below:
- Gold fillings are custom-made in a laboratory and then cemented into place. While gold fillings are often the most expensive choice, many consider gold as the best filling material. Gold inlays are well-tolerated by gum tissues and may last more than 20 years.
- Amalgam (silver) fillings are a more inexpensive choice and are also well-tolerated. However, due to their dark color, they are more noticeable than porcelain or composite restorations and are not recommended for fillings in very visible areas such as front teeth. We do not place any amalgam fillings. Although they can last a long time, they also cause cracks in the teeth over time because amalgam expands and contracts with heat and cold.
- Composite resins are custom matched to the exact color of the patient’s teeth, creating a more natural appearance. They usually last between 5 and 10 years. They can become stained from coffee, tea, wine, tobacco, etc.
- Porcelain fillings are created in a lab and then bonded to the tooth. They can be matched to the color of the tooth, resist staining, and are about the same cost as gold fillings.
A dental implant is an ideal tooth restoration for people who are missing one or more teeth for a variety of reasons like injury or periodontal disease. To begin the implant process, a metal post is surgically positioned into the jaw. Sometimes, a bone graft or a sinus lift has to be done prior to implant placement. Once an implant is in place and the bone surrounding the implant has had time to heal, a replacement tooth called a crown which is connected by an abutment is attached to the post. While implants can be more expensive than other methods of tooth replacement, they provide superior benefits and can last a lifetime. They are also a more favorable approach than bridgework, because they do not depend on neighboring teeth for support.
Implants require healthy gums and adequate bone. A patient must also be committed to excellent oral hygiene and regular dental visits, as these are critical to the long-term success of dental implants.
Halitosis is the sophisticated word for “bad breath”. Depending on the cause, bad breath may happen only occasionally or may be a more persistent condition. The most common cause of bad breath is bacteria. Because the mouth is moist and warm, it creates perfect conditions for the millions of bacteria that live in the mouth.
Bad breath caused by bacteria in the mouth can be easily treated. Brushing your teeth, tongue and gums after meals as well as flossing and rinsing with mouthwash will usually take care of the problem. Regular visits to our office for a deeper, professional cleaning and exam will also help you.
Most types of occasional bad breath, such as “morning mouth,” are considered fairly normal and are not usually health concerns. However, persistent bad breath may be a sign of more serious problems with the gums and teeth.
Bad breath may be caused by the following:
- Poor oral hygiene, which can leave food particles to decay in the mouth
- Infections in the mouth such as periodontal (gum) disease
- Respiratory tract infections such as throat infections, sinus infections or lung infections
- External agents including foods such as garlic, onions, and coffee, as well as cigarettes and chewing tobacco
- Dry mouth caused by salivary gland problems or by breathing through the mouth
- Systemic illnesses such as diabetes, acid-reflux disease, liver disease, kidney disease, lung disease, sinus problems and others
Call our office promptly if you have bad breath with painful, swollen gums that bleed easily, or loose teeth.
NIGHTGUARDS / MOUTHGUARDS
Custom-designed nightguards are made of BPA free and non-allergenic plastic and molded to fit the shape of your teeth. Nightguards are recommended for patients who clench or grind their teeth at night to protect their teeth and surrounding structures including the bone and joints. Guards generally last 3-10 years. In order to fabricate a nightguard, we will take an impression of your teeth and send it to a lab to make a custom-fit guard for you. We DO NOT recommend over the counter nightguards.
NITROUS SEDATION FOR DENTAL ANXIETY
Nitrous Oxide sedation, also known as “laughing gas” is commonly used to make treatment more comfortable. This sedation is inhaled through a mask that allows you to breathe in the medication and induces a state of relaxation. Local anesthetic will be administered in conjunction with nitrous oxide to eliminate pain.
ORAL HYGIENE MAINTENANCE
Maintaining good oral hygiene is one of the most important things a patient can do for their teeth and gums. It’s ultimately up to the patient in between visits, but the dentist is here to help and offer tips. Healthy teeth enable patients to have a smile that is both attractive and functional, and good oral health is vitally important to overall well-being.
