Regular Dental Exams and Cleanings
Why is it important to have regular dental exams and cleanings?
For our patients age 4 and above, we recommend regular dental exams and cleanings. It is important for you to schedule these visits regularly so that we may:
- Look for issues that you may not see or feel
- Identify cavities and other signs of tooth decay
- Inspect your teeth and gums for gingivitis and signs of periodontal disease
- Perform a thorough cleaning of your teeth
What happens at a regular exam or cleaning appointment?
When you make regular exam and cleaning appointments, you may expect that we will thoroughly clean and polish your teeth, and that your dentist will perform an oral exam. We will evaluate your overall oral health (mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue), and ensure that your existing fillings and restorations are intact. Over time, fillings and restorations may wear away, chip, or crack due to pressure from chewing, grinding, or clenching. Your regular six-month visits also give you the chance to ask us questions you have about your oral health.
What is bonding?
If your teeth are slightly chipped, discolored, or crooked, bonding is a conservative method of repairing them. During bonding, we will place a tooth-colored filling onto your tooth. The filling will bond with your tooth and improve its appearance. Because the fillings come in a variety of tooth-colored shades, your bonded filling will closely match the appearance of your natural teeth.
Tooth bonding can also be used for tooth fillings in place of amalgam fillings. Because the tooth color is much less noticeable than the silver amalgam fillings, many patients prefer bonded fillings. Depending on the location and extent of tooth decay, bonded fillings can be used on the front and back teeth.
We can usually complete bonding during a single office visit, and it is less expensive than other cosmetic treatments. However, bonding can stain, and it is easier to break than other cosmetic treatments such as porcelain veneers. If your bonding breaks or chips, please let us know. We can easily patch or repair this type of damage in one visit.
What is a bridge?
A dental bridge covers the gap where your natural teeth may have been. We may use a bridge to replace missing teeth, to help maintain the shape of your face, and to alleviate stress on your bite. Bridges are made from gold, alloys, porcelain, or a combination of these. We bond them onto surrounding teeth for support.
The success of your bridge depends on the health and strength of the other teeth, gums, or bone to which it is attached. We therefore encourage you to floss and brush regularly to keep your existing teeth, gums, and jaw healthy.
What is a crown?
A crown is a cosmetic restoration used to improve a tooth’s shape or to strengthen a tooth. Crowns and most bridges are known as fixed prosthetic devices. Unlike devices such as dentures, which must be removed and cleaned daily, crowns and bridges are cemented onto existing teeth or implants, and can only be removed by a dentist. They are most often used for teeth that are broken, worn, or for which tooth decay has destroyed portions of the teeth. A crown usually covers (caps) the part of a damaged tooth found above the gum line, and functions as the tooth’s new outer surface.
We recommend crowns or onlays (partial crowns) when we determine that there is insufficient strength remaining in a damaged tooth to hold a filling. Unlike fillings—for which we apply restorative material directly into your mouth—we fabricate crowns away from your mouth, in our lab. In addition to placing a crown to strengthen a damaged tooth, we may use a crown to improve the appearance, shape, or alignment of the tooth. We can also place a crown on top of an implant to provide a tooth-like shape and structure for optimal function.
Which materials are used to make crowns?
Porcelain or ceramic crowns are a great choice when aesthetics are most important, because we can match them to the color of your natural teeth. Because crowns made with alloys are generally stronger than porcelain, we may recommend these for back teeth, where strength and durability are paramount. We sometimes use porcelain bonded to a metal shell, because it is both strong and attractive.
We are proud to offer same-day crowns! Our office is equipped with the technology needed to scan patients’ mouths, design their crowns, and fabricate them during a single office visit. We will advise you whether your dental situation makes you eligible for same-day crowns.
What are dentures?
