Maintaining a healthy mouth is important for more reasons than a good smile. By practicing good dental hygiene people are also helping to protect their health. A part of caring for one’s teeth involves dental visits. These visits are meant to protect the teeth and help prevent problems such as gum disease, cavities or tooth loss. For some people, care for their teeth may extend beyond preventative treatments, particularly when damage has already occurred. Some damage to teeth may be reparable, however, other types of damage may leave the teeth in a state that is not salvageable. Regardless of whether a person’s teeth require preventative care, repair work, or if one or more tooth is beyond repair, there are certain procedures that dentists regularly perform.
When a patient visits the dentist or dental hygienist for dental cleaning, it is for the purpose of preventing gum disease and cavities. This requires the removal of hardened deposits of plaque, or tartar, that has built up around the teeth and it is much more effective than home methods such as brushing and flossing. One of the procedures a patient can look forward to during the process of dental cleaning is tooth polishing, which helps inhibit the growth of plaque on a person’s teeth. This typically involves the use of a rotating brush which applies a polishing compound to the teeth. The compound usually contains fluoride. Debriding is another method that dental hygienists use to remove plaque from the teeth. This is achieved by the use of either a scraping device called a hand scaler, an ultrasonic vibration device known as an ultrasonic scaler, or a saline solution. The use of a hand scaler is also part of another cleaning technique that dentists use, which is known as periodontal scaling. This, along with a process called root planing, is called a deep cleaning. Root planing is the use of a scaler to clean the root of the tooth. If the dentist uses an ultrasonic scaler, they may follow up with a hand scaler to remove any remaining plaque.
- Dental Cleaning FAQs (PDF)
- Dental Care Adult (PDF)
- Going to the Dentist – Cleaning and Flossing
- What are Dental Cleanings (Scale and Polish)
- Dental Visits and What to Expect
If significant tooth decay, or loss of tooth material has occurred, a dentist may need to treat the patient’s teeth with a procedure called dental filling. Also called a dental restoration, dental fillings are meant to undo the damage done by dental surgery or such problems as dental caries, or cavities, and physical trauma. A tooth preparation may be necessary before the dentist performs the restoration. In this case they will need to cut into the tooth to make room for the filling or to remove decayed or damaged material. In the case of an indirect restoration process, the dentist will first create a dental impression, which is essentially a mold made from the imprint of the patient’s teeth. The patient will first undergo a tooth preparation, and then they will have to wait for the restoration, during which time the dentist may fit the patient with a temporary restoration which will protect the tooth until the final restoration process is complete. The actual dental filling material can be a number of things, including but not limited to gold, some form of dental composites, amalgam filling, or glass-based materials.
- Dental Amalgam Fillings
- Process of Filling Cavities
- Cavity Filling
- What to Expect When Getting a Filling
- Dental Filling Facts
A root canal operation is the popular term for what is called endodontic therapy, and is a form of surgery that involves removing the infected parts of a tooth, including the pulp. This is intended to remove an infection that has set into the root of the tooth and to prevent future recurrences. The procedure starts with the taking of X-rays to measure the length of the tooth, which will tell the dentist how far they need to drill. During the operation the surgeon, or endodontist, will use a local anesthetic to numb the mouth so that the patient feels no pain. A dental dam made of latex is then used to isolate the tooth, after which the dental surgeon will drill into the tooth so as to create an access hole. This will facilitate the cleaning of the tooth, or the removal of infected, loose or fragile material. While this is happening, the surgeon will also widen or shape the tooth’s canal or canals, so that the filling and sealing process can begin. They will also flush and irrigate the tooth to remove more contaminants and loose material. After that comes the process of sealing and filling the tooth; however, the surgeon may decide that the patient needs time before a permanent filling is applied. In this case they will use a temporary filling, which means the patient will need to return for the permanent filling at a later date. Once the permanent filling is applied, the dentist may also need to place a cap, or dental crown on the tooth, to protect it from future damage.
- WebMD: Dental Health and Root Canals
- Animated-Teeth: The Root Canal Procedure
- What is a Root Canal and Why is it Necessary?
- Health Encyclopedia: Root Canals
- Root Canal – Health Topic
When it is not possible or practical to restore a damaged tooth, a dentist may choose to perform an exodontia, or dental extraction, which is the removal of the tooth. Extractions may be simple and relatively quick, or they may require surgery. When a patient needs a simple extraction, they will receive a local anesthetic to numb the mouth. The dentist will use a dental elevator to raise the tooth and then they will use a dental forceps to wiggle the tooth loose and then pull it out. In the case of a surgical extraction, however, the patient will usually need a general anesthetic, which means they will need to be unconscious during the operation. The dental surgeon may need to drill into the jawbone or split the tooth into pieces in order to remove it. In extreme cases the surgeon may have to remove some of the bone under the tooth in order to remove the tooth.
- Tooth Extraction
- Tooth Extraction Fact Sheet
- Wisdom Teeth Extraction
- Overview of Tooth Extraction
- Extractions, Including Video