The Department of Dental Medicine provides expert care in a compassionate and friendly atmosphere. We offer a full range of dental services for adults and children, including cleanings, dentures, extractions, fillings, and root canals.
A dental bridge is an appliance used to replace one or more missing teeth. It is made out of three pieces that fit into the open space in the mouth “bridging” the gap. Most bridges are made of a false tooth, known as a pontic tooth, held together by two crowns – a “cap” that covers the tooth, approximating its normal size and shape. This trio is then permanently attached to the surrounding teeth of each side of the gap.
There are many types of dental bridges. Your oral health specialist will recommend the most appropriate one for your mouth condition and the location of the missing teeth.
Regular dental cleanings are an important component of your overall health. Professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist involves the removal of dental plaque and tartar from the teeth with the intention of preventing cavities, gingivitis and other forms of periodontal disease. Dental cleaning includes tooth scaling, tooth polishing and debridement if plaque and tartar have accumulated. This requires the use of specialized instruments to loosen and remove deposits and debris from the teeth.
Dental crowns are tooth-shaped caps that are placed on top of a tooth to restore its size, shape or strength or to improve its appearance. Crowns can be made out of metal, porcelain, resin or ceramic. Crowns are needed to protect a weak tooth; to restore a worn-down, broken or cracked tooth; to cover and support a tooth with a large filling when there isn’t sufficient tooth left; to secure a dental bridge; to cover a discolored or misshaped tooth; or to cover a dental implant.
Replacing missing teeth is an important step in maintaining a health smile. Dentures or partial dentures fill in the spaces created by missing teeth. Dentures help patients chew food properly and can improve speech or a sagging face. Dentures are made of acrylic resin, and in some cases, a combination of metals. There are four primary types of dentures:
- Complete: this type of denture replaces all of the teeth and their adjacent tissues.
- Partial: This type acts as a dental bridge, “bridging” the gap between missing tooth/teeth.
- Conventional: This type of denture allows a recovery time, typically four to eight weeks, after all of the teeth are extracted before the dentures are placed in the mouth.
- Immediate: This type does not allow a healing period after all the teeth are removed. The dentures are immediately fitted into the mouth. Additional adjustments may be necessary as healing occurs.
A dental extraction is a procedure that involves the pulling of one or more teeth. Extractions are sometimes required as treatment when a tooth is severely damaged beyond repair because it is broken, cracked or extensively decayed. Extractions are also sometimes recommended when a healthy tooth is not well-positioned or is nonfunctional or if a patient has severe gum disease. Extractions can be performed by a dentist or oral surgeon. In both cases, patients are anesthetized.
Dental implants are an alternative to dentures or bridges to restore a mouth that has missing teeth. Unlike dentures, implants act as a substitute tooth root, which helps preserve the bone that natural tooth roots are embedded in. Implants are natural-looking, as stable as your real teeth and protect you from the loss of jawbone.
Teeth that have been affected by tooth decay (caries or cavities) might require a filling. There are many types of fillings, including:
- Direct restorations, which require a single visit to place a filling directly into a prepared cavity. Materials used for these filings include dental amalgam, also known as silver fillings; glass ionomers; resin ionomers and some composite (resin) fillings.
- Amalgam fillings have been used for decades, and have been tested for safety and resistance to wear. Dentists have found amalgams to be safe, reliable, and effective for restorations.
- Glass ionomers are tooth-colored materials made from fine glass powders and acrylic acids. These are used in small fillings that do not have to withstand heavy pressure from chewing. Resin ionomers are made from glass with acrylic acids and acrylic resin.
- Indirect restorations, which require two or more visits and include inlays, onlays, veneers, crowns and bridges. These are constructed with gold, base metal alloys, ceramics or composites. At the first visit, a dentist will prepare the tooth and make an impression of the area that will be restored. At the second visit, the dentist will place the new restoration into the prepared area.
There are many treatments for gum disease depending on the stage of disease and your overall health. The Department of Dental Medicine offers surgical and nonsurgical therapies to control bacterial growth and restore supportive tissues.
Gum surgery is sometimes necessary to treat advanced periodontal disease. Surgical treatments for gum disease include:
- Pocket reduction procedures— Used to reduce the pocket depth and eliminate existing bacteria to prevent the progression of periodontal disease.
- Regenerative procedures— Membranes, bone-grafts or tissue-stimulating proteins are used to regenerate bone and tissue destroyed by periodontal disease.
- Crown lengthening— excess gum and bone tissue is reshaped to expose more of the tooth, reducing the look of a “gummy” smile.
- Soft tissue grafts— Used to cover roots or develop gum tissue where absent due to excessive receding of the gums.
Non-surgical gum treatments can help remove the plaque and infected gum tissue in the early stages of periodontal disease, while smoothing the damaged root surfaces. These treatments include scaling and root planning along with adjunctive therapy such as delivery of antimicrobials to prevent future growth of bacteria.
In most cases, surgery is not required. However, most patients require ongoing non-surgical treatments to maintain proper gum health.