Most people know that the teeth are the hardest and strongest part of the body. There's more than meets the eye, though. Teeth are actually a living part of your body that has blood vessels and nerves. If you used to judge your teeth like a book by its cover, then you're in for one big surprise. Teeth anatomy is a lot more complicated than you ever thought.
The visible part of a tooth, otherwise known as the crown, is only a small portion of the living system. The crown is made up of enamel, the hardest substance found within the body. It is bone that has been enriched with large percentages of calcium. That's why people who drink lots of milk or take calcium supplements have strong bones and teeth. The enamel is thickest at the crown, and thinnest near the roots of the teeth.
Excellent crowns and bridges were made by the Etruscans in the 7th cent. B.C. At about that time, teeth were being extracted in Asia Minor as a cure for bodily ills and diseases. Skills achieved by the Etruscans, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were largely lost during the Middle Ages, when barbers and roving bands of charlatans practiced unskilled dentistry at marketplaces and fairs. Abulcasis, a Spanish Moor, was one of the few in his time who studied dental surgery.
Teeth whitening can be accomplished many different ways. Considered a cosmetic procedure, teeth whitening has become very popular in recent years with the development of various methods that range from drugstore products to dental visits.
The simplest type of teeth whitening is the use of products that can be picked up from the drugstore. These products, which use a very mild bleaching solution, usually require extended use over a period of several weeks. They may be brushed on, squeezed into one-size-fits-all trays, applied as strips, or used in conjunction with normal toothpaste and mouthwash. While these products are very popular, their mildness makes them less effective.
For individuals who are looking for a fast way to achieve dramatic teeth whitening results, in-office whitening is the way to go. Protective gel is applied to the gums, lips and other tissue around the teeth, and then a bleaching solution is applied to the tooth enamel. A high intensity laser or other type of light catalyzes the bleach, and the teeth are treated for one to two hours.
Some types of tooth discoloration are difficult to whiten and treat. Teeth that have been subjected to trauma may darken significantly, and resist any bleaching procedure. Some medications affect young children when their teeth are first forming and may also be nearly impossible to treat. Dentists will be able to tell what situations may result in bleach-resistant discoloration, and provide advice on how effective various treatments may be. In cases of extreme discoloration that cannot be subjected to common teeth whitening procedures, porcelain veneers applied to the teeth may be an alternative solution.
For individuals who have chipped, cracked or irregularly shaped teeth, dental contouring and reshaping can be just the ticket for a more beautiful smile.
Tooth reshaping, or contouring, is one of few instant treatments now available in cosmetic dentistry. Dental reshaping and contouring is a procedure to correct crooked teeth, chipped teeth, cracked teeth or even overlapping teeth in just one session.
With a little dental contouring, you can make a huge difference in the way you feel about your smile. Good cosmetic dentistry can give you a smile that is the envy of others. Tooth contouring by a cosmetic dentist does require that you have normal, healthy teeth.
Contouring teeth may also help correct small problems with bite. It is common for bonding to be combined with tooth reshaping to achieve a beautiful smile. There are actually several ways to change the appearance of your teeth. Many times these various procedures are combined in different ways to deliver that smile of your dreams.
Veneers provide a durable solution to the color and shape problems that are common to so many people. Veneers are applied to fronts or visible areas of the teeth. The enamel (outside layer of the tooth) is ground down or reduced by just fractions of a milimeter in order to allow for the thin (contact lense thickness) veneer to be permanently attached to the tooth.
Dental veneers (sometimes called porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates) are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front surface of teeth. These shells are bonded to the front of the teeth changing their color, shape, size or length and resulting in an improved appearance.
Veneers, porcelain or plastic, are placed over the front teeth to change color shape of the teeth. Veneers are ideal for teeth that are too small, too big, or have uneven surfaces. It is very common for people to have imperfect teeth, either oddly shaped teeth, chipped teeth, crooked teeth, teeth with small holes in them, or an inappropriate sized tooth or teeth that have an odd appearance. Veneers solve such irregularities and create a durable and pleasing smile.
If you have a small dental bridge or partial dentures (removable type), implants will be a welcome alternative. Implants are an alternative to a fixed bridge. The implant will last a lifetime, but the crown on top of it will last ten to fifteen years.
The implant procedure is a surgical placement of the implant or implants in your jaw bone which requires a three to six month healing period before the implant restoration to replace the missing tooth or teeth. During this healing time, the bone grows in and around the titanium implant creating a very strong support. Dental implants can be rejected. Usually they are replaced with another implant of a slightly larger size. The rejection or "failure" rate is minimal, only 1 to 2% of all implant procedures. You must go without wearing your dentures for one day to two weeks after an implant placement. After the implant has "taken" and you have sufficiently healed, a very natural crown is placed on the implant.
When missing one tooth, your cosmetic dentist may use a Flipper to fill the space. A Flipper is a false tooth to temporarily take the place of a missing tooth before the permanent crown is placed on the implant. A Flipper can be attached via either a wire or a plastic piece that fits in the roof of your mouth. Flippers are meant to be a temporary solution while awaiting the permanent crown to be placed on your implant(s).
The classic metal orthodontic braces are the most familiar method of teeth straightening. Consisting of a bracket glued to the front of each tooth and a metal wire connecting them, orthodontic braces usually require several years of wear for effective teeth straightening. They can be uncomfortable, expensive, and embarrassing for older patients. However, they are still the most effective method of teeth straightening and can correct overbites and underbites as well as individual teeth alignment.
Lingual braces are similar to classic orthodontic braces but are attached to the backside of the teeth, rather than the front. Although they still have many of the problems of standard braces, they are not visible and may be chosen by adults who do not wish for visible braces. Lingual braces are more expensive than standard braces but the fastest method of "invisible" teeth straightening.
Invisalign is one of the newest methods of teeth straightening and is extremely popular with adults. Consisting of a clear mold that is nearly invisible when worn, Invisalign uses a series of molds that gradually push the teeth into the desired shape. Invisalign does not cost significantly more than standard orthodontic braces, but cannot correct an overbite or underbite and is only a good choice for minor straightening. Invisalign is not as effective on major problems, which may require standard braces.
Definitions and terms
- Dental fillings are inserted as restorations in the treatment of dental cavities, after drilling out the cavities.
- Dental implants are surgically fixed substitutes for roots of missing teeth. Embedded in the jawbone, they act as anchors for a replacement tooth, also known as a crown, or a full set of replacement teeth.
- Removable complete dentures are full-mouth false teeth, which are used when a patient has no teeth left on either the mandibular arch, the maxillary arch, or both.
- A layer of tooth-colored material, usually porcelain or acrylic resin, attached to and covering the surface of a metal crown or natural tooth structure.
- Total or partial loss of sensation, especially tactile sensibility, induced by disease, injury, acupuncture, or an anesthetic, such as chloroform or nitrous oxide.
- Local or general insensibility to pain with or without the loss of consciousness, induced by an anesthetic.
- A drug, administered for medical or surgical purposes, that induces partial or total loss of sensation and may be topical, local, regional, or general, depending on the method of administration and area of the body affected.
- A dental bridge is a prosthesis used in place of missing teeth and may be removable or permanently attached.
- The formation of cavities in the teeth by the action of bacteria; tooth decay.
- Also known colloquially as tooth decay.
- Full-coverage restoration (sometimes incorrectly called a cap) is a prosthetic tooth designed by a dentist and usually created by a lab technician.
- A hard, white, translucent ceramic made by firing a pure clay and then glazing it with variously colored fusible materials.
- The medical study of the mouth and its diseases.
- Also known as tooth whitening.