Dental exams are critical to your ongoing oral health and only your dentist is qualified to perform them. Your dentist is trained to examine the mouth for abnormalities, and will usually take x-rays to assess the teeth and jaws as well. A thorough examination of the entire mouth should be performed at regular intervals deemed appropriate by your dentist. It’s best to catch problems early on when they can be easily handled and managed. Most patients do well seeing their dentist every 6 months, but depending on your dental history, it can vary.
A proper exam includes not only the teeth, but also the soft tissue in the mouth, and the head and neck area as well. Here are some of the things your dentist looks for when conducting a dental exam:
- Damaged, decayed, or missing teeth
- Early signs of cavities (discoloured or softened tooth structure)
- Overall health of the gums (periodontal pockets, inflammation, and other forms of gum disease)
- Signs of mouth and throat cancer, which become more prominent as we age
- Spacing or crowding of your teeth, and how your upper and lower teeth come together (AKA your “bite”)
- Signs of grinding or clenching the teeth (which could lead to headaches and sore facial muscles if left untreated)
- General condition of the jaws, and other areas around the mouth
A dental exam’s purpose is to catch dental problems as early as possible. Early discovery of dental problems usually results in treatment that is less time-consuming and less costly.
Periodontal or “gum” disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. People with gum disease may find their gums bleed easily when brushing or flossing, and they may also notice they have bad breath. The gum tissue can become inflamed, and some of your teeth may even become loose or mobile. The best way to prevent gum disease is through regular dental cleanings, often referred to as scaling. Depending on their oral health, some patients may require “deep cleanings” or root planing to address their problems. This is necessary when the damage from gum disease renders normal brushing and flossing less effective.
It’s recommended that children see the dentist within 6 months after the eruption of their first tooth, or by the time they turn one year old. We stress that prevention is of the utmost importance for children – it’s far easier to prevent a problem than to fix one! Early dental visits will help familiarize your child with the dentist and help subsequent visits go smoothly. Common treatments for children include: polishing (to remove plaque build-up and staining), fluoride treatment, and fissure sealants (sealing the grooves of permanent teeth to prevent future cavities.)
Patients who grind their teeth should consider having a custom night guard fabricated for them. Telltale signs of grinding (or “bruxism”) include soreness in the jaw muscles upon waking up and excessive wear/flattening of your teeth. A night guard will help alleviate any discomfort associated with grinding and minimize further damage to the teeth. For the athletes out there, we also make custom sports guards to protect your teeth from trauma and fractures.
During a dental exam, your dentist will check for any loose, broken, or otherwise failing fillings and may suggest you replace them. An untreated cavity will continue to spread, and will cause you pain, given enough time. In very severe cases, the tooth may need to be extracted and replaced with an artificial tooth.
At our office, we offer both composite (tooth-coloured) and amalgam (metal) fillings. The choice of material depends on the particular situation at hand, but we will always discuss this with patients ahead of time.
Crowns are restorations that completely cover a tooth, and are commonly called caps because of how they envelop the tooth fully. They are recommended in several situations:
- Broken or fractured teeth (from a traumatic accident, for example)
- Gross tooth decay (the remaining healthy tooth structure is prone to fracture unless crowned)
- Poor aesthetics (especially for your front teeth)
Bridges are used to replace a missing tooth, and rely on the teeth next to the empty space for support. The two supporting teeth and the replacement tooth are all joined together in one restoration. Crowns and bridges can be made from numerous different materials, such as full metal alloys, a combination of metal and porcelain, and all-porcelain. We will be sure to discuss what is best in each patient’s case.
An alternate, and often superior, option to replacing a missing tooth is an implant. It involves placing a titanium implant into the jawbone, in place of the missing tooth. A crown is then fabricated that sits on top of the implant. The major benefit of this treatment over a bridge is that the adjacent teeth are not relied upon in any way, and can be left alone.
A tooth with a large cavity may become infected or abscessed, and can be very painful to chew on, or simply ache on its own. In severe cases, there may be visible swelling outside the mouth. When this happens, root canal therapy is necessary to save the tooth. Root canal therapy involves removal of the infected tissue within the tooth and replacement with an inert material called gutta percha. After proper restoration, the tooth regains normal function.
Sometimes teeth are beyond repair, and need to be removed. In addition, wisdom teeth can pose problems if your jaw doesn’t have enough space to accommodate them. Whatever the case may be, we can address your problem and will provide any necessary follow-up treatment and/or medication after an extraction.
Patients with minor crowding of their teeth can benefit greatly from Invisalign treatment. They’re the “clear braces” that are less noticeable, which many patients prefer. Patients wear a set of trays on their teeth at all times, and they’re only removed for eating, brushing, and flossing. The trays place pressure on the teeth, gradually causing them to move. Straighter teeth can improve your smile, and they’re also significantly easier to keep clean.
Looking to brighten up your smile? We can help! We’ll provide you with a take-home kit, complete with custom trays made just for you. Wear the trays for a few hours during the day or while sleeping at night – whichever you find more convenient. Each case is different, but results can be expected in as few as 7-10 days.
The porcelain systems available today are far more advanced than those that were previously offered. They truly are beautiful just like natural teeth and have strength to boot! Whether you can benefit from crowns, veneers, inlays, or onlays – we’ll lay it all out in detail for you.