General Dentistry covers your basic diagnostic, preventative and routine dental care. During your first visit, we will provide a comprehensive, new patient exam, as well as gather essential information about your personal oral routine. This will help us develop a personalized oral treatment plan to ensure your gums and teeth stay healthy. Should any tooth decay or other oral issues arise, they can be easily detected during your regularly scheduled exams. General dental care keeps your mouth healthy and happy, so you can keep smiling!
Exams & Cleanings
Our office places an emphasis on maintaining excellent oral health and hygiene in our patients by offering comprehensive dental exams and cleanings. On your first visit, we will begin with a thorough and gentle oral exam. Next, we will take a full series of x-rays, complete an oral cancer screening, and take molds of your teeth. Once we complete the exam, we’ll discuss your appearance goals and evaluate your overall oral health. This allows us to create a customized, dental treatment plan that addresses any pre-existing conditions and prevents small issues from becoming larger problems in the future.
Professional dental cleanings reinforce your personal oral health routines and are recommended at least twice a year. Basic cleanings remove plaque and tartar build-up, as well as help maintain good oral hygiene. A deep cleaning may be necessary if there are signs of gum disease, such as red or bleeding gums. Persistent bad breath, gums that are pulled away from the tooth, loose teeth, and changes in the position or bite of the teeth can also indicate the presence of gum disease. Your hygienist and dentist will determine which type of cleaning is required to give you a healthy and happy smile.
Fillings & Sealants
Filling and sealants are common procedures performed as part of restorative and preventative dental care. Determining which is best for your oral health will depend on the condition of your teeth, as well as other factors.
When a cavity occurs, the decay must be removed. A filling replaces the section of a tooth that has been damaged due to decay. There are two types of fillings that can be used to repair and fill a cavity: (1) amalgam (silver fillings) and (2) “white” or tooth-colored composite fillings. We prefer “white” or tooth-colored composite fillings because they “bond” to the tooth structure and help strengthen the decay-weakened tooth. In addition, composite fillings are typically less sensitive to temperature.
Composite fillings, however, cannot be used in every tooth decay situation. Depending on the extent of decay, a root canal treatment, crown or extraction may be necessary.
As part of our preventive dental care, we often recommend sealants for our younger patients. Sealants provide an extra layer of protection for premolars or other teeth with deep crevices present.
Sealants are a thin, protective coating used to fill in narrow grooves in the teeth. If a tooth structure has fine grooves or pits, plaque can accumulate. Not because the person doesn’t brush, but because they’re too narrow to allow even one bristle into them. This accumulation of plaque will eventually lead to the development of cavities. After we apply the sealant, you will be able to brush off all the plaque and keep your teeth healthy.
There are some circumstances, unfortunately, where we are unable to restore a tooth and it must be removed. When this happens, you will either have a simple extraction or a surgical extraction. Simple extractions are performed on a tooth that is above the gumline. The dentist will use a lifter and forceps to remove the tooth. It’s a quick procedure with a short recovery period. For more complicated issues, such as a tooth that has broken below the gumline, a surgical extraction may be necessary. During this procedure, the oral surgeon will make an incision into the gum to access the tooth. Surgical extractions are commonly used for impacted wisdom teeth that are partially or totally covered by the gum tissue.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth
When a wisdom tooth pushes through the gums and becomes exposed, it is known as an eruption. An impacted wisdom tooth, however, is one that fails to erupt and remains under the gum. There are four different types of impacted wisdom teeth. Depending on which type you have, it may or may not require oral surgery or extraction.
Vertical impaction rarely requires extraction due to its nearly normal orientation. The tooth is typically in a vertical orientation and there is a high probability it will erupt and fit into the mouth without any issues. If the tooth causes pressure on the underside of the molar in front or the bones at the back of the mouth, wisdom tooth extraction may be required. Vertically impacted wisdom teeth are typically extracted using a local anesthetic.
Mesial impaction, the most common type of wisdom tooth impaction, occurs when the tooth is angled toward the front of the mouth and pushes against the molar in front of it. The angle of the tooth determines whether it will become a problem. Mesial impactions often lead to a partial eruption, where only the bottom of the tooth pokes into the gums. Generally, these types of wisdom tooth impactions are monitored since the tooth may erupt properly on its own.
Distal impaction, the least common of the four impaction types, is the exact opposite of a mesial impaction. In other words, the tooth is angled toward the back of the mouth. Again, the need for extraction will depend on the degree of the angle of the tooth. A tooth that is angled at or near 0 degrees may erupt as normal, but it will always have a slight incline. The dentist may wait up to two years to determine if it needs to be extracted. If the angle is closer to 90 degrees, however, it’s more likely that the tooth will hit bone and not fully erupt. When this happens, your oral surgeon will determine if it should be removed. Depending on the severity of the impaction, IV sedation or a general anesthesia may be required during the surgery to minimize discomfort and anxiety.
