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Following are common dental procedures 

Oral Prophylaxis (Scaling)

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Complete removal of calculus and stains on the teeth is generally the first step in the dental treatment unless there are any emergency situations (such as an abscess), which need prior attention. This procedure is known as oral prophylaxis or scaling.

It is also the first step in treatment of gingivitis and periodontitis.

The dentist uses either certain hand instruments or special equipment known as ultrasonic scaler to clean the teeth. The scaler works on the principle of ultrasonic vibrations, which dislodge the calculus that is attached to the tooth surface. The procedure is generally painless, while some amount of bleeding based on the severity of gingivitis can be expected. The procedure may be done in 1–3 appointments based on the severity of the condition. The patient may be recalled after a week to monitor the progression of gingivitis or periodontitis.

Teeth neither become loose nor drift apart after scaling. When tarter is removed the space covered by it become empty and gives an impression as if the teeth has become loose.

Periodic scaling is generally advised based on the oral hygiene and spacing between the teeth. Older individuals or people with certain disorders who are not able to maintain proper hygiene may be advised to get scaling done once in 3 months. Crowded teeth may make it difficult for the brush to reach all the surfaces resulting in formation of tartar and people with such problem may be advised scaling once in 6 months. Other individuals may require only once in a year. The dentist would decide which one is the best for the patient.



This is the common treatment advised by the dentist in case of dental cavities. This generally raises a question whether all cavities require fillings and also whether all the cavities can be cured with a filling. The answer for both

the questions is no. In some cases, the carious process once started stops by itself leaving only a discolored tooth. Such a process is referred to as arrested caries and do not require a filling. In all other cases where there is a clear indication of an ongoing carious process, the dentist advises a filling. In severe cases where the pulp is infected, root canal therapy is the ultimate solution.
Fillings may either be a temporary one or a permanent one. Temporary fillings are generally advised as an interim filling before the permanent filling is completed. These are also advised when a tooth is kept under observation for root canal therapy.

Generally there are two types of permanent filling material used: silver amalgam and composite resins. Silver amalgam in simple terms is a mixture of silver, copper and tin which is mixed with small amount of mercury while composite resins as the name suggests is a mix of different types of resins that set when light of a specific intensity is passed through them. Another variety of filling material is known as glass ionomer cement, which also has anticariogenic properties. All fillings generally have a lifetime of about 5–8 years.1

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Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy is commonly referred as RCT. This treatment is offered when the pulp is infected or the tooth has an abscess.

In this procedure, the pulp tissues within the tooth are cleared and the empty space is filled with custom made cement. To access the pulp tissues, a hole is drilled into the tooth, which is subsequently filled with a permanent filling material.

Crown: Following the treatment, the tooth becomes nonvital or dead and does not receive any nutrition making it dry. To prevent the brittle tooth from breaking a complete crown is placed on the tooth.

The dentist may prescribe a course of antibiotics and painkillers to manage the infection and pain associated with the abscess. Once successfully completed, the treated tooth will remain asymptomatic for lifetime.

The procedure usually requires 2–3 appointments and may or may not be done under local anesthesia.

Read more details about Root canal therapy


Crowns and Bridges

Crown, in simple terms is a cap placed over a single tooth to aid in chewing. This is commonly advised following root canal therapy. A crown is also advised if there is more space between two teeth due a carious tooth, which cannot be closed with a filling. Before the placement of a crown, the tooth needs to be trimmed in order to create space for the crown. Once ready, the crown covers the entire space created for it and mimics the natural tooth. The crown can be made of different types of materials such as acrylic (usually used as a temporary crown), chrome-cobalt, porcelain and gold.

A missing tooth is generally replaced by placing a crown each on the teeth ahead and behind the missing tooth. A structure that resembles the tooth, known as pontic and is in turn attached to the two crowns on the adjacent teeth. Such an assembly is referred to as a bridge. A bridge can be used to replace one to several missing teeth. The dentist will assess the teeth that act as a support for the bridge before placing it.


Any foreign body that is placed within the body tissues can be called an implant. In dentistry implants are commonly used to replace a missing single tooth or multiple teeth. The implants used are small screws made of titanium which are compatible with the body and do not generally result in any abnormal reactions. This however needs an elaborate assessment of the bone durability and condition of the gums. Implants are also used as a support for complete dentures. The advantage of an implant is that it nearly mimics the root as in a natural tooth. The need of grinding the adjacent teeth in case of a bridge is also nullified. The placement of the screw is a minor surgical procedure, which is done under local anesthesia by a dental surgeon who specialises in that field


Braces and Retainers

Worried about that uneven smile because of teeth crowded or placed awkwardly in the mouth? The dental speciality known as orthodontics is there for the help. Dentists who specialise in this field help to smile better and ease the difficulty associated with misaligned teeth.

Braces: They use specialized materials known as braces, which are fixed on the teeth and align the teeth to make it properly functional and also improve the smile. The braces are generally advised for a period of 6 months to 1 year. These can generally be applied to people within the age group 8–80 years. However, it needs proper maintenance from the side for the success of the treatment.

The dentist advises to use certain specialized brushes to aid in proper brushing, once the braces are placed. These braces can be removed only by the dentist and any attempts to remove it by any other person may be harmful.

Retainer: Once the teeth are aligned with the use of braces, the orthodontist will advice to wear a removable appliance made up of acrylic with a wire to maintain the newly aligned position of the teeth. This appliance is known as a retainer. It is generally advised to wear the retainer during the day continuously. The dentist will give the appropriate instructions about its use and duration till which it has to be worn. Minor corrections in the abnormalities of tooth alignment such as rotated single tooth may also be corrected with the use of retainers. The retainers are generally advised to be worn for about 6 months to 1 year.2

Braces and retainers


Dentures are removable sets of artificial teeth.

These are known as either partial denture when used to replace one or more teeth and complete dentures when used to replace all the missing teeth.

Partial dentures are generally used as an interim treatment method before the bridge is placed.

Complete dentures are advised when all the teeth are missing and there is no teeth left to support a bridge.

The dentures serve the purpose of chewing and maintaining the facial fullness. However, the same efficiency as the natural teeth cannot be expected from dentures. They also require some time to get adjusted before regular use. Complete dentures usually require about 4–6 visits to the dentist.


Oral Surgery

Oral surgery refers to the removal of a fully erupted or impacted tooth (extraction) and correction of fractures related to the upper or lower jaws.

A dentist who specializes in this field is known as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

Extraction of a tooth can be performed by an experienced dental surgeon and a specialist may be called in case of complicated cases. The extraction procedure is generally done under local anesthesia. Following extraction, one is required to hold the gauze placed on the wound for about 20 minto control bleeding.

Follow the other specific instructions given by the dentist to aid in faster healing of the extraction wound. One can generally resume the work after taking rest for about 30 min to 1 h.

Read more details about tooth extraction

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: May 08, 2012

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