FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT DENTAL HEALTH

1. WHAT IS A DENTAL IMPLANT?

A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is surgically anchored into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge in place. The benefit of using implants is that they don`t rely on neighboring teeth for support and they are permanent and stable. Implants are an ideal solution to tooth loss; they look and feel like natural teeth.

2. HOW DO THEY WORK?

Once the root part of the implant is "bonded" to the bone, it is ready to be used. An artificial tooth is placed directly on top of the implant. In some cases, several implants are placed. Here, the implants are connected to a bridge. A bridge is a number of teeth (usually 3-4) that are bonded together. The two ends connect to the implants. By doing this, many people avoid needing removable dentures at all.

3. CAN ANYONE RECEIVE DENTAL IMPLANTS?

however, there are some limitations. You must be in good health and have the proper bone structure and healthy gums for the implant to stay in place. People who are unable to wear dentures may also be good candidates. If you suffer from chronic problems, such as clenching or bruxism, or systemic diseases, such as diabetes, the success rate for implants decreases dramatically. Additionally, people who smoke or drink alcohol may not be good candidates.

4. WHAT CAN I EXPECT DURING THIS PROCEDURE?

The gum is then secured over the implant, which will remain covered until it fuses with the bone. This usually takes about 3-6 months. The dentist then uncovers the implant and attaches an extension, or post, to the implant. With some implants, the implant and post are a single unit placed in the mouth during the initial surgery. Finally, the dentist makes an artificial tooth, or crown, that is attached to the implant post. It will be as if you never lost your tooth.

5. HOW LONG DOES THE PROCESS TAKE?

The process can take up to nine months to complete. Each patient heals differently, so times will vary. After the implant and posts are placed surgically, the healing process can take up to six months and the fitting of replacement teeth no more than two months. Sometimes, if a patient has good bone quality, posts can be placed and replacement teeth fitted in one appointment.

6. WHAT IS A ROOT CANAL?

Underneath your tooth`s outer enamel and within the dentin is an area of soft tissue called the pulp, which carries the tooth`s nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. Root canals are very small, thin divisions that branch off from the top pulp chamber down to the tip of the root. A tooth has at least one but no more than four root canals.

7. WHY DO I FEEL PAIN?

When the pulp becomes infected due to a deep cavity or fracture that allows bacteria to seep in, or it gets injured due to trauma, it can die. Damaged or dead pulp causes increased blood flow and cellular activity, and pressure cannot be relieved from inside the tooth. Pain in the tooth is commonly felt when biting down, chewing on it and applying hot or cold foods and drinks.

8. WHY DO I NEED ROOT CANAL THERAPY?

Root canal therapy is necessary because the tooth will not heal by itself. Without treatment, the infection will spread, bone around the tooth will begin to degenerate, and the tooth may fall out. Pain usually worsens until one is forced to seek emergency dental attention. The only alternative is usually extraction of the tooth, which can cause surrounding teeth to shift crookedly, resulting in a bad bite. Though an extraction is cheaper, the space left behind will require an implant or a bridge, which can be more expensive than root canal therapy. If you have the choice, it`s always best to keep your original teeth.

9. WHAT IS A ROOT CANAL PROCEDURE?

A root canal is a procedure done to save the damaged or dead pulp in the root canal of the tooth by cleaning out the diseased pulp and reshaping the canal. The canal is filled with a rubberlike substance called gutta-percha or another material to prevent recontamination of the tooth. The tooth is then permanently sealed, with possibly a post and/or a crown made of porcelain or metal alloy. This enables patients to keep the original tooth.

10. WHAT IS INVOLVED IN ROOT CANAL THERAPY?

Once Doctor performs tests on the tooth and recommends therapy, he or she can perform the treatment or refer you to an endodontist (a pulp specialist). Treatment usually involves one to three appointments. First, you will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area. Next, an opening is made from the crown into the pulp chamber (where the infected nerve is), which, along with the root canal, is cleaned of all diseased pulp and reshaped. Medication is inserted into the area to fight bacteria. Depending on the condition of the tooth, the crown may then be sealed temporarily to guard against recontamination, the tooth may be left open to drain, or Doctor may go right ahead and fill the canals.

