Plaque is the accumulation of bacteria, microorganisms and
their products which sticks to the tooth surfaces. Dental
plaque is soft and easily removed by brushing and flossing
the teeth. Accumulation of plaque can lead to gum disease
(gingivitis) and periodontal disease, as well as tooth decay.
What is Calculus (Tartar)?
Calculus is dental plaque that has mineralized. Calculus
can form when plaque is not removed from the tooth surfaces.
This plaque becomes old and eventually forms into calculus.
Calculus can form above or below the gumline. The bacteria
that sticks to calculus can cause gum disease (gingivitis)
or periodontal disease. Calculus cannot be removed by brushing
and flossing. A dental hygienist checks for calculus formation
when you visit the dental office. It is removed with special
instruments designed to adapt to the tooth surface affected
without causing trauma to the soft gums.
What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. Some common features
associated with gingivitis are red and swollen gums, and
the presence of bleeding while brushing and flossing. The
cause of gingivitis is the bacteria in dental plaque. This
disease is reversible with good oral hygiene practices.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease affects the periodontium (the supporting
structures of the teeth). The cause of this disease is multifactorial,
but the presence of bacteria in plaque certainly plays a
major role. The supporting periodontal structures begin
This can mean that part of the bone that supports the teeth
or the ligaments that hold the teeth securely in place are
destroyed. This disease process is generally not reversible
and may require treatment from a dental professional specializing
in periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can develop
as a result of poor daily plaque control (e.g. brushing
However, not everyone with poor brushing and flossing
techniques will develop this condition. It is wise to visit
your dental hygienist or dentist regularly in order to detect
early stages of the disease and to prevent further damage.
Braces are put on teeth to help correct rotated teeth, too
large of spaces, crowding or misalignment of teeth. Newer
techniques today allow for wire frames to be worn that can
spread open the arch if it is too small, or pull one side
of the jaw to correct for overlap on one side only. In addition,
clear brackets and brackets that can be bonded inside the
teeth are making braces a good option for many adults today.
Composite or white plastic fillings, are used when esthetics
is a concern. While the currently available materials used
for composites are as strong as silver fillings on the chewing
surfaces, they do excellently in the grooves, and dramatically
lower the development of cavities.
Crowns are placed over a tooth when a large portion of the
tooth is lost ot decay or has broken off. Usually when a
filling is more than half of the size of the tooth, the
tooth is weakened. If the filling would comprise a significant
portion of the tooth, often the tooth can fracture under
the stresses of chewing and therefore, placing a crown over
the tooth protects the chewing surface and prevents that
from happening. Crowns that are white are made of porcelain
and are usually placed in areas of esthetic concern. Gold
crowns might be placed in the molar region or when there
is heavy grinding that might damage the opposing teeth.
Dentures are false teeth. They are typically made from impressions
(molds) that are taken of the inside of the mouth and they
are made of a type of plastic or porcelain that duplicates
the shape, size and function of the teeth.
Dental implants, simply put, are typically titanium posts
that are imbedded into the jawbone and then plastic or porcelain
teeth are placed over the portion of the implant that sticks
out of the gums. They usually take several months to complete
since the bone must fuse to the posts before any kind of
pressure can be put on the implant itself.
A root canal is typically done whenever the decay or injury
to the tooth invades the inner part of the tooth where the
pulp is. This is where the nerve and the blood supply are
located. When a root canal is done, the inner portion of
the pulp is removed, along with any infection that may have
invaded the inside walls of the tooth.
Then a sealer material is placed with a rubbery plastic
to fill the hole so that new infection can't get into the
tooth. Generally, by removing the root, it can potentially
weaken a tooth and therefore, it is common to protect the
integrity of the tooth by placing a crown over the tooth.