Like bridges, implants are a means of replacing lost teeth. An implant is composed of two parts that mimic a tooth’s root and crown. The “root” is a titanium steel rod that is placed into the jaw bone, providing an anchor for the crown to replace the top part of your tooth. The result is an entirely new tooth made of steel and porcelain that looks just like a natural tooth!
If you’re missing one or more teeth, the gap probably affects your ability to chew and speak. This can be fixed! Fixed bridges replace missing teeth with artificial teeth – they literally bridge the gap where your teeth used to be. Bridges look great while maintaining the shape of your face and alleviating the stress in your bite. The success of a fixed bridge depends on the strength of the teeth to which it is attached, so it’s important to keep those teeth and the surrounding gums healthy!
Crowns are the solution to a wide variety of dental issues. They can cover and support teeth with large fillings, prevent weak or brittle teeth from breaking, and hide discolored, badly shaped or poorly positioned teeth. They can also attach to bridges and implants to restore teeth that are missing altogether. A crown is typically made of gold or porcelain to fit the tooth or underlying prosthetic structure precisely. It looks somewhat like a thimble and is permanently bonded to the prepared tooth, bridge or implant with cement.
Fillings are a kind of restorative dentistry. If you’ve ever had a cavity, your dentist probably took care of it with a filling. A filling is a plug of metal or tooth-colored composite material that bulks up a decayed tooth to its normal volume. Thanks to improvements in the dental arts, dentists and patients have several choices when it comes to selecting materials for fillings. Traditional dental restoratives include amalgam (silver), gold, porcelain, and the tooth-colored material known as composite. The strength and durability of these materials continue to make them useful for situations where fillings 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 more accurately mimic the creamy white shades 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.
Several factors influence the durability and expense of a filling. These 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 number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth. If you are scheduled for a filling, you should discuss the various options with your dentist before the treatment begins.
There are 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. He or she 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.
It’s sometimes necessary to remove a tooth. A baby tooth, for instance, might have abnormally long or misshapen roots that prevent it from falling out to make way for the permanent tooth. Or a tooth might have so much decay that it puts the surrounding teeth and jaw at risk. These are situations in which dentists commonly recommend removal and replacement with a bridge or implant. Infection, orthodontic correction, and wisdom tooth complications are other reasons for tooth extraction. If your dentist determines that an extraction is necessary, he or she may perform it during the same appointment or request another visit. Although the procedure is typically very quick, it is important to share any concerns you may have and/or preferences for sedation.
In the past, if one of your teeth had a diseased nerve, you’d need to have it pulled. Today, a special dental procedure called root canal treatment can save the tooth. The nerve inside a tooth is the vestige of the original tooth-forming tissue, and its functioning is no longer necessary when the tooth matures. The nerve can become diseased when the associated tooth acquires a crack or a deep cavity that allows bacteria to enter the pulp and cause an infection. Left without treatment, pus builds up at the root tip deep in the jawbone, forming a “pus-pocket” called an abscess. An abscess can cause the pulp tissue to die, and pain and swelling will result if the pulp is not removed. Certain byproducts of the infection can injure your jawbones and your overall health. Treatment often involves 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. Posterior teeth that have endodontic treatment will often have a cast crown placed in order to strengthen the remaining structure. From then on, as long as you to continue to care for your teeth and gums with regular brushing, flossing, and checkups, your restored tooth can last a lifetime. The root canal treatment is usually a relatively simple procedure with little or no discomfort. Best of all, it can save your tooth and your smile!