Operative Dentistry (Fillings), Endodontic Treatment, and Extractions
Operative Dentistry (Fillings)
"You have a cavity."
Fillings help patch the armor of your tooth. A tooth is strong for a reason: It enables you to eat comfortably and effectively, tearing off pieces of food and efficiently grinding it into smaller pieces that are easy to swallow and digest. This action also releases the flavor of your meal, making the act of eating pleasurable as well as a necessary function of a healthy life.
The enamel of a tooth is the tough outer layer of what is a delicate, complicated living part of your body. Sometimes, due to overexposure to sugar and/or acid, the enamel of a tooth (or multiple teeth) begins to break down, becoming thin and weak. Without intervention, this decay (cavity) will progress, involving larger areas of the tooth, moving deeper into the inner layers and eventually threatening the center of the tooth (the nerve).
Many times, decay remains hidden between your teeth (inter proximally) until revealed by x-rays during your dental exam and cleaning. Decay can also begin in the deep ridges in molars or hide in areas difficult to reach with a toothbrush. Although this damage can sometimes be visible to the naked eye, most decay is not readily seen and is revealed only when diagnosed by a good dentist.
To stop the progression of this destruction of your tooth, the dentist will remove all areas of decay and will replace it with a filling. The two main types of filling material are amalgam ("silver") and composite (a resin, tooth-colored material). Both are effective in arresting the development of decay and the dentist will choose the type of material based on your personal needs, the location of the cavity and occasionally insurance requirements. This material helps to regain some of the strength lost in the process of decay.
Cavities don't get smaller if neglected. Your dentist has many tools available to keep your mouth healthy and strong if you make and keep the appointments that allow him to do so.
When the nerve of a tooth "dies", it requires endodontic treatment (root canal). This damage can usually be traced to either trauma or deep decay, although occasionally a tooth will need a root canal with no apparent cause.
The very words "root canal" can be scary. People conjure up images of horrifying and painful treatments that leave a patient exhausted and overwhelmed. But dentistry has come a long way and, most of the time, endodontic treatment is much less uncomfortable than the days leading up to the appointment which treats it.
Once your tooth begins aching, you need to call to make an appointment to see your dentist. Many times a tooth will hurt and then feel better, luring a patient into believing their tooth is "back to normal". This is not unusual for a tooth with a "dying" nerve. Additionally, as a nerve dies, the infection can set in becoming very serious, very quickly. Swelling of the face is the most dangerous symptom, requiring immediate treatment at a dental office. If an infected tooth progresses to this degree, antibiotics can and do help alleviate the symptoms. But the dying nerve, the cause of the infection, MUST be treated or the tooth will eventually reinfect. Once endodontic treatment is complete, a permanent filling will be placed to seal the crown of the tooth, preventing further damage. A crown will also be recommended to strengthen the tooth due to the change in its overall structure.
"Root canal" treatment can be frightening. With a good dentist as your partner, even this most daunting of treatments can be completed as a successful portion of your overall care.
An extraction can be part of normal, healthy dental and/ or orthodontic treatment. Many times a tooth will need to be extracted as a part of routine orthodontic care to ensure there is proper room in the mouth for any adjustments necessary to complete treatment. Additionally, deciduous teeth -- baby teeth -- may need to be removed manually to allow for the proper eruption of permanent teeth. And the removal of third molars (wisdom teeth) is an important preventative measure to ensure the continued oral health of your teenager.
Occasionally though, a tooth extraction results when a tooth is diagnosed as "'non-restorable". This can be the result of several different conditions, including extreme decay, infection, or advanced periodontal (gum) disease. When these conditions require the removal of a tooth, there are sedation options available to make the procedure itself as comfortable as possible. These options include the use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral conscious sedation or IV sedation and are all available with your needs in mind.
Partnering with your dental team, you will also be given a variety of tooth replacement options which may include implant placement, traditional bridges, and partial or complete dentures. With quality dental support, you will be able to make educated choices that put you in control of your care, turning a "non-restorable" tooth into quality treatment with a highly satisfactory result.