Daily preventive care in between regular dental visits can greatly decrease the risk of developing tooth decay, gum disease and other dental problems. Consider incorporating these habits:
- Brush thoroughly twice a day and floss daily or use a waterpik daily
- Eat a balanced diet and limit snacks between meals
- Use dental products that contain fluoride, including fluoride toothpaste
- Rinse with a fluoride mouth rinse if your dentist advises you to
Feel free during your visit to our office to ask us any questions regarding your oral hygiene habits. We are here to help you.
Orthodontics is the art of using special appliances to straighten and align the teeth and bite. Braces are the most common orthodontic treatment. In this method, arch wires are threaded through brackets that are bonded to the surface of the teeth. The arch wires act as a track, and guide each tooth to its proper position.
PERIODONTAL (GUM) TREATMENT
The gums, ligaments, and bone around the teeth form the foundation for one’s teeth. These structures are also referred to as the periodontium. When the periodontium is not healthy, it jeopardizes the teeth just as a bad foundation would threaten the stability of a house. Signs of unhealthy periodontium include: gums that are red and bleed easily, persistent bad breath, gums that are pulled away from the tooth, loose teeth, and changes in the position or bite of the teeth. Any of these may be a sign of a problem. With proper gum treatments, however, it may be possible to return gum tissue to a healthy state. If you’re having a problem, come in and see us so we may treat it right away. The treatment for periodontal disease requires scaling and root planing done under a local anesthetic, and can require local antibiotic agents. This must be followed by regular cleanings called periodontal maintenance. If the gum disease gets too severe it may need to be treated through surgery or extraction. This is why it is important to have it treated at the first sign of a problem.
Root canal treatment, also referred to as root canal therapy or endodontic therapy, is used to save an infected or damaged tooth and avoid having to remove it. A root canal becomes necessary when a cavity reaches all the way to the pulp at the center of the tooth and becomes infected. Regular cleanings and checkups detect and prevent problems early on. Trauma can also cause the nerve of a tooth to be deeply damaged. When the pulp becomes infected, the infection can extend through the root tip, and eat away at the surrounding bone; this is called an abscess. By the time the pulp is infected it must be treated, and cannot heal on its own. It can even weaken the entire immune system, making it very dangerous and painful. Symptoms of infected pulp may include sensitivity to hot/cold or sweets, pain, swelling, pain with biting or pressure, and a bad taste in the mouth. Sometimes, however, there are no symptoms, and you are unaware of any problem until a checkup.
A root canal is performed to clean out the infected tooth pulp and disinfect the canals of the tooth. The only other treatment would be to extract the tooth. Once the infection is resolved, the canal(s) is filled to prevent any further infection. A build up and a crown is then necessary to prevent re-infection, fracture, and/or tooth-loss.
Sealants are a common preventive treatment in dentistry. Some teeth have fine grooves or pits that accumulate plaque, not necessarily because the person doesn’t brush, but because the grooves are too narrow to clean. When plaque accumulates, it can lead to cavities and other types of tooth decay. To apply sealants, a filling material is brushed onto the tooth, filling these narrow grooves and preventing the cavity-causing buildup. Sealants make healthy teeth possible.
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint and is used to describe dysfunction or disorders related to the joint. “Temporo,” refers to the temple area of the skull; “mandibular,” refers to the lower jaw; and “joint” is essentially where the head and jaw meet. Problems in this joint may be caused by a trauma, misalignment of the teeth, or excess muscle tension. The two bones that meet at the jaw are buffered by cartilage and five different muscles, so the TMJ can cause a variety of troubles.
Common TMJ symptoms:
- Trouble/soreness in opening and closing the mouth
- Clicking or popping of the jaw
- Pain in the jaw muscles
- Soreness in the area, sometimes extending to the face
Dental treatments for the condition can include replacing missing teeth, moving teeth with braces, adjusting the bite, filling gaps between teeth, and more. There is no one solution that is right for all cases. Sometimes a plastic mouthpiece called a nightguard is used to prevent clenching or grinding that is contributing to the problem. If TMJ is left untreated and reaches extremes, surgery may be required to repair the badly damaged joint.
