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What is TMJ dysfunction?

The letters TMJ are short for ‘temporo-mandibular joint’, which is the joint connecting your lower jaw to your skull. This joint allows you to open and close your mouth and chew from side to side.

If you are missing some teeth at the back of your mouth, this may lead to an unbalanced bite, which can cause uneven pressure on your teeth. Other causes of TMJ dysfunction can include grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw at night.

If you suffer from severe headaches, or neck and shoulder pain, you may not have linked this to a problem with your jaw. Other symptoms of TMJ dysfunction include pain or discomfort on the side of your face, around your ears and jaw joints or difficulty moving your jaw. If you experience occasional jaw pain you should avoid eating hard foods, chewing gum and biting on hard objects. When you yawn, try supporting your lower jaw with your hand.

Talk to your dentist if you think you may be suffering from TMJ dysfunction.

Why do we need regular x-rays?

Your dentist will take regular x-rays to look for early signs of tooth decay. Sometimes the tooth looks healthy, but your dentist will be able to see from an x-ray (radiograph) whether you have any decay between your teeth or under existing fillings, any possible infections in the roots, or any bone loss around the tooth. Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save both time and money.

In children, x-rays can be used to show where the second teeth are and when they will come through. This also applies to adults when the wisdom teeth start to come through.

There are various types of x-ray. Some show one or two teeth and their roots while others can take pictures of several teeth at once. The most common x-rays used at mydentist are small ones, which are taken regularly to keep a check on the condition of the teeth and gums. These show a few teeth at a time, but include the roots and surrounding areas.

Why do I need a dental check-up?

A check-up allows your dentist to see if you have any dental problems and helps you keep your mouth healthy. If any treatment is needed your dentist will be able to advise you at this stage.

What happens during a dental check-up?

At each check-up, your dentist will:

  • Examine your teeth, gums and mouth
  • Ask about your general health and any problems you’ve had with your teeth, mouth or gums since your last visit
  • Ask about, and give you advice on, your diet, smoking and alcohol use, and teeth-cleaning habits
  • Discuss with you a date for your next visit
How often should I have a check-up?

After your check-up, your dentist will recommend a date for your next visit. The time to your next check-up could be as short as three months or as long as two years (or up to one year if you’re under 18).

What about problems in between check-ups?

If you have any concerns in between check-ups, please contact Hello Dental to make an appointment. In an emergency outside normal working hours, contact us on the usual practice number and you will be told how to access emergency dental care.

What exactly is an implant?

An implant is a lot less scary than it sounds. It’s really only a replacement tooth root constructed from titanium. It provides a strong foundation for a fixed or removable replacement tooth which is made to match your natural teeth.

Why choose an implant?
  • Unlike a bridge, implants don’t require healthy teeth to be cut down
  • Dental crowns and bridges have to be replaced every 10-15 years – however, a well cared for implant can last a lifetime
  • Implants are easier to care for. You can even floss between them
  • Implants look and feel more natural than other alternatives
  • Implants prevent bone loss
  • You can eat the foods you want
Will it hurt?

Because we use local anaesthetic, there should be very little discomfort during the treatment. After the procedure, there is usually some mild soreness which is easily treated with over-the-counter painkillers.

Are implants safe?

Implants are a safe, well-established treatment. However, as with other surgical implants there is no lifetime guarantee. Complications can arise with all surgical procedures, but you will be carefully assessed and informed of any potential risks before commencing treatment.

Most complications are preventable and our dental professionals can reassure you about these issues.

How can I make my implant last longer?

Keeping your implant clean helps it to last longer. As with your natural teeth, the best way to look after your implant is to floss and brush regularly. Many implant wearers also visit the hygienist for a professional clean.

What is a partial denture?

This is a plate with one or more false teeth on it. It may be all plastic or a mixture of metal and plastic. Both types may have clips (clasps) to help keep the denture in place in your mouth. Depending on where they are, some of these clips may show when you smile or open your mouth.

What is the difference between a plastic partial denture and one that contains metal?

