A regular examination (or checkup) is an important part of preventative dentistry and can identify problems at an early stage thus avoiding complex/involved treatment. X-rays may also be taken to enable your dentist to look ‘inside’ your tooth and below the gum line.
How often you need a checkup depends on many risk factors including your diet, the current state of your teeth and gums and whether or not you have had complex dentistry that requires regular maintenance.
The posh word for a filling is a ‘Restoration’. Fillings are required where teeth have broken down. Most often the breakdown is due to dental decay but sometimes, teeth can also fracture.
Fillings can be constructed of many different types of material but the two most common are Amalgam (silvery-grey material containing a mixture of metals) or Composite (a tooth coloured glass-like material).
If you require a filling it is a sign of too much sugar in your diet or inadequate brushing (or often both!). Your dentist will offer you preventative advice.
Gum disease is a process where the structures supporting the tooth and fixing it into position begin to break down. These structures are of course the gums but more importantly, also the surrounding bone. The main cause of Gum Disease is dental plaque (inadequate brushing) and one of the main principles of treatment is preventative advice on plaque control. Genetic factors also play an important role in the onset and progression of Gum Disease. Smoking is known to speed up its progression.
In simple cases, regular scaling (the removal of plaque) by your dentist or hygienist will be sufficient to limit the progression of Gum Disease. In more complex cases, or where the disease is progressing rapidly, treatment will be more involved and require an involved programme of ‘deep’ scaling or, in rare cases, surgery.
Sometimes, the breakdown of a tooth (eg dental decay) has been very extensive and spread all the way down to the roots of the tooth. Inside the roots is nerve tissue and with deep decay, the nerve tissue will die off and become infected (what patients sometimes call an ‘abscess’)
The aim of root canal treatment is to remove the dead nerve tissue, disinfect the root canals and seal them to prevent further infection.
Root canal is a delicate and time-consuming procedure and can often be technically very difficult.
However, having a root canal will often save the tooth!
Sometimes, there is nothing that can be done to save a tooth and it will require removal. Most teeth are removed under normal conditions i.e. local anaesthetic in the dental surgery. In complex cases, you may require referral to hospital or to a clinic that offers sedation or general anaesthesia services.
Crowns (sometimes referred to as ‘caps’) are a form of dental restoration. They are fitted over teeth that are heavily broken down. Crowns cover the entire tooth, sealing it from bacteria and decay. Furthermore, they strengthen a tooth and improve the look of it.
A Bridge is simply a series of linked crowns. They are used to replace a missing tooth or teeth.
The simplest and cheapest method to replace lost teeth (and one that has been carried out since at least Ancient Egypt!) is by the use of dentures. These are usually constructed of acrylic (a type of plastic) or sometimes a metal alloy. They are inserted by the patient and removed for cleaning and at night times.