Horizontal impaction is most painful type of impaction. The molar lies horizontally, away from the surface, and is pushed into the adjacent molar. X-rays are the only way to determine if you have horizontal impaction and only an oral surgeon has the necessary removal skill and expertise to remove it. Without removal, it may damage the surrounding teeth. Horizontal impaction may also require removal of bone, which is why the procedure is commonly performed under general anesthesia or IV sedation. After extraction, you will likely receive a prescription for pain killers and antibiotics to help reduce the risk of complications during the healing process.
Signs of an Impacted Wisdom Tooth
Wisdom teeth generally start to come in between the ages of 17 and 25, but some people may get them later in life. If they erupt naturally, you may experience some slight discomfort. An impacted wisdom tooth, on the other hand, is a different story. Here are five common signs that you may have an impacted tooth and should see a dentist right away:
- Swollen and/or Bleeding Gums
- Extreme Pain in the Back of Your Mouth
- Swelling Around the Jaw Area
- Swollen Neck and/or Shoulder Glands
In addition to wisdom teeth, other dental issues that may lead to extraction include overcrowded teeth and severely damaged or decayed teeth.
For our experienced staff, a tooth extraction is a routine procedure, but we understand that it may be a bit overwhelming for you. Our dentists and staff are here to answer your questions, ensuring you get the quality treatment and follow-up care you deserve.
Emergency Dental Services
Some dental injuries require emergency treatment. Injuries, such as a cracked, chipped, broken, or missing tooth, as well as severe tooth pain, may require immediate examination by an experienced emergency dentist. If you have a dental emergency and need help, we can provide fast and immediate dental care.
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Frequently Asked Questions
- How often do I need to see the dentist?
- In general, you should see the dentist at least twice a year (once every six months) for regular exams and cleanings. In some instances, where there is a history of gum disease or ongoing orthodontic treatment, you will need to visit more frequently. If you visit less than twice a year, however, we may not catch cavities and other oral issues early. This may lead to additional damage to your teeth and more expensive treatments.
- I have heard about oral cancer screening. What is it?
- Oral cancer is a serious and deadly disease that affects tens of thousands of people annually. In fact, the Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that someone in the United States dies every hour of every day from oral cancer. Over 300,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year, worldwide. This serious dental disease, which pertains to the mouth, lips or throat, is often highly curable if diagnosed and treated in the early stages. At St Johns Family Dentistry, we can detect and diagnose oral cancer, before it can otherwise be seen, with Oral ID screening technology. Identifying abnormalities not seen with the naked eye, Oral ID enables clinicians to locate possible life threatening conditions in their early stages, where there is an increased survival rate.
- I have bad breath. Do you think this is related to my teeth?
- Bad breath, also called halitosis, can be downright embarrassing. According to dental studies, about 85% of people with persistent bad breath have a dental condition that is to blame. Gum disease, cavities, oral cancer, dry mouth and bacteria on the tongue are some of the dental problems that can cause bad breath. Using mouthwash to cover up bad breath when a dental problem is present will only mask the odor temporarily and not cure it. If you suffer from chronic bad breath, we can help you today.
- My teeth are sensitive to hot and cold liquids. Can you help?
- Tooth sensitivity is a common problem that affects millions of people. Basically, tooth sensitivity experience is a pain or discomfort from your teeth resulting from consumption of sweets, cold air, hot drinks, cold drinks or ice cream. Some people with sensitive teeth even experience discomfort from brushing and flossing. The good news is that sensitive teeth can be treated and we know how.
- Is one toothpaste better than others?
- Generally, no. However, it’s advisable to use a fluoride toothpaste to decrease the incidence of dental decay. We recommend our patients use what tastes good to them, as long as it contains fluoride. We also recommend that you look for a toothpaste that has the ADA seal of approval.
- What is a cavity?
- A cavity is simply a small hole in your tooth that develops over time as the result of tooth decay. When left untreated, cavities can cause sensitivity and pain, as well as weaken your teeth. It’s important to have your cavities filled as soon as possible to avoid additional damage to your teeth.
- What about silver fillings versus white fillings?
- Although the U.S. Public Health Service issued a report in 1993 stating there is no health reason not to use amalgam (silver fillings), more patients today are requesting “white” or tooth-colored composite fillings. We also prefer tooth-colored fillings because they “bond” to the tooth structure and therefore help strengthen a tooth weakened by decay. While fillings are also usually less sensitive to temperature, and they also look better. However, “white” fillings cannot be used in every situation, and if a tooth is very badly broken-down, a crown will usually be necessary and provide better overall comfort and satisfaction.
- Are dental x-rays safe?
- In terms of the radiation omitted by a dental exam, it is about the same as what you would receive flying across the country in an airplane. Most dental x-rays measure around .5 millirems of radiation, which is very safe.