General Dentistry

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:

1. A cracked tooth
2. A deep cavity
3. 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 a Root Canal done?

Root canal treatment consists of several steps that take place over several office visits, depending on the situation. These steps are:

1. First, an opening is made through the back of a front tooth or the crown of a molar or pre-molar.
2. After the diseased pulp is removed (a pulpectomy), the pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned, enlarged and shaped in preparation for being filled.
3. If more than one visit is needed, a temporary filling is placed in the crown opening to protect the tooth between dental visits.
4. 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.
5. 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 a Composite Filling?

A Composite filling 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 filling 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 filling and a stronger tooth because the bonding helps “glue” or reinforce the weak parts of the tooth.

What is an Extraction?

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 extraction 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.

What is Oral Cancer?

Due to recent advances in medicine and computer science, our dentists can now painlessly prevent a disease that kills many Americans. Well over 25% of those found to have oral cancer do not use tobacco or abuse alcohol. Recent studies have also shown a link between HPV and an increase in oral cancer.

During a careful professional examination most people will be found to have one or more tiny white or red spots in their mouth at one time or another. These spots usually do not contain any unhealthy cells, but one laboratory testing, like the BrushTest, can tell.

The OralCDx BrushTest is a painless method of testing everyday tiny oral spots. A small brush is used to quickly collect a sample for computer-assisted laboratory analysis.

If a spot is found by OralCDx to contain unhealthy cells (known as dysplasia), it typically takes years before those cells can penetrate the basement membrame and cause any harm. During this time, the spot can be removed, long before oral cancer can start.

What is a Peridontal/Gumcare?

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.

What is Orthodontics?

An orthodontist is a dental specialist who works to prevent or correct misaligned teeth and jaws, which are called malocclusions or faulty occlusions.

A person may seek the services of an orthodontist for cosmetic reasons as well as health reasons. Beside the insecurity and low self esteem that dental irregularities may cause, they can also affect a person’s ability to chew and speak. Severely misaligned teeth and jaws can cause snoring, sleep apnea and other breathing problems.

What is Endodontics?

Endodontics is a specialty of Dentistry that deals with diseases of the dental pulp and its supporting structures. Endodontists are experienced at finding the cause of oral and facial pain that has been difficult to diagnose.

In order to understand Endodontic treatment, it helps to know something about the anatomy of a tooth.

Teeth have several layers. The outside layer of the tooth is composed of a hard layer called Enamel. Enamel is supported by an inner layer called Dentin, which has at its center a soft tissue known as the Pulp.

The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue that are responsible for forming the surrounding Dentin and Enamel during tooth development. The pulp receives its nourishment supply from vessels which enter the end of the root.

Although the pulp is important during development of the tooth, it is not necessary for function of the tooth. The tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it even after the pulp is removed.

What is Prosthodontics?

Prosthodontics is the dental specialty pertaining the tooth restoration and replacement of missing teeth to treat or correct appearance, speech and swallowing problems caused by disease or injury.

Prosthodontists specialize in the restoration of oral function by creating prostheses and restorations (i.e., complete dentures, crowns, implant retained/supported restorations).

Cosmetic dentistry, implants and joint problems all fall under the field of prosthodontics.