Dentures are removable, natural-looking replacement teeth. Dentures may be either full or partial. We can provide full dentures for patients whose natural teeth have all been removed. Patients who no longer have some of their permanent teeth may require partial dentures, which are attached to a metal frame that is connected to a patient’s natural teeth. They fill in where the permanent teeth have been removed.
How do I care for my dentures?
Use a gentle denture cleaner to brush your dentures. Always soak them when you are not wearing them, and be sure to keep your tongue and gums clean as well.
What are extractions and when are they necessary?
When a dentist removes a tooth, the removal is known as an extraction. Sometimes a baby tooth will have misshapen or long roots that prevent it from falling out as it should, and we must remove it to make way for a permanent tooth to erupt. Or a tooth may be severely decayed, to the point where it puts the surrounding teeth and jaw at risk of decay. In this instance, we may recommend that we extract the tooth and replace it with a bridge or implant. Infection, orthodontic correction, or problems with wisdom teeth may also necessitate extractions.
When an extraction is necessary, we may either extract the tooth during a regular checkup appointment, or schedule another visit for this procedure.
What happens during an extraction?
Each of your teeth has a root that is encased within your jawbone in a tooth socket. Your teeth are held in those sockets by ligaments. When we extract a tooth, we will expand the socket and separate the tooth from the ligament holding it in place. This is a typically quick procedure, but if you have concerns or preferences for sedation, please tell us.
After an extraction, your neighboring teeth can shift and cause problems with chewing or with your jaw joint function. Depending on your specific situation, we may recommend that you replace the extracted tooth or teeth in order to avoid these complications.
What are fillings and what materials are used to make them?
Fillings are restoratives used to fill cavities in teeth. Traditional filling materials include gold, porcelain, and composite. Modern dental fillings are often made of composite resins—ceramic and plastic compounds that closely resemble the appearance of natural teeth. We frequently use composite resins for the front teeth, where a natural appearance is important.
How many kinds of fillings are there?
There are two kinds of fillings: direct and indirect. We place direct fillings into a prepared cavity in a single visit. We usually accomplish placement of indirect fillings in two or more visits, often in order to include inlays and veneers fabricated with ceramics or composites.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a substance proven effective in preventing cavities and tooth decay, and in preventing plaque from building up and hardening on the surface of teeth. Fluoride treatments are painless and take just a few minutes. After we perform a fluoride treatment, it is important that you do not rinse, eat, or drink for at least 30 minutes so that your teeth can absorb the fluoride. Depending on your needs, we will recommend that you have a fluoride treatment every three, six, or twelve months.
What is an implant?
An implant looks like your natural tooth; it is a new tooth made of porcelain and metal. Its titanium body replaces the root of a missing tooth, and it is topped with a tooth-colored crown cemented to the titanium root. If you are missing a tooth, we may recommend an implant. We may also use implants to anchor dentures, especially lower dentures that may shift when your talk or chew. We sometimes use implants to replace certain missing teeth for patients with removable partial dentures, to create a more natural-looking smile.
Why choose implants?
Replacement of missing teeth is crucial. Chewing and eating without all your teeth can cause your bite to become unstable and result in discomfort. Additionally, your mouth can shift and the appearance of your face can change when missing teeth are not replaced. Implants are a great way to replace missing teeth, and with proper maintenance, they can last a lifetime!
What is a root canal?
A root canal is a dental procedure during which a dentist or endodontist (a dentist specializing in problems with nerves of the teeth) removes the affected tissue of a diseased tooth nerve. When we perform a root canal, we remove the affected tissue and then clean and seal the interior of the tooth. Afterward, we fill the tooth with a dental composite.
For a severely decayed tooth, we may recommend that we place a crown to strengthen your tooth and protect it from breaking. Restored teeth can last the rest of your life if you care for your teeth and gums with regular brushing, flossing, and checkups.
Why would I need a root canal?