Plastic partial dentures are less expensive to make. But unless they are designed very carefully they can damage the teeth they fit against.

Metal partial dentures are usually made from an alloy of cobalt and chromium, and they are much stronger. They are lighter to wear and can be supported by the remaining teeth. Although the base is metal, they have gum-coloured plastic and natural-looking teeth fixed to them. They are more expensive than plastic ones.

What is the alternative to a partial denture?

The main alternatives are a fixed bridge or a dental implant. A dental bridge is made by putting crowns on the teeth at either side of the gap, and then joining these two crowns together by placing a false tooth in the space. This is all made in the laboratory and then the pieces are cemented into place with special adhesives. The bridge can’t be removed.

Another option is an adhesive bridge. This has ‘wings’ that are bonded to the back of the supporting teeth, with very little drilling needed.

What exactly is a root canal?

Also known as endodontic treatment, this is a common dental procedure used to treat infection of the root canal system at the centre of the tooth. The infection is caused by bacteria that already live in the mouth and are able to penetrate the tooth because of decay, leaky fillings or damage from trauma, such as a fall.

Why choose a root canal?
  • If a tooth is infected it may have to be removed. A root canal can help you avoid this.
  • A root canal can cure toothache, and help you keep your tooth for many years.
What does root canal treatment involve?

The procedure is normally carried out under local anaesthetic. The inside of the infected tooth is cleaned using special instruments and rinses. To help keep your tooth clean during the procedure, most dentists use a rubber dam (a rubber sheet held on a frame and fastened to your tooth/teeth with a special clamp).

Is root canal treatment safe?

Your dentist is highly trained and will make sure the procedure is very safe. As you can imagine, root canal treatment is a very skilled procedure which takes time to complete. Rare complications can include broken files or damage to the roots caused by the files or drills used.

When should I take my child to the dentist?

It is recommended that children should go to the dentist with their parents as soon as possible. You should then take them regularly, as often as your dental team recommend. This will let them get used to the noises, smells and surroundings and prepare them for future visits. The earlier these visits start, the more relaxed the children will be.

When will my child’s teeth appear?

First (or ‘baby’ or ‘milk’) teeth usually start to appear when your child is around 6 months old. All 20 baby teeth should appear by the age of 2. The first permanent ‘adult’ molars (back teeth) will appear at about 6 years, before the first baby teeth start to fall out at about 6 to 7. The permanent ‘adult’ teeth will then replace the ‘baby’ teeth. It is usually the lower front teeth that are lost first, followed by the upper front teeth shortly after. All permanent teeth should be in place by the age of 13, except the ‘wisdom’ teeth. These may appear any time between 18 and 25 years of age.

All children are different and develop at different rates.

What if my child is very nervous about going to the dentist?

Children can sense fear in their parents, so it is important not to let your child feel that a visit to the dental team is something to be worried about. Try to be supportive if your child needs to have any dental treatment. If you have any fears of your own about going to the dentist, don’t let your child hear you talk about them.

Regular visits to Hello Dental are essential in helping your child get used to the surroundings and what happens there. A child can be much more anxious if it is their first visit to a dental practice. Pain and distress can happen at any time and it is important to prepare your child with regular visits.

What is a mouthguard?

A mouthguard is a specially made, rubber-like cover which fits exactly over your teeth and gums, cushioning them and protecting them from damage.

When would I need a mouthguard?

It is important to wear a professionally made mouthguard whenever you play sport that involves physical contact or moving objects. This includes: cricket, hockey and football – which can cause broken and damaged teeth; and American football, boxing and rugby – which can all cause broken or dislocated jaws. A mouthguard will help protect against these happening.

Where can I get one made?

Your dental team will be happy to make you a custom-made mouthguard, which will fit your mouth exactly and protect your teeth and gums properly. Custom-made mouthguards can prevent damage to the jaw, neck and even the brain – helping to prevent the concussion and damage caused by a heavy blow.

How much will it cost?

Costs can vary from dentist to dentist. Ask your dental team about mouthguards and always get an estimate before starting treatment. When you consider the cost of expensive dental work and the risk of losing teeth, it is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

How long do custom-made mouthguards last?

