Dental Surgical Procedures in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, & Hampton, VA
Root Canal Therapy
Root canal therapy is needed when the nerve of a tooth is affected by decay or infection. In order to save the tooth, the pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth), nerves, bacteria, and any decay are removed and the resulting space is filled with special, medicated, dental materials, which restore the tooth to its full function.
Having a root canal done on a tooth is the treatment of choice to save a tooth that otherwise would die and have to be removed. Many patients believe that removing a tooth that has problems is the solution, but what is not realized is that extracting (pulling) a tooth will ultimately be more costly and cause significant problems for adjacent teeth.
Root canal treatment is highly successful and usually lasts a lifetime, although on occasion, a tooth will have to be retreated due to new infections.
The teeth are held firmly in place by strong roots that extend into the jawbone. Molars and premolars tend to have several roots, whereas the front incisors only have a single root. The end or tip of each root is termed the apex. The apex is where the nerves and blood vessels enter the tooth and aids in the delivery of blood to the crown (the part of the tooth you can see in your mouth).
A root canal treatment refers to the cleaning of the canals and the removal of infected and inflamed tissue within the root. When the inflammation or infection persists after the root canal treatment, an apicoectomy may be required. An apicoectomy is essentially the removal of the apex (or root tip), followed by a filling procedure to seal the root from further infection. When left untreated, infected roots can damage other teeth, spread infection, and cause regression of the jawbone.
Crown lengthening is generally performed in order to improve the health of the gum tissue or to prepare the mouth for restorative or cosmetic procedures. In addition, crown lengthening procedures can also be used to correct a “gummy” smile, where teeth are covered with excess gum tissue. Crown lengthening exposes more of the natural tooth by reshaping or recontouring bone and gum tissue. This treatment can be performed on a single tooth, many teeth, or the entire gum line to expose a pleasant, aesthetically pleasing smile.
Gingival recession (receding gums) refers to the progressive loss of gum tissue, which can eventually result in tooth root exposure if left untreated. Gum recession is most common in adults over the age of 40, but the process can begin in the teenage years.
Gum recession can be difficult to self-diagnose in its earlier stages because the changes often occur asymptomatically and gradually. Regular dental checkups will help to prevent gum recession and assess risk factors.
The following symptoms may be indicative of gum recession:
- Sensitive teeth – When the gums recede enough to expose the cementum protecting the tooth root, the dentin tubules beneath will become more susceptible to external stimuli.
- Visible roots – This is one of the main characteristics of a more severe case of gum recession.
- Longer-looking teeth – Individuals experiencing gingival recession often have a “toothy” smile. The length of the teeth is perfectly normal, but the gum tissue has been lost, making the teeth appear longer.
- Halitosis, inflammation, and bleeding – These symptoms are characteristic of gingivitis or periodontal disease. A bacterial infection causes the gums to recede from the teeth and may cause tooth loss if not treated promptly.
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of bone loss in the oral cavity, though there are others such as ill-fitting dentures and facial trauma. The bone grafting procedure is an excellent way to replace lost bone tissue and encourage natural bone growth. Bone grafting is a versatile and predictable procedure which fulfills a wide variety of functions.
A bone graft may be required to create a stable base for dental implant placement, to halt the progression of gum disease, or to make the smile appear more aesthetically pleasing.
There are several types of dental bone grafts. The following are the most common:
- Autogenous bone graft – In this type of graft, the bone is removed from elsewhere in the body and implanted in the mouth. Common donor sites for bone grafting include the iliac section of the pelvis, the chin, and the posterior third molar areas of the jaw. If large amounts of bone need to be harvested, the hip or the shin bone (tibia) is generally used.
- Allograft – Synthetic bone (man-made) can be created in the laboratory and used in the bone grafting procedure. Bone can also be obtained from a bone bank (cadaver bone).
- Xenograft – This is the implantation of bovine (cow) bone. A xenograft is perfectly safe and has been used successfully for many years. Ample bone can be obtained and no secondary donor site is necessary.
A dental implant is essentially an artificial tooth root which is attached to the jaw bone. Eventually, a replacement tooth or bridge will be firmly fixed to this root, restoring complete function to the tooth. The key to a successful and long-lasting implant is the quality and quantity of jawbone to which the implant will be attached. If bone has been lost due to injury or periodontal disease, a sinus augmentation can raise the sinus floor to allow for new bone formation.
In the most common sinus augmentation technique, a tiny incision is made near the upper premolar or molar region to expose the jawbone. A small opening is cut into the bone and the membrane lining the sinus on the other side of the opening is gently pushed upward. The underlying space is filled with bone graft material and the incision is closed. The bone which is used for this procedure may be from your own body or from a cadaver. Sometimes the dentist might use synthetic materials which can also stimulate bone formation. The implants are placed after healing has occurred; this will depend on the individual case. Sinus augmentation has been shown to increase the success of dental implant procedures.