In this section we provide answers to many of our patients’ most frequently asked questions. If you cannot find an answer to your questions here please contact us and we will be happy to help. Some of the information provided below has been obtained from the Australian Dental Association.
A filling or restoration is used to restore the function and structure of a tooth that has been affectead by decay or fracture. They can be made from a variety of materials ranging from metallic (gold or amalgam) to tooth coloured (porcelain, composite or GIC).
Weather a tooth can be restored or not and the type of restoration it requires depends on how badly it had been decayed or fractured. Teeth with only slight decay or fractures may be easily restored with small fillings. Teeth that have been affected by larger decay or fractures may require more complex treatment. In some instances, the tooth may be so badly broken down that there is not enough tooth structure to allow the dentist to save the tooth.
A crown (also known as a “cap”), is a dental restoration treatment that covers and wraps around the tooth. It is used to rebuild and strengthen heavily filled or decayed teeth and to protect these teeth from the potential of cracking and splitting. It also has the advantage of allowing the dentist to make improvements in the appearance of the tooth .
Crowns are made by a dental technician based on a set of moulds made by your dentist. It can be made from gold or porcelain, or a mixed of both.
The materials, time required and complexity of treatment make crowns more costly than normal fillings. The materials are often expensive and technically sensitive, and the laboratory fees incurred in their preparation makes them more costly. The amount of time and number of visits required by a dentist to prepare the tooth, make an impression of the prepared tooth (mould), fit a temporary crown and then finally bond the final crown in place is greater than would be required for a normal filling.
A bridge is an appliance used to replace missing teeth which is fixed in the mouth and does not require removal. The new tooth is supported by one or more of the adjacent remaining teeth. A conventional bridge consists of crowns that are fixed to teeth either side of a gap with the false tooth being rigidly fixed to these crowns. In certain cases, where the bite allows, a conservative option such as a resin bonded bridge may be favoured. The artificial tooth is supported by a framework which is then bonded to the supporting tooth/teeth.
A denture is a removable appliance that replaces all the teeth (full denture) or some of them (partial denture). It is removed to allow cleaning of the teeth and tissues and to allow the tissues to rest and recover. Read more about dentures
A removable denture is a replacement option which is designed to be removed by the wearer to allow adequate cleaning of the teeth. They can be designed to replace from a single tooth to multiple teeth in a jaw. A bridge is a fixed option that cannot be removed by the patient once it is bonded into place by the dentist.
“Gum disease” describes one of a series of conditions that affect the supporting tissues of the teeth. These tissues include the gingiva (gums), the bone surrounding teeth and the special ligament that attaches the tooth to the bone. In the great majority of cases, the disease is entirely preventable if precise steps are taken to control the formation of plaque, and the invasion of bacteria. Read more about Gum Disease
Anyone is susceptible. Many people will have a small amount of periodontitis, which gradually increases with age. However approximately 15% of the population will have a significant degree of periodontitis. The destruction of the tooth’s supporting tissues caused by periodontitis gets worse over time when left untreated, and is often seen more severely in the 45+ age group. However the different types of periodontitis may affect people of all ages. The risk for periodontitis is increased with poor oral hygiene, smoking, diabetes, a family history of periodontitis and a range of medical conditions, in particular those affecting the immune system.
The latest developments in dentistry include tooth whitening treatments, micro-abrasion, bonding and veneers. These techniques can whiten and improve the shape and colour of your teeth, even close gaps.
Tooth Whitening – treatments are designed to whiten your own teeth without any artificial additions. There are several ways dentists can whiten your teeth – with very high peroxide gel concentrations, the dentist may very carefully apply the whitening agent to your teeth and the whitening process is activated via a special light source. This technique is useful in gaining the whitest possible result in the shortest possible time frame. Alternatively, trays are custom-made by your dentist using models of your teeth, and then you administer the treatment yourself using safe-strength gels at home.
Micro-abrasion – Micro-abrasion can be used to remove discolouration in the surface layer of the enamel. A paste containing acid and an abrasive is used to remove the outer surface of the tooth enamel. If the discolouration is deep in the enamel your dentist may need to remove the affected enamel with a bur and place an adhesive tooth coloured filling. Usually, an anaesthetic is not required.