Veneers are a cosmetic dental procedure in which a thin layer of porcelain or composite material is placed over the outside of the tooth. They are used to improve esthetics or help with tooth damage. Veneers are usually only done to the part of the teeth that are visible when talking or smiling. The procedure can be direct or indirect.
The direct technique usually involves placing composite resin on the outside of the tooth using bonding. Because of that, the direct technique is usually referred to as bonding.
The indirect technique usually involves two appointments because the veneers are fabricated at a dental laboratory. At the first appointment the teeth are prepared, impressions are taken, and the teeth are given a temporary covering. The veneers are back from the laboratory after two or three weeks. The temporaries are removed, and the veneers are bonded to the teeth. The laboratory-fabricated veneers are usually made using porcelain or pressed ceramic, and are esthetically pleasing.
Tray whitening is a convenient at-home whitening treatment. An impression is taken at our office in order to create a customized clear tray. Trays are generally ready within a few days and the patient must follow instructions for how to apply the gel in the trays and how often to use it. Maximum whitening results and a dazzling smile are achieved at the end of the set treatment period. An occasional follow up treatment can be used to maintain the new smile.
WISDOM TOOTH EXTRACTIONS
Wisdom teeth are the last molars, or “third molars” that develop on each side of the jaw. They usually emerge in the back of the mouth between the ages of 16-20.
Wisdom teeth are a valuable asset to the mouth when they are healthy and properly positioned. Often, however, they cause problems and require removal. When the jaw isn’t large enough to accommodate wisdom teeth, they can become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth may grow sideways, emerge only part way through the gum or remain trapped beneath the gum and bone.
A wisdom tooth extraction is a relatively routine procedure. The dentist will numb the area in the mouth with a local anesthesia or use IV sedation so that the patient is asleep during the procedure.
After the tooth is removed, the patient is given gauze and bites down softly for a recommended amount of time to limit any bleeding. Some pain and swelling may occur, but it will usually go away after a few days.
Please call our office if, after following post-op instructions, you have prolonged or severe pain, swelling, bleeding or fever.
TECHNOLOGIES – DENTAL TERMS
DIGITAL RADIOGRAPHS (AKA X-RAYS)
X-rays are a focused beam of x-ray particles passed through bone which produce an image on special film, showing the structure through which it passed. This provides the familiar black and white images doctors and dentists use to diagnose problems and disease. Without an x-ray of the whole tooth and supporting bone and gum tissues, there would be no way to detect infection or pathology that requires attention.
In our office we use digital radiography which allows us to take x-rays using up to 90% less radiation than conventional film x-rays. Using this technology, we are able to take an x-ray of your mouth by using a small sensor which records the image of your teeth and sends it to a computer. The result is a highly detailed image of your mouth that can easily be enhanced to better diagnose dental concerns and determine the very best treatment for each case.
Our office utilizes electronic claims processing. This means that rather than sending your dental claim through the mail, it is sent electronically to your insurance company with the click of the button. By filing your claim electronically, information is submitted more efficiently and with fewer errors. This benefits our patients because the turn around time on claims is faster and fewer claims are returned or denied. We are happy to submit your dental claims to your insurance company on your behalf.
TELESCOPIC LOUPES AND LED LOUPE LIGHTS
The dentist and hygienist perform procedures while wearing a pair glasses called loupes. These powerful glasses have magnifiers and powerful lights on them, allowing the provider to see fine details that would go unnoticed to the naked eye.
We use small cameras about the size of a pen, called intra-oral cameras, to help clearly document the condition of your teeth and gums.
With this advanced technology we can zoom in on small diseased areas, cracks, chips and worn metal fillings with extreme precision. Because of these images patients are also able to gain a better understanding of dental procedures being performed.
Our office is a digital (paperless) dental office. This means all x-rays and charting are made and recorded with the aid of the computer. This technology allows us to maintain your dental records electronically, and cuts down the unnecessary paperwork used with traditional paper charting. Traditional paper charting is difficult to keep standardized from doctor to hygienist to assistant. Even handwriting differences and coding make the charts look different. The computer eliminates this problem by using consistent charting methods that are accurate and precise, making it easy to read your dental chart and see up-to-date information. Digital charting standardizes the charting process so it is clear, easy to understand, and enables us to provide on the most accurate and precise care to our patients.