Cleaning and prevention
The best way to reduce decay and gum disease, and to maintain the health or your mouth, is to attend regular dental appointments. This is called preventive dentistry, and ensures we catch any potential problems before they develop, and so the amount of treatment required is reduced. This means you can avoid having so many extractions and fillings, and are more likely to keep your own teeth for life.
At your dental examination appointment we will be looking in your mouth to examine your teeth, gums and also all the soft tissue linings. This is to check for any changes and to make sure we examine all the areas to check for early signs of oral cancer. We will carry out any necessary treatments, tests or x-rays that we feel you may require. We will ask about your general health and any problems you may have had with your teeth, mouth or gums since your last visit. We will ask about and give you advice on your diet, smoking and alcohol use and teeth cleaning habits to help improve your oral health. The next steps that will be required will be discussed with you, whether that be the need for further treatment or further tests to aid diagnosis. This will be given in the form of a treatment plan which is signed before commencing any treatment. We will also discuss a date for your next routine dental visit; this could be as short as three months or as long as two years depending on what the dentist recommends.
Your dentist or hygienist will perform a thorough scale and polish, and will teach you how to properly clean your teeth of bacterial plaque. Plaque is an invisible layer of bacteria, which when mixed with sugar, turns into acid. This can then cause tooth decay, or infect the gums if it is not removed regularly. Your dentist will also discuss dietary and lifestyle habits that might affect your teeth, and advise you on which oral care products are best suited to you.
Gum disease is caused by a build up of plaque, but can be avoided if you brush and floss your teeth twice a day. There are various symptoms of gum disease, including swelling, redness, soreness and bleeding during brushing, but there are only two main forms of it – gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums, causing the symptoms described above. If you have gingivitis for a long time, it can turn into periodontal disease, which affects the tissues supporting the teeth. Over time this can lead to the deterioration of the bone that teeth are anchored to in the jaw, eventually causing teeth to become loose or even fall out completely. Periodontal disease causes more tooth loss than tooth decay, and so you should ensure you maintain your daily routine of brushing and flossing to prevent the build up of plaque.
Tooth decay is a common problem, and most people have a 95% chance of suffering with some form of it. As soon as it occurs, it is important to remove the decay, then clean and repair the tooth. Missing or lost teeth should also be replaced to ensure you have the highest possible oral health.
Composite fillings are tooth-coloured (compared to the silver amalgam ones) and are usually made from a resin that is mixed with powdered glass quartz, silica or other forms of ceramic. They are aesthetically better than the amalgam fillings, but although they are strong, they might not be as hard-wearing. Your dentist will choose a shade to match your existing teeth, although discolouration may occur over time.
Inlays and onlays
An inlay is a small setting within the biting surface of the tooth. Onlays are to cover larger areas. Gold is usually used, as it is long-lasting, hard-wearing and does not tarnish. Unfortunately a gold inlay can not be made by the dentist while you wait – an impression of the cavity (prepared and taken by your dentist) will be sent to the laboratory, where a technician will make the inlay or onlay. You will go away with a temporary filling, which your dentist will replace with the gold inlay once it has been made. Due to the material used and the longer process, this type of filling is more expensive.
A crown, sometimes called a cap, is a way to cover chipped, broken or weakened teeth, strengthening your teeth and restoring your smile. A crown could also be used to protect the space left from a root filling or to help hold a denture or bridge in place. Usually your tooth will need to be shaped, under local anaesthetic, and an impression taken by your dentist, which is then sent to the laboratory in order for your crown to be custom-made out of porcelain or porcelain bonded to gold. Sometimes, especially with root fillings, it is necessary to set a post before fitting the crown. This supports the crown and adds stability and strength. Posts are pre-made from stainless steel and your dentist can cement them directly into the root canal, ready for the crown to be fitted over the top. In certain circumstances it is necessary to custom-make a post, which is easily done by a dental technician.
A bridge is used to fill the space left by a missing tooth, giving you back a full smile. They are only possible if your surrounding teeth are healthy and strong, as it is these which are used to support the bridge. They are usually made from a porcelain and precious metal blend, although non-precious metals are sometimes used. It is important to replace missing teeth not only to improve the appearance of your smile, but also to prevent weakening of the teeth on either side and decay and gum disease caused by trapped food particles or alterations to your bite. Your dentist will help you to choose the best method to replace any missing teeth you may have.
A dental implant is used to secure one or more false teeth, or dentures, into place. It consists of a titanium rod, set into the jawbone, which the false teeth are then fixed to. The combination of rod and false teeth are collectively known as implants. This is a well-established method, with 95% lasting many years, providing they are cared for correctly. Setting an implant requires a small operation, using local anaesthetic or even sedation if you are a nervous patient. Occasionally a general anaesthetic may be required for complex cases. After the operation you will feel some discomfort for about a week, as with any healing process.
As well as concentrating on the health of your teeth, there are now procedures concerned with the aesthetics, or appearance, of your teeth. Cosmetic dentistry can be used to straighten, lighten, reshape and repair teeth. As well as the two procedures below, crowns and composite fillings can also come under the heading of cosmetic dentistry.
Reveal a whiter, brighter smile with professional tooth whitening. We use the White Dental Beauty system, which is a safe and effective way to whiten your smile, with visible results within two weeks. There are four choices of strength, including a mild solution for sensitive teeth. You will be provided with custom-made mouth trays to ensure a perfect fit, which fit around your teeth like a gums shield, and enough whitening gel to improve the shade of your teeth.
A veneer is a thin slice of porcelain, or a tooth-coloured composite, made to fit precisely over the front surface of a tooth, much like a false fingernail. Veneers are an ideal way to instantly alter the appearance of your teeth, hiding discolouration, closing small gaps and repairing chips and cracks. Your dentist will take an impression of the tooth, and a dental technician will create your porcelain veneer in the laboratory. If you opt for a composite veneer, it can usually be fitted in one visit using the same material used for tooth-coloured fillings. Composite veneers are more prone to discolouration over time, however replacements are easily made.