What is an oral evaluation?

During an initial or periodic oral examination, the hard and soft structures of the mouth and related areas are thoroughly examined. Structures examined extra-orally include the lips and surrounding tissue, the temporomandibular joint, the thyroid gland and lymph nodes of the jaw and neck. Structures examined intra-orally include lymph nodes and salivary glands, teeth and surrounding gum tissue, the roof of the mouth (hard and soft palate), the floor of the mouth (soft tissue below the tongue), the inner cheeks and lips, and the tongue.

A detailed inspection of this hard and soft anatomy can help to detect oral cancer at an early stage when the prognosis for cure can be very good. Many other abnormal pathology can also be diagnosed. Additionally, various systemic (bodily) illnesses, such as autoimmune diseases, have oral manifestations.

Intra-oral and extra-oral radiographs are also taken as is necessary for scrupulous detail.

What is a crown?

A crown or “cap” is a permanent dental prosthesis that replaces the enamel or external part of a tooth above the gum line. A crown can be made from various dental materials and the choice depends on aesthetic and/or functional needs. This procedure requires two visits to the dentist to complete.

Crowns are necessary when:

  • A broken tooth no longer has enough structure to fill
  • A tooth is fractured, but can be saved
  • A tooth had root canal treatment
  • A tooth has extensive decay and cannot be restored with a filling
  • The aesthetics of a tooth or existing crown are unacceptable to a patient
  • A tooth with a large filling is in danger of fracturing without the coverage or protection of a crown
  • An old crown has decay around or under it
  • A tooth has “cracked tooth” syndrome – pain on biting and sometimes on release

When one or more of the above-mentioned circumstances are present, a crown can prevent pain and/or loss of a tooth by extraction, and thereby avoid a much greater expense to replace it.

What is a bridge?

A bridge is one of the options available for replacing a missing tooth or teeth. Replacing missing teeth is necessary in order to maintain proper mouth function. Tooth loss can affect the way we eat and speak, not to mention the appearance of one’s smile. It also affects the alignment of other teeth in the mouth.

A bridge, by definition, is a link or connection between two permanent structures. A dental bridge is very similar in that it attaches the artificial teeth to the natural teeth on either side of the gap. Bridges are made in one piece; however, they look like individual teeth. Bridges are made of various tooth-colored materials. Bridges generally require two appointments to complete.

What are porcelain veneers?

Porcelain veneers are extremely thin castings of glazed ceramic that are permanently attached to the front of a patient’s teeth to create a new smile. Veneers are placed over the front of teeth that appear too small or large, are discolored or are not cosmeticly pleasing to the patient. Veneers can also be a solution for improving the appearance of teeth that may have chipped, have large spaces in-between, or are slightly crooked. Veneers are enduring, stable and highly aesthetic. Fabrication of veneers requires two appointments.

What is bonding?

Bonding is a less expensive alternative to veneers. The procedure involves the use of a composite resin and, similar to veneers, is placed over the front of teeth. Bonding is used for the same reasons that veneers are used. It is less expensive because a dentist places, sculptures and polishes this “direct” restoration in one appointment. The porcelain veneer is an “indirect” restoration requiring the dentist to take an impression and a dental laboratory to fabricate. Thus, the aesthetics of the glazed porcelain surface of the veneer is superior to that of the polished surface of the bonding’s composite resin. While resin bonding is cosmetically pleasing, the durability is not as strong as veneers. With good oral hygiene, these resins typically last 4 – 5 years before they begin to chip and/or stain.

What are tooth-colored (non-metallic) fillings?

These fillings have been used for over 50 years on front teeth and on back teeth for over 25 years. The composition of the material they contain has improved tremendously since their inception and continues to do so. Unlike the old “silver-mercury” fillings, these are aesthetic as they are made in all shades and can match the color of the tooth. A great advantage of tooth-colored fillings is that they chemically join three-dimensionally to the remaining tooth structure, thus creating a very strong interface. The older metal fillings are held in by mechanical retention; thus, more tooth structure must be removed in the process of performing a metal filling, which greatly increases the chances of tooth fracture in the future.

What is bleaching?

