General dentistry covers a wide range of procedures, including restorative and preventative treatment. It applies to all aspects of dentistry and borders into the more specialised areas mentioned elsewhere on this website.
At your initial visit we will try to address your immediate concerns first, especially if you have pain.
A full dental examination will include a thorough revision of your medical and dental history. Examination of the mouth will start from the outside, looking at your face overall as well as an assessment of your smile and initial presentation. We then look at the soft tissues of the mouth, identifying any anomalies.
The tooth and gum examination begins with your bite and the tooth arrangement. The health of your gums is assessed visually and with the aid of a special blunt probe to check around the margin where the gum and teeth meet.
Radiographs may be needed for more information about the gums and teeth. We use digital radiographs which enables us to enhance and enlarge areas to receive more information at a lower radiation dose than was required for the old film radiographs.
The teeth are then carefully checked for signs of decay, cracks and breakdown of fillings, crowns and other previous restorations.
After this process we will put together an assessment of your mouth. If treatment is needed this will be outlined in an order to prioritise the most urgent and give you a cost estimate.
Fillings and dental restorations
Dental fillings are used to repair worn, decayed or damaged teeth.
When you receive a filling we provide local anaesthesia of the treatment area if needed. Great care is given to make this procedure painless, using topical anaesthetic creams, extremely fine needles and a slow and patient approach. Most often there is no discomfort at all and the process is not even felt.
A drill and other tools are used to remove the decay. The hole is cleaned and dried, and then filled with a filling material.
Types of filling material include:
- In the past, dental amalgam (also known as silver fillings) was often used for filling molars (back teeth) that get a lot of wear and tear. Amalgam is made up of a mixture of metals, usually including silver, tin, copper, zinc and mercury. It is quite strong, but because of concerns with the local and environmental effects of mercury, we very rarely use this material now.
- Tooth-coloured fillings (also known as white fillings) have been used in front teeth for cosmetic reasons for many years. Recent improvements have made tooth-coloured fillings more affordable and they are often used as an alternative to dental amalgam. However, tooth-coloured fillings may not always be suitable. For example, this filling material may not be the best choice for a large filling in a back tooth. In these situations, which usually involve weakened teeth or teeth without much remaining, a crown may be required of a ceramic or metallic material.
All restorative work is done to not only maximise the health and longevity of your teeth, but with an emphasis on a minimally invasive and conservation of tooth approach. At the same time, every effort is also made to harmonise your smile and attempt to make the restorations invisible and blend aesthetically with your teeth.
A common cause of teeth breakdown is due to excessive clenching or grinding of the teeth during the day or at night. Night time grinding often causes more damage due to a reduction of normal protective reflexes. This condition is called Bruxism and is a very common cause of breakage of teeth and damage to dental restorations. Management is very important to prevent damage and may involve lifestyle changes and wearing, usually at night, a protective device called a dental night guard or splint.
Bruxism and teeth weakened by fillings can cause your teeth to crack. Treatment of Cracked Tooth Syndrome can be quite complex and may involve a metal protective band, root canal treatment (endodontics) and a crown.
Gum disease affects gums, bone and other supporting tissues of teeth. Dental plaque, which is a sticky colourless film of bacteria build-up on the teeth, is the major cause of gum disease. Long-standing gum disease can result in tooth loss.
Prevention of gum disease starts with regular and correct oral hygiene. For some people this can be quite difficult to do, so we give precise instructions tailored for each individual. We find patients have better long-term dental health due to this customised approach. As part of our ongoing, regular dental maintenance program we perform thorough tooth scaling, polishing and oral hygiene advice to help maintain the health of the gums.
A major contributing factor to gum disease is smoking and we encourage our patients to quit.
Early signs of gum disease:
- Bleeding gums
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Socioeconomic status