In the early days of dentistry, it was frequently impossible to save teeth with diseased nerves. Root canal treatment solves this problem. Bacteria can enter pulp tissue and germs can cause an infection inside teeth that are cracked or in which there are deep cavities. When these problems are left untreated, abscesses may form. Pain and swelling can result when infected tissue is not removed. This can not only injure your jaw bones, but can be detrimental to your overall health.
What are sealants?
Dental sealants are made of a plastic resin that bonds and hardens in deep grooves on the surface of teeth. Sealing teeth is a way of smoothing out these tiny grooves, making the teeth less likely to retain plaque.
Why use sealants?
When it comes to the hard-to-reach spots in your mouth, brushing your teeth may not be enough. It can be difficult to get your toothbrush between the small cracks and grooves on your teeth, and if left alone, those tiny areas can develop tooth decay. Applying sealants makes tooth brushing more effective against tooth decay and cavities.
Are sealants typically recommended for children, adults, or both?
Sealants are usually applied to children’s newly erupted permanent teeth as a preventative measure against tooth decay. We may also seal healthy permanent teeth for adults. Sealing permanent teeth is more common than sealing baby teeth, but every patient has unique needs. We will recommend sealants on a case-by-case basis.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants last from three to five years, although it is fairly common to see adults with sealants still intact from their childhood. A dental sealant only provides protection when it is fully intact, so if your sealants come off, please let us know. We can schedule an appointment for your teeth to be resealed.
What are veneers?
Veneers are designed to cover the front side of your teeth. They are thin, customized shells that are fabricated from tooth-colored materials such as porcelain. Veneers can conceal damage or defects such as breaks, cracks, chips, stains, permanently discolored or oddly shaped teeth, and unsightly fillings.
How are veneers made?
Our practice has two different processes for veneers. The method we use for your veneers will depend on the details of your case.
We may take impressions of your teeth and send them to an outside dental lab, where a dental technician will fabricate your veneers. Or we may employ our state-of-the-art CEREC camera to take a 3D scan of the inside of your mouth. We then use CEREC software to analyze the scanned image and produce a plan that we follow to fabricate your veneers. Our in-office lab includes technology with which we can fabricate your new veneers—in many cases during a single visit. This can save you costs and the time of additional office visits.
After we place your new veneers, you’ll be pleased to see that they look like your natural teeth. Veneers are stain resistant, but we recommend that you avoid coffee, tea, red wine, and tobacco in order to maintain the beauty of your new smile.
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are molars located at the back of the adult mouth, behind all the other teeth. These teeth usually appear between an individual’s late teens and early twenties. If there is a lack of room in the jaw or the wisdom teeth appear at a skewed angle of entry, they may become impacted, erupting only partially or completely failing to erupt. It is usually best to remove impacted wisdom teeth. Leaving impacted wisdom teeth in place could result in gum tenderness, severe pain, or swelling. Whether partially or fully erupted, impacted wisdom teeth are also difficult to clean and prone to tooth decay, recurring infections, and involvement in gum disease.
Why is it necessary to extract wisdom teeth?
Dentists frequently recommend removing wisdom teeth during a patient’s late teens or early twenties when there is more of a chance that the roots of the teeth have not fully formed, and the bone surrounding the teeth has not reached maximum density. These two factors frequently make for easier extractions, resulting in shorter recovery times after extractions.
How is a wisdom tooth extracted?
To remove a wisdom tooth, we will administer local anesthetics to numb the area around it. We may administer additional types of anesthetics depending on the patient’s comfort level and needs. If part or all of the impacted tooth is under the gums and embedded in the jaw bone, we will also need to remove a portion of the covering bone to extract the tooth. We may section the wisdom tooth (divide it into smaller sections) to allow us to remove each piece through a small opening in the bone. This minimizes the amount of bone that we remove with the tooth. Once we have finished extracting the affected wisdom teeth, the healing process begins. Healing timeframes vary based on the complexity of the extraction. We will gladly explain what you can expect, answer your questions and concerns, and provide instructions for a comfortable, efficient healing process.