The very thought of undergoing dental procedures such as a wisdom tooth extraction or a root canal treatment can evoke fear even among the bravest of us. Perhaps because of a lack of accurate information about these procedures, we refrain from visiting the dentist until it becomes too painful to avoid. Let’s address some frequently asked questions about dental procedures to help you make better treatment choices.

1. Why do teeth appear yellow sometimes and how can they be whitened?

The outer surface of teeth, known as enamel, is ivory white while the underlying layer called dentin has a slightly yellowish colour. The natural colour of teeth appears to be yellowish-white but when the enamel gets stained by food or drinks, the yellow colour darkens. Many brands sell different types of tooth-whitening products in the form of toothpaste, powders or gels but none of them is as effective as in-office dental bleaching. It involves the application of peroxide-containing materials to lighten its natural hue tooth enamel.

2. Can a cavity be treated at home?

A cavity, medically called caries, is a permanently damaged area on the surface of a tooth that appears as a small hole. When plaque (sticky, colourless bacterial deposits) on the surface of teeth combines with the sugar from food, acids form and destroy tooth enamel, forming a cavity. Cavities cannot be treated at home as they require dental fillings or other extensive procedures, depending on the extent of the damage. Dentists also recommend the application of sealants on the enamel to protect against cavities.

3. Why are tooth fillings required?

Dental fillings, also called dental cement, are synthetic bioactive materials that are used to fill cavities (after removing the decayed part of the tooth), repair a broken tooth, and close gaps between teeth. The different types of dental fillings include glass ionomer cement (GIC), composite (tooth-coloured filling), amalgam (a mix of silver powder and mercury), or gold.

4. Why does one require a root canal treatment (RCT)?

Root canal treatment (RCT) is an invasive dental procedure that involves cleaning diseased and dead pulp tissue present in the inner part of the tooth, consisting of nerves and blood vessels. Local anaesthesia is given to the patient while this procedure is performed to ensure that the patient doesn’t experience any pain. After cleaning the canals, the tooth is filled with a rubber-like material and sealed using dental cement. An untreated cavity, infected pulp, faulty fillings, or unforeseen damage (chipping or crack) to the tooth require an RCT.

5. Are dental x-rays safe?

Dental x-rays are a diagnostic imaging technique used to identify problems such as cavities, bone loss, root infection, and impacted teeth (wisdom teeth stuck below the gums). The amount of radiation emitted from dental x-rays is extremely low making them safe to use. However, dental x-rays are not recommended for pregnant women.

6. Does dental cleaning result in the loosening of teeth?

Dental cleaning, also called dental scaling, is a non-invasive procedure done to remove accumulated plaque and calculus (calcified plaque). Scaling is done using an ultrasonic machine, which involves the use of blunt tips and water for irrigation. Scaling does not remove enamel or cause teeth to loosen. Loose teeth could indicate periodontitis, a chronic gum disease that damages the gum and bone supporting the tooth.

7. Do braces hurt?

Orthodontic treatment involving dental braces helps straighten crooked, misaligned or dysfunctional teeth. It includes the application of metal or ceramic structures, called brackets, on the top surface of teeth using a tooth coloured filling material. This is followed by the placement of a wire that is adjusted every few weeks or months, depending on the case. It is a painless procedure and does not require any anaesthesia unless the patient requires tooth extraction.

8. How often should we consult a dentist?

One should consult a dentist every 6 months to help spot dental problems early and prevent them from getting worse. Regular visits to the dentist can also save you from invasive and more expensive treatments later.

Conclusion

The fear associated with dental visits prevents many people from getting preventive dental care. Lack of early dental treatment often results in severe tooth pain, abscess development, and tooth loss. Negligence towards oral care can also result in critical infections such as infective endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves). We must visit a dentist frequently to avoid such complications and ensure sound oral health.

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