What is a Root Canal?
Root canal treatment is the removal of the tooth’s pulp, a small, thread-like tissue in the center of the tooth. Once the damaged, diseased or dead pulp is removed, the remaining space is cleaned, shaped and filled. This procedure seals off the root canal. Years ago, teeth with diseased or injured pulps were removed. Today, root canal treatment saves many teeth that would otherwise be lost.
The most common causes of pulp damage or death are:
- Dental root canal
- A cracked tooth
- A deep cavity
- An injury to a tooth, such as a severe knock to the tooth, either recent or in the past
Once the pulp is infected or dead, if left untreated, pus can build up at the root tip in the jawbone, forming an abscess. An abscess can destroy the bone surrounding the tooth and cause pain.
How is Root Canal Done?
Root canal treatment consists of several steps that take place over several office visits, depending on the situation. These steps are:
- First, an opening is made through the back of a front tooth or the crown of a molar or pre-molar.
- After the diseased pulp is removed (a pulpectomy), the pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned, enlarged and shaped in preparation for being filled.
- If more than one visit is needed, a temporary filling is placed in the crown opening to protect the tooth between dental visits.
- The temporary filling is removed and the pulp chamber and root canal permanently filled. A tapered, rubbery material called gutta-percha is inserted into each of the canals and is often sealed into place with cement. Sometimes a metal or plastic rod is placed in the canal for structural support.
- In the final step, a crown is usually placed over the tooth to restore its natural shape and appearance. If the tooth is very broken down, a post may be required to build it up prior to placing a crown.
What is Composite Fillings?
A Composite fillings is a white (tooth colored) resin material that bonds to tooth structure, that is used now in place of amalgam ‘silver’ fillings to provide a strong and cosmetically pleasing tooth restoration. Because a silver fillings requires a “mechanical lock” to stay in place, dentist’s usually have to drill a shape larger than the decay itself.
Because of the adhesive chemistry of white fillings and the fact that they bond to teeth, no additional shape has to be drilled once access to the decay has been made. The end result is usually a much smaller fillings and a stronger tooth because the bonding helps “glue” or reinforce the weak parts of the tooth.
One of the fears associated with going to the dentist is that the dentist will end up pulling one or more teeth. This fear often will prevent us from going to the dentist for our regular check ups and cleanings necessary for good oral hygiene. The truth is that dental extractions are just another part of good oral hygiene and are quite uncommon compared to the number of simple examinations that we should be exposed to.
Although there are many treatments available to save a tooth, extraction is sometimes the only option.
Here are some of the reasons when extration is necessary:
- Sometimes there’s too much damage for the tooth to be repaired.
- Some people have extra teeth that block other teeth from coming in.
- People getting braces may need teeth extracted to create room for the teeth that are being moved into place.
- Wisdom teeth, also called third molars, are often extracted either before or after they come in.
Periodontal Gum Care
Periodontal (gum) diseases, including gingivitis and periodontitis, are serious infections that, left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. The word periodontal literally means “around the tooth.”
Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth.
It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed.
Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
Crowns & Bridges
Crowns are a type of dental restoration which, when cemented into place, fully cup over the portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line.
Since dental crowns encase the entire visible aspect of a tooth, a dental crown in effect becomes the tooth’s new outer surface.
Crowns are necessary, when teeth are to damaged for a filling to hold. Depending on how much of the tooth became ill, the physician will recommend a partial crown or a complete crown to you.
A dental bridge is a false tooth, known as a pontic, which is fused between two porcelain crowns to fill in the area left by a missing tooth. The two crowns holding it in place that are attached onto your teeth on each side of the false tooth.
This is known as a fixed bridge. This procedure is used to replace one or more missing teeth. Fixed bridges cannot be taken out of your mouth as you might do with removable partial dentures.
Full Dentures, Partial Denture & Overdentures
When many of your teeth are loose or painful, they may be beyond saving. This condition is usually caused by advanced periodontal disease. If you are not a good candidate for implants, then removing your teeth and replacing them with a denture may be the best way to eliminate the infection and restore the health of your mouth. Periodontal disease causes bone to be lost; if it’s not caught in time, there’s so little support for the teeth that they have to be removed.
A Full Denture replaces all the missing teeth in the upper and lower jaw. When the entire procedure is completed in one day, it’s called an Immediate Denture.
A Partial Denture is a removable dental appliance that replaces multiple missing teeth. It can be attached to the teeth with clasps (metal or tooth colored) or it can be attached to the teeth with crowns with precision attachments (hidden clasps).
An Implant Overdenture is a denture that has some sort of direct connection to dental implants. The connection helps secure the Full Denture into place, while overcoming the instability and lack of retention of a common complete denture. This is a good treatment option for an individual who requires a full denture, but wants to achieve a more stable and less bulky type of restoration.
The hectic pace of today’s adult lifestyle often leaves little time for the daily oral health care routine needed to prevent cavities and periodontal disease. This is unfortunate since periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. An estimated 75% of Australians reportedly have some form of periodontal disease.
Early detection of periodontal disease reduces the risk of permanent damage to teeth and gums and can prevent more extensive and costly treatment in later years. Regular professional visits, every six months or as scheduled by our dental hygienist, will help you learn more about proper care for your teeth and gums. Regular professional visits are important because gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal disease, is usually painless; you may not be able to detect it on your own.
Dental cleaning is the removal of dental plaque (a soft, sticky, bacteria infested film) and tartar (‘calculus’) from the teeth. Dental cleanings are necessary to prevent cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. If left untreated, severe gum disease can result in tooth loss. Cleaning and polishing of the teeth leaves the surfaces of the teeth clean and smooth so that bacteria are unable to stick to them.
The dental hygienist or dentist will use dental instruments to gently remove these deposits without harming the teeth. First, the dental hygienist will use an ultrasonic device that emits vibrations to knock larger pieces of tartar loose. The ultrasonic device sprays a cooling mist of water while it works to wash away debris and keep the area at a comfortable temperature. Next, hand tools called scalers and curettes are used to manually remove smaller deposits and smooth the tooth surfaces. These tools are curved and shaped to match the curves of the teeth.
Once all the tooth surfaces have been cleaned of tartar and plaque, the teeth are polished using a slow speed hand piece with a soft rubber cup that spins on the end. Prophylaxis paste, which is a special gritty toothpaste-like material – is applied to the teeth to make them shiny and smooth. Your dental hygienist or dentist may also apply fluoride to the teeth to help strengthen the tooth enamel.