...To prevent dental problems
Dental examinations and cleanings: Regular dental cleanings, often called prophys, are extremely important in maintaining oral health. Professional cleanings remove plaque and calculus, often called tartar, which harbor disease producing bacteria. These bacteria are responsible for tooth decay, bad breath, and periodontal disease, the leading cause of tooth loss. Periodontal disease has also been linked to other systemic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Most people ideally have their teeth cleaned at least every 6 months. People who are inclined to periodontal disease or tooth decay often need to have more frequent cleanings.
Along with the dental cleaning, the teeth, gums and oral cavity are examined. The exam includes checking for tooth decay, the function of any existing restorations, evaluating the health of the gum and bone support of the teeth, and observation of the tissues within and surrounding the mouth for signs of oral cancer.
These regular exams and cleanings can prevent future problems, and we strongly believe in their value to you.
Diagnostic x-rays: Diagnostic x-rays are essential for detecting decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. Tooth and root position can be evaluated, along with other potential abnormalities within the jaws.
Advances in technology now allow our patients the benefit of digital x-rays. This technology provides fast, superior images for more accurate diagnosis, while at the same time greatly reducing the already minute radiation exposure associated with traditional film x-rays.
Fluoride and Remineralizing Agents: Fluoride therapy consists of providing fluoride to the teeth, which can help remineralize early areas of decay, and can make teeth more resistant to the decay process. The fluoride is applied to the teeth as a varnish or gel. Other remineralizing agents are available as well.
Sealants: Sealants are plastic-like, thin material that is bonded to the pits and grooves found on the chewing surfaces of teeth. Decay usually begins in these locations, especially in children and teens. Sealants do what their name implies; they seal those pits and grooves. They are most effective when applied as soon as possible after the eruption of the permanent teeth.
Night guards: A night guard is a custom-made hard plastic appliance that's worn on either the upper or lower teeth to absorb the force of biting, clenching, or grinding. Night guards can prevent damage to the teeth from excessive biting forces, which often occur during sleep. They should fit well to allow them to be worn comfortably and to allow for good distribution of those biting forces.
Most people clench or grind to some degree at night, and it is during sleep that extreme biting force can occur. Night guards can be a tremendous preventive device against long term wear and damage of the teeth.
...To improve the appearance of my teeth
Teeth Whitening: Whitening (or bleaching) is probably the most requested esthetic procedure, and rightly so. It is markedly effective for most people and is very cost efficient.
Whitening occurs as the result of intimate contact of the whitening chemical with the teeth. The rate at which the whitening occurs is dependent on the amount of contact time and the concentration and quality of the chemical used, which is either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. The other variable is each individual’s teeth and their response to the chemical.
There are two methods of teeth whitening. One is with a high concentration chemical application performed in the office, and the other involves a lower concentration chemical placed in custom made trays worn at home. As with all things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages.
The advantage to the in-office whitening, or power bleaching, is that a jump start can occur with the whitening process. Unfortunately, to get the best desired result, the process usually needs to continue at home with the trays. Tooth sensitivity is also more likely to occur with the in-office treatment, since a higher concentration of the chemical is used. The sensitivity will resolve, but it can be uncomfortable. Another disadvantage is that the initial whitening effect often relapses quickly without follow up home bleaching.
The at-home system’s disadvantage is that it requires wearing the trays, and it generally requires a couple of weeks to achieve the desired result. However, it can be done while sleeping, or while relaxing in the evening before bedtime.
Currently there is an incredible amount of marketing that occurs with whitening. Companies have created mass advertising appeal with their various systems, such as “Zoom©” or “BriteSmile©”. Both of these programs utilize lights which supposedly activate the chemical, but unbiased research continues to show that the lights add no benefit to the process. It is the chemical that creates the whitening, not the lights.
To summarize, whitening is effective, safe, and provides a very real advantage to most people.
Bonding: For chipped teeth and spaces between teeth, bonding can often be performed. Bonding is the application of a composite filling material to the teeth. It is done in one visit, and after careful placement, sculpturing, and polishing, can greatly improve the appearance of the teeth. The downside is that the material can stain, and is susceptible to chipping or debonding in areas of biting stress.
Veneers: Porcelain veneers can be used to improve chipped, discolored, oddly shaped, unevenly or crooked teeth. The veneers are thin pieces of porcelain that are bonded to the outside surface of the teeth. Veneers usually require removing some of the tooth’s enamel surface and often involve veneering at least six to eight teeth across the front of the mouth to achieve a good esthetic result. The life span and esthetic result is generally better than what can be achieved with bonding.
Orthodontics: Orthodontics is an often overlooked treatment for correcting less than perfect smiles. For teeth that are crowded, crooked, or have spaces, this often can be the best long term solution for a natural and more permanent effect. For older teens and adults, orthodontics can often be accomplished using Invisalign©, a treatment method which uses clear aligners that fit on the teeth almost invisibly and gradually move the teeth to create a more esthetic smile.
...To repair my teeth
Fillings: When decay, wear, or developmental abnormalities occur that result in destruction within a tooth, the tooth can often be restored with what are typically called fillings. Several options for filling materials are available, the most common today being the tooth colored composites. They are our treatment of choice for several reasons. Not only are they highly esthetic and blend into the tooth, but they physically bond to tooth structure, imparting a high degree of strength.