11. WHAT ARE THE RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS?

More than 95 percent of root canal treatments are successful. However, sometimes a procedure needs to be redone due to diseased canal offshoots that went unnoticed or the fracture of a filing instrument, both of which rarely occur. Occasionally, a root canal therapy will fail altogether, marked by a return of pain.

12. WHAT HAPPENS AFTER TREATMENT?

Natural tissue inflammation may cause discomfort for a few days, which can be controlled by an over-the-counter analgesic. A follow-up exam can monitor tissue healing. From this point on, brush and floss regularly, and avoid chewing hard foods with the treated tooth. Once the tooth is symptom free, you will need to return to have the tooth fitted for a crown.

13. WHAT ARE CROWNS?

A crown is a restoration that covers, or "caps," a tooth to restore it to its normal shape and size, strengthening and improving the tooth's appearance. Crowns are necessary when a tooth is generally broken down and fillings won`t solve the problem. If a tooth is cracked, a crown holds the tooth together to seal the cracks so the damage doesn`t get worse. Crowns are also used to restore a tooth when there isn`t enough of the tooth remaining to provide support for a large filling, attach a bridge, protect weak teeth from fracturing, restore fractured teeth, or cover badly shaped or discolored teeth.

14. HOW IS A CROWN PLACED?

To prepare the tooth for a crown, it is reduced so the crown can fit over it. An impression, or "mold," is taken of the teeth and gums and sent to the lab for the crown fabrication. A temporary crown is fitted over the tooth until the permanent crown is made. On the next visit, the dentist removes the temporary crown and cements the permanent crown onto the tooth.

15. WHY CROWNS AND NOT VENEERS?

Crowns are typically recommended because too much tooth has been lost due to decay or fracture that cannot be replaced with a filling. A crown covers the entire tooth to protect it. A veneer only covers the outside part of the tooth and is primarily used to change the appearance of the tooth.

16. HOW LONG DO CROWNS LAST?

Crowns should last approximately five to eight years. However, with good oral hygiene and supervision, most crowns will last for a much longer period of time. Some damaging habits like grinding your teeth, chewing ice or fingernail biting may cause this period of time to decrease significantly.

17. HOW SHOULD I TAKE CARE OF MY CROWN?

To prevent damaging or fracturing the crown, avoid chewing hard foods, ice or other hard objects. You also want to avoid teeth grinding. brushing twice a day, cleaning between your teeth is vital with crowns. Floss or interdental cleaners (specially shaped brushes and sticks) are important tools to remove plaque from the crown area where the gum meets the tooth. Plaque in that area can cause dental decay and gum disease.

18. WHAT ARE VENEERS?

Veneers are ultra-thin shells of ceramic (porcelain) or a composite resin material, which are bonded to the front of teeth. This procedure requires little or no anesthesia and can be the ideal choice for improving the appearance of the front teeth. Veneers are placed to mask discolorations, to brighten teeth and to improve a smile.

19. WHY A VENEER?

Crowns should last approximately five to eight years. However, with good oral hygiene and supervision, most crowns will last for a much longer period of time. Some damaging habits like grinding your teeth, chewing ice or fingernail biting may cause this period of time to decrease significantly.

20. WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE PROCEDURE?

Patients may need up to three appointments for the entire procedure: diagnosis and treatment planning, preparation and bonding. It`s critical that you take an active role in the smile design. Spend time in the planning of the smile. Understand the corrective limitations of the procedure. To prepare the teeth for the veneers, the teeth are lightly buffed to allow for the small added thickness of the veneer. Usually, about half a millimeter of the tooth is removed, which may require a local anesthetic. Then, a mold is taken of the teeth, which is sent to the laboratory for the fabrication of the veneers. This may take several days. If the teeth are too unsightly, a temporary veneer can be placed .

21. HOW ABOUT MAINTENANCE?

For about a week or two, you will go through a period of adjustment as you get used to your "new" teeth that have changed in size and shape. Brush and floss daily. After one or two weeks, we will ask you to return for a follow-up appointment.

22. WHAT ARE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS?

Veneers are reasonable facsimiles of natural teeth, not perfect replacements. It`s not uncommon to see slight variations in the color of veneers upon close inspection, as this occurs even in natural teeth. Nevertheless, this procedure can greatly enhance your smile and can heighten self-esteem.

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