Bonding – Bonding is a process whereby your dentist cleans and prepares the surface of your teeth and then bonds tooth coloured resin fillings to them. Bonding can be used to repair chipped teeth, close small gaps between teeth, alter the shape of teeth and sometimes cover discolouration in teeth. Bonded resins are simple to re-polish and replace if they eventually discolour.
Veneers – Veneers are thin (usually about 0.5mm thickness) pieces of porcelain, or composite material, which are bonded to the front surface of the teeth. Veneers can be used to improve the appearance of teeth by changing the shape of the teeth, by changing the colour of the teeth, by masking stains and by replacing small fractured pieces of teeth.
There are many excellent ways to whiten the teeth and all have advantages and disadvantages. Since each case is different there is no one best way. When staining is present on the surface of your teeth, then having the teeth cleaned by one of our dental professionals can often produce a fresher, whiter and cleaner appearance. If the staining is actually in the tooth, below the surface, there are a number of ways to whiten the teeth including tooth whitening for slight discolourations, to bonding or veneering for more stubborn staining. Sometimes replacing old, worn out fillings that are staining at the edges can produce better looking front teeth. Our dentists are well trained in the latest dental techniques and they can give advice as to the best choices for you.
The crack will expose the inside of the tooth (the ‘dentine’) that has very small fluid filled tubes that lead to the nerve (‘pulp’). Flexing of the tooth opens the crack and causes movement of the fluid within the tubes. Biting on and releasing pressure off a crack will cause a sudden movement in fluid within the tubes which stimulates the pain receptors in the tooth.
Most fractures cannot be avoided because they happen when you least expect them. However, you can reduce the risk of breaking teeth by:
- Trying to eliminate clenching habits during the day
- Avoiding chewing hard objects (eg bones, pencils, ice)
- Avoiding chewing hard foods such as pork crackling and hard-grain bread
- Having heavily filled teeth reinforced with a crown or onlay which serves to strengthen teeth.
If you think you grind your teeth at night, ask your dentist if a night guard or a splint will be of use to you. It is very important to preserve the strength of your teeth so they are not as susceptible to fracture. Try to prevent dental decay and have it treated early. Heavily decayed and therefore heavily filled teeth are weaker than teeth that have never been filled. Individuals who have problems with tooth wear or “cracked tooth syndrome” should consider wearing a night guard while sleeping. This will absorb most of the grinding forces. Relaxation exercises may be beneficial.
This depends on how severely the tooth has been affected by the crack. If the crack is small enough, the dentist may be able to replace the existing the filling or rebuild the fractured area with a new filling. If the tooth is painful, a preliminary filling may be required to attempt to resolve any pain, if this settles the tooth, the tooth can then be restored with a special filling that covers either part or the whole biting surface of the tooth. More severely affected teeth may require gold or porcelain fillings or crowns and if the nerve has been affected the tooth may require root canal treatment. In some instances or if left too long, a crack line may cause a fracture to extend too far vertically, rendering a tooth too difficult to save. In this instance, the tooth may require removal and then replacement.
Unlike other parts of our body, teeth are unable to be repaired through regeneration so cracks in teeth do not heal. If you have symptoms of a cracked tooth or have been told you have large cracks in teeth, you should have the tooth treated as soon as possible to prevent the risk of the crack getting worse. If left untreated, the tooth may require root canal treatment or removal. If treated early, most cracks can be conservatively treated without root canal treatment or removal.
Teeth can crack/fracture due to a number of reasons. They can be cracked by trauma to the teeth and jaws, typically more common in front teeth. Back teeth are subjected to heavy biting forces which can cause cracking of the tooth enamel. Large fillings can also weaken teeth and cause cracks to develop. Such heavily filled teeth may benefit from crowns or onlays to help support the tooth and prevent it from cracking further.
The best way to overcome your fear is to discuss your concerns with your dentist. Experiences as a child may become distorted by time and reinforced by outdated media presentation of stereotypes. Much has changed, thanks to technology and education, and dentists are skilled professionals in dealing with patients who are apprehensive about seeking treatment. This will obviously be a team approach between you and your dentist and his/her staff. Communication is the key. You must feel comfortable expressing your fears and concerns and have a sense that you are being listened to. There are various forms of anaesthesia and relaxation that can be used effectively to change your negative thoughts into a positive experience.