Many people have existing fillings that are metal, or amalgams. Numerous claims have been made regarding their safety due to mercury concerns, but ongoing truly valid scientific studies over the past century have shown that amalgams are not harmful. The benefits to amalgam are their life expectancy and ability to be placed more easily than composites.
Crowns: When a tooth’s destruction is greater than what a filling can repair, or when the tooth has cracked, the treatment of choice is a crown. A crown (or cap), fits over a tooth, and restores its anatomical form and strengthens the tooth.
Most crowns are tooth colored, and are either porcelain fused to a metal substructure, or are all ceramic.Their advantage is esthetics. Solid gold crowns are also an option in situations where esthetics is not of concern. The advantage of the cast gold crown is less tooth structure is removed in preparing the tooth, and gold does not fracture or chip.
...To replace my teeth
Implants: Implants are the treatment of choice for missing teeth. An implant is a titanium post that is surgically placed in the jaw, and can then support a crown to replace an individual tooth, a bridge to replace several teeth, or a denture if all the teeth are missing.
Implants are advantageous in that, unlike fixed bridges, they don't require other teeth to support and carry the load of the missing tooth They are long lasting and very stable. Implant supported crowns look and feel like natural teeth.
This surgical procedure, although precise and meticulous, is a simple one for the patient. The drawbacks to implants are the time it takes to place the implant until the crown is finished, and the financial cost. Generally the time frame from start to finish will be from 4 to 6 months, although occasionally an implant and replacement tooth can be done quicker. The initial financial investment is higher than for a fixed bridge, but generally the benefits long term far outweigh the time and financial considerations.
Fixed bridges: Fixed bridges are another option to replace one to two missing teeth that are side by side. A bridge involves placing a crown on the teeth on either side of the missing tooth. A pontic, or false tooth, replaces the missing tooth and is attached to the two crowns on either side. The advantage of a fixed bridge over an implant is that it can be placed more quickly and with less expense. The disadvantage is that two possibly healthy teeth are treated with crowns and subjected to the additional stress of retaining the pontic.
Dentures and partial dentures: When all the teeth have been lost a complete denture can be made. These typically are all acrylic, and replace the missing teeth and gums. It usually takes a considerable amount of time to adapt to chewing and speaking. Stability in the mouth can also be a problem, but often two or more small implants can be placed to help “hold” the denture in place.
Partial dentures are used when some of the natural teeth are still present. They often have a metal structure with acrylic to replace the teeth and gums, and have clasps that attach to the natural teeth to help retain the partial denture. In some situations, an all plastic like flexible partial can be made that has no metal that might show.
...To treat my bleeding gums
Gingivitis: The early signs of gum disease are puffy, tender, and bleeding gums. In fact, it’s estimated that 80% of American adults have some form of gum disease. The problem is that many people accept bleeding of their gums as normal.
Bleeding and puffiness is the body’s response to the presence of disease producing bacteria. This condition is called gingivitis. These disease causing bacteria exist in a substance called plaque, which can accumulate on the teeth at and below the edge of the gums. If left untreated, the inflammation can progress to involve the ligaments and bone supporting the teeth. The progression is usually not noticeable by a person until it has progressed to an advanced point.
Good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing, as well as frequent dental cleanings is important in preventing gingivitis. When gingivitis is present, the treatment involves cleaning the teeth to remove the bacteria, sometimes over a several visits. Antibacterial rinses are often used as well.
Periodontal Disease: When the infection progresses below the surface of the gums to the ligaments and bone support, more advanced treatment is necessary. Left untreated, the teeth will ultimately loosen, become sore, painful, and then are often lost.
The treatment can vary, dependent on the extent of the disease process. Treatment can range from procedures that clean the surfaces of the teeth below the gums, coupled with antibiotic treatments below the gum surfaces, to laser surgery treatment.
If the surgical procedures are indicated, the advancements with laser treatments are phenomenal. What once was often painful coupled with a slow recovery, has progressed to a much more comfortable, pleasant treatment and recovery, with even greater treatment results.
...To alleviate my discomfort
Sharp Cold Sensitivity: Cold sensitive teeth unfortunately are very common. The sensitivity can range from short, sharp responses to a lingering ache after the cold is removed. The treatment depends on the diagnosis of the sensitivity.
Often the sharp, cold sensitivity or sensitivity to touch is a result of open tubules somewhere on the tooth surface. These tubules contain fluid which moves, causing pressure on the nerve endings within the pulp, or nerve chamber of the tooth. Toothpastes, acidic beverages or foods, gastric reflux, teeth whitening, clenching or grinding, and aggressive brushing can all contribute to this type of sensitivity.
Treatment can consist of home applied pastes, fluoride or desentizing agents applied to the tooth surface. In more severe cases a bonding material can be placed to cover the exposed areas.
Pain: When pain exists with a tooth, a diagnosis must be made to determine the treatment needed. A good, detailed description of the pain is important. General aching, pain resulting from contact with hot and/or cold temperatures, and pain from pressure when biting on an object are all indications of a damaged or dead pulp in the tooth.
Treatment may involve root canal therapy, which removes the damaged nerve supply in the pulp, or inner portion of the tooth, and within the canals inside the roots where that nerve supply travels. The canals within the root are then sealed with a hard rubber material. This treatment, when done correctly and with expertise, is not a painful procedure at all, and is highly successful. Following root canal treatment, most if not all of the discomfort or pain that was felt before the treatment is eliminated. Generally, the tooth will need a crown to protect it against fracturing.