Everyone, including young children, should visit the dentist at least once every 12 months. Permanent teeth are designed to last a lifetime. The risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss can be reduced with good oral hygiene, a low-sugar diet, use of a mouth guard when playing sport, and regular visits to the dentist. Modern techniques mean that dental treatment can be carried out with no, or very little, discomfort. Here is some more information about our dental procedures:
The dentist looks for issues such as tooth decay, gum disease and other conditions. If a suspected dental problem is difficult to see (for example, possible decay between two touching teeth), the dentist may need to take x-rays.
Scale & clean
Scaling and cleaning involves the removal of built-up debris from the teeth. This may include food particles, soft plaque or hard calculus (sometimes called tartar). The dentist or hygienist then cleans and polishes your teeth using a rotating brush with a polishing paste. This helps treat and prevent gum disease. Keeping up your oral hygiene between appointments is important to help maintain healthy gums.
Sealants protect teeth from decay. Any tooth that has deep grooves or fissures can be treated, but the most commonly treated teeth are the molars and premolars. A sealant is a liquid solution that is painted on to the biting surface of a cleaned tooth, and which sets as a durable plastic material. It forms a physical barrier that stops food and other bacteria from collecting in the fissures of the tooth. Fissure sealants are commonly recommended for children, as they reduce the risk of decay in permanent teeth.
There are various treatments to restore damaged teeth. These treatments help restore the appearance, shape and function of your teeth. They include:
Veneers – teeth can be fitted with porcelain or resin veneers. A veneer is usually 0.5 mm thick and is permanently glued to the front of the tooth
Crowns – these are caps that are permanently cemented or bonded to a tooth. Crowns are made of porcelain or zirconia and can be matched to the colour of the existing tooth.
Root canal treatment is a procedure that replaces a tooth’s damaged or infected pulp with a filling. The ‘pulp’ is a sensitive tissue that provides oxygen, nutrients and feeling to the tooth. It is housed in the hollow centre of a tooth (pulp chamber), along with blood vessels and nerves. Once a tooth is fully formed, nutrition for the tooth comes from the tissues surrounding the root, and the tooth can function without its pulp.
During root canal treatment, the pulp is removed from a tooth. The dentist cleans and shapes the root canals. The tooth’s interior is cleaned, dried and packed with a filling material that goes all the way down to the end of the root.
An artificial biting surface is created for the tooth out of composite material or a crown. This also protects the tooth from fracture, which can occur after root canal treatment. A root canal will need to be performed over a number of appointments.
Modern dentistry aims to preserve natural teeth. However, extensively damaged or badly decayed teeth may need to be removed (extracted). This also applies to wisdom teeth that are causing problems.
Wisdom teeth can contribute to various dental problems, including overcrowding of the existing teeth, and impaction (the wisdom tooth grows at an angle and butts into the next-door molar or the gum). You may have a local anaesthetic before having a tooth removed (only the local area is numbed). Extractions requiring sedation or general anaesthesia (where you are unconscious) will be referred to an oral surgeon.
Dentures are artificial teeth that replace some or all of your natural teeth and that you can remove at will. An ‘immediate’ denture can be made while you still have some of your teeth. It is fitted on the day your teeth are removed. However, changes to the jawbone during the healing process may cause the denture to gradually loosen. Within a few months, the immediate denture will need relining of its inner aspect to improve the fit.
Alternatively, a denture can be made a few months after teeth are removed. This allows time for the jawbone to heal and means that the denture should have a better fit.