A smile can be the most eye-catching feature of a face. With dentistry's many advances, you no longer have to settle for stained, chipped, or misshapen teeth. You have choices that can help you smile with confidence. Talk to the doctor about the options most suitable for you, what your expectations are, and the dental fees involved.
If you're missing one or more teeth, you may notice a difference in chewing and speaking. A bridge may be used to replace missing teeth, help maintain the shape of your face, and alleviate the stress in your bite. There are two types of tooth replacement: fixed bridge and implant. A fixed bridge replaces missing teeth with artificial teeth, looks great, and literally bridges the gap where one or more teeth may have been. The restoration can be made from gold, alloys, porcelain, or a combination of these materials and is bonded onto surrounding teeth for support. An implant attaches artificial teeth directly to the jaw under the gum tissue. A small titanium fixture may be used to surgically place the implant in the upper or lower jawbone to replace the root of your missing tooth and provide an anchor for a crown. The success of any bridge or implant depends on its foundation--the other teeth, gums, or bone to which it is attached. So it's very important to keep your remaining teeth, gums, and jaw healthy and strong.
A crown covers a tooth and restores it to its normal shape and size. A crown can make your tooth stronger and improve its appearance. It can cover and support a tooth that has a large filling. It can be used to attach a bridge, prevent a weak or brittle tooth from breaking, or restore one that's already broken. A crown is a good way to cover teeth that are discolored, badly shaped, or out of position. Crowns are also used to cover dental implants.
A crown may be made of gold or porcelain. It is made to fit the tooth precisely. It looks somewhat like a thimble and is cemented onto the prepared tooth. If the doctor recommends a crown, it's probably to correct one of these conditions. The doctor's primary aim, like yours, is to help you keep your teeth healthy and your smile bright.
There are times when it is necessary to remove a tooth. Sometimes a baby tooth has long or misshapen roots that prevent it from falling out and the tooth must be removed to make way for the permanent tooth to erupt. At other times, a tooth may have so much decay that it puts the surrounding teeth and jaw at risk of decay, so the doctor may recommend removal and replacement with a bridge or implant. Infection, orthodontic correction, or problems with a wisdom tooth can also require removal of a tooth.
When it is determined that a tooth needs to be removed, the dentist may extract the tooth during a regular checkup or the dentist may request another visit for this procedure. While the procedure is typically very quick, it is important to share any concerns or preferences for sedation that you may have.
Restoring Your Smile: Dental Filling Choices
Advances in modern dental materials and techniques have provided new ways to create more pleasing, natural-looking smiles. As a result, dentists and patients have several choices when it comes to selecting materials used to repair missing, worn, damaged, or decayed teeth. Traditional dental restoratives include gold, porcelain, and composite. The strength and durability of traditional dental materials continue to make them useful for situations where restored teeth must withstand extreme forces that result from chewing, such as in the back of the mouth. Newer dental restoratives include ceramic and plastic compounds that mimic the appearance of natural teeth. These compounds, often called composite resins, are often used on the front teeth where a natural appearance is important. They can be used on the back teeth as well depending on the location and extent of the tooth decay. Composite resins are usually more costly than the older amalgam fillings.
What's right for me?
Several factors influence the performance, durability, longevity, and expense of dental restorations. These factors include: the components used in the filling material; the amount of tooth structure remaining; where and how the filling is placed; the chewing load that the tooth will have to bear; and the length and number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth.
With so many choices, how do you know what's right for you?
The ultimate decision about what to use is best determined by the patient in consultation with the dentist. Before your treatment begins, discuss the options with the doctor. To help you prepare for this discussion it is helpful to understand the two basic types of dental restorations: direct and indirect. Direct restorations are fillings placed immediately into a prepared cavity in a single visit. They include dental amalgam, glass ionomers, resin ionomers, and composite (resin) fillings. The dentist prepares the tooth, places the filling and adjusts it during one appointment. Indirect restorations generally require two or more visits. They include inlays, onlays, veneers, crowns, and bridges fabricated with gold, base metal alloys, ceramics, or composites. During the first visit, the dentist prepares the tooth and makes an impression of the area to be restored. The dentist then places a temporary over the prepared tooth. The impression is sent to a dental laboratory, which creates the dental restoration. At the next appointment, the dentist cements the restoration into the prepared cavity and adjusts it as needed.
If you have missing teeth, it is crucial to replace them. Without all your teeth, chewing and eating can destabilize your bite and cause you discomfort. Implants are a great way to replace your missing teeth. An implant is composed of two parts that mimic a tooth's root and crown. The implant's root is a titanium steel rod that is placed into the jaw bone and acts as a root. Once the rod is in place, a crown is then attached to it to replace the top part of your tooth. You now have an entirely new tooth made of steel and porcelain, and it will look just like your natural tooth.
In the past, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve, you'd probably lose that tooth. Today, with a special dental procedure called root canal treatment, you may save that tooth. Inside each tooth is the pulp and the nerve. The nerve is the vestige of the tissue that originally formed the tooth. Once the tooth has been in the mouth for a time, the functioning of the nerve is no longer necessary.
When a tooth is cracked or has a deep cavity, bacteria can enter the pulp. Germs can cause an infection inside the tooth. Left without treatment, pus builds up at the root tip, in the jawbone, forming a "pus-pocket" called an abscess. An abscess can cause the pulp tissue to die. When the infected pulp is not removed, pain and swelling can result. Certain byproducts of the infection can injure your jawbones and your overall health. Without treatment, your tooth may have to be removed.
Treatment often involves from one to three visits. During treatment, your general dentist or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems of the pulp) removes the diseased pulp. Next the pulp chamber and root canal(s) of the tooth are cleaned and sealed. Often posterior teeth that have endodontic treatment should have a cast crown placed in order to strengthen the remaining structure. Then as long as you to continue to care for your teeth and gums with regular brushing, flossing, and checkups so that the root(s) of the restored tooth are nourished by the surrounding tissues, your restored tooth can last a lifetime.
Most of the time, a root canal is a relatively simple procedure with little or no discomfort involving one to three visits. Best of all, it can save your tooth and your smile!