Depending on your age, your mouthguard may need replacing fairly regularly. If you are still growing, new teeth will come through and move into position. So the mouthguard may become too tight or loose, and will need to be remade to fit the new shape of your mouth.

Adults may not need to have their mouthguards replaced quite so often. But they are like any other form of sports equipment and will suffer from wear and tear. It is recommended that you take your mouthguard along to the dentist when you go for your check-up, so it can be checked.

Gum Care

Gum disease is one of the most common dental problems adults face, but gum disease can begin at just about any age. Gum disease often develops slowly and without causing any pain. Sometimes you may not notice any signs until the disease is serious and you are in danger of losing teeth.

The good news is:

  • gum disease can almost always be prevented,
  • if it starts, it can be treated and
  • it can even be turned around (or reversed) in its early stages.
How it happens

Healthy gums and bone hold teeth firmly in place. Gums attach to teeth just below the edge of the gums. Gum disease affects the attachment between gums and teeth. Gum disease begins with plaque. Plaque is clear and sticky and contains germs (or bacteria). It forms on your teeth every day. It also forms where your teeth and your gums meet. If plaque is not removed every day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar (also called calculus). Tartar cannot be removed by brushing and flossing. Tartar can lead to an infection at the point where the gums attach to the teeth (called the “point of attachment”). In these early stages, gum disease is called gingivitis. Your gums may be a bit red and bleed when you brush, but you may not notice anything.

As gingivitis gets worse, tiny pockets of infection form at the “point of attachment.” You cannot see them, but you may notice puffy gums, traces of blood on your toothbrush, or a change in the colour of your gums. Your gums will probably not be sore. Over time, the infection breaks down the gum tissue that attaches to the teeth. This is called “attachment loss.” At this point, you will notice swelling, bleeding or colour changes in your gums.

Along with “attachment loss,” gum disease causes the bone that holds your teeth in place to break down too. If gum disease is not treated, teeth become loose and in danger of falling out.

The best way to deal with gum disease is not to get it in the first place. To protect your oral health, brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss at least once a day and see your dentist regularly for oral examinations.

Treatment

In its early stages, gum disease is very hard to see. You may not know that you have a problem. But every time you have a dental exam, your dentist looks for signs of gum disease. Your dentist may use a dental tool called a “periodontal probe” to measure where your gums attach to your teeth. Healthy gums attach to teeth just below the edge of the gum. If your gums attach to your teeth below this point, it is a sign of gum disease.

X-rays show how much bone is around your teeth. If you have gum disease, getting rid of plaque and tartar gives your gums a chance to get better. That’s why in the early stages of gum disease, the best treatment is cleaning by your dentist or dental hygienist to remove built-up tartar, brushing twice a day to remove plaque and flossing once a day to remove plaque.

When gum disease is more serious, Hello Dental may refer you to a dental specialist called a periodontist. A periodontist has at least 3 years of extra university training in treating gum disease, and in restoring (or regenerating) bone and gum tissue that have been lost because of gum disease.

What exactly is an extraction?

An extraction is the removal of a tooth from its socket in the bone. If a tooth has been broken or damaged by decay, we’ll try to fix it with a filling, crown or other treatment. Sometimes there is too much damage for the tooth to be repaired, and it will need to be extracted.

Will it hurt?

If a tooth extraction is needed, we’ll provide a local anaesthetic to ensure the area is numb and any discomfort is kept to a minimum.

Is the procedure safe?

Yes. When performed by expert dentists like ourselves, an extraction is absolutely safe. If necessary, we’ll provide a special dressing to protect the exposed socket after treatment, too.

What should I do after an extraction?

Avoid hot food or drinks until the anaesthetic wears off. This is important as your ability to feel pain may be impaired, which can result in you burning or scalding your mouth. You should also take care not to chew your cheek. For the rest of the day you should rest. Try to keep your head higher for the first night using an extra pillow if possible. It is also a good idea to use an old pillowcase, or put a towel on the pillow, in case you bleed a little.