Bleaching is a safe, at-home or in-office process that whitens teeth. The majority of dentists prefer at-home bleaching. We offer two whitening methods. One method utilizes the Opalescence Go Whitening Kits, which consist of 10 disposable, semi-custom trays that are worn for 15 minutes per day for 7 – 10 days. With the second method, the dentist takes impressions of your teeth at the first visit and custom laboratory bleaching trays are made. At the next visit, the patient receives the trays and a thick bleaching gel to take home. Trays are worn for several minutes, once or twice per day. Results may be noticeable within a few days, and the average time to finish the bleaching process is 2-3 weeks.

What are removable partial dentures?

These dental prostheses are utilized when more than one tooth is missing from the upper or lower arch of the mouth. It is an alternative to replacing teeth with a bridge or multiple bridges. The dentist custom designs the shape and selects the materials for the partial to maximize comfort and aesthetics.

What are dental implants?

Dental Implants are utilized to provide a patient with a foundation for restoring missing teeth. They offer an opportunity to regain normal function without having to resort to a larger prosthesis, such as a bridge, partial denture or full denture.

The actual implant is placed by an oral surgeon or periodontist and replaces the root of a tooth. Implants are left alone for a period of 3-4 months. During this time, bone attaches to the implant and the patient wears either a temporary or existing restoration or even nothing over the implants(s) depending on the individual situation to allow for chewing and cosmetic appearance.

After the oral surgeon or periodontist has confirmed the implant is firmly fixed in the bone, the dentist can make the final restoration.

What does a cleaning consist of?

A cleaning or “dental prophylaxis” is the removal of plaque, tartar and stains from the teeth. It is normally recommended to have this procedure once every 6 months. In our office this service is accomplished with a new Piezo scaler which vibrates the debris off the teeth with a fine tip and a slight mist of water. This instrument is fast, effective and gentle. A final polishing of the teeth completes the process.

What is non-surgical gum treatment?

This is a procedure by which a dentist removes plaque and tartar from below the gum line that, due to its presence, has started the process of gum disease. In our office root surfaces are cleaned and smoothed with special Piezo tips. (See cleaning section.) Aside from bacterial toxins which irritate the gum tissue and bone surrounding teeth, the bacteria in plaque and tartar advances the disease process which can cause tooth loss. The areas(s) being treated are gently numbed to make this experience comfortable.

What are sealants?

Sealants are a thin coating of resin painted on the chewing surfaces of the teeth – usually the back teeth (premolars and molars) – to prevent tooth decay. The liquid sealant quickly bonds into the pits and grooves of the teeth, forming a protective shield. Sealants are usually covered 100% for children by most insurance plans. Sealants can last up to ten years depending on the individual. Sealant placement is painless and takes anywhere from five to fifty minutes, depending on the number of teeth to be sealed. Children should get sealants on their permanent back teeth as soon as the teeth come in.

What is a sports mouth guard?

Sports mouth guards are made for both amateur and professional athletes because they offer the highest level of protection during sports activities. When worn properly, they can prevent dental trauma, such as fractured teeth. They are also indicated for patients with braces who must wear a mouth guard for preventive measures. Custom mouth guards provide a superior fit, retention and protection compared to cheap, store-bought “boil-and-bite” mouth guards. Custom sports guards are available in differing levels of protection depending on the intended use and can be custom-color designed.

What is an occlusal or night guard?

If you frequently wake up with a sore jaw, a dull headache or tooth pain, you may be suffering from clenching or teeth grinding, a condition known as bruxism. This causes your teeth to chip or crack and strains your jaw muscles. One of the most common ways to alleviate these effects is to wear an appliance at night called a custom night guard or occlusal guard. Its main function is to separate the surfaces of your teeth which prevents them from clenching or grinding. They are made in a laboratory from an impression of your teeth by your dentist. They are of high quality and have a superior fit, being very comfortable to wear. Many insurance plans pay benefits for this appliance.

A final message…

Thank you for spending the time on our site to find out how we strive to be on the Best Dentist Harford County list. We are genuinely concerned about your dental health and that of your family, friends and co-workers. If you or someone you know hasn’t “been to the dentist” in a while, a routine dental check-up could help prevent unnecessary future discomfort and expense. There’s no better time than the present to start on the way to a lifetime of good dental health!



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