Ronald Rosenblatt, DDS (General and Cosmetic Dentistry) gives expert video advice on: What types of teeth do I have?; What stages of development do teeth go through?; What can I do to prevent future dental problems? and more...
What is a "dentist"?
A dentist is a doctor who is responsible for all areas of the mouth. This goes all the way from your lips all the way back to your throat: all the muscles of your bite, all of the teeth in your mouth, all of the gums (we call them gingiva), and all of the hard and soft tissues in and around the mouth. That's what a dentist does. It's very important that the dentist takes care of all of these things, because things that go awry in your mouth have a major effect on your general health. Having regular dental checkups is certainly a very major part of your total body health and should not be overlooked.
What are "teeth"?
Teeth are the hard tissue that most people think of in the mouth. The tooth is composed of several different layers and several different structures. The part that we normally see above the gum is the crown of the tooth. Below that, and anchored in to the bone, is the root of the tooth. The crown of the tooth is covered with enamel, that's the outside layer of the crown. Below that is the dentin, and within the dentin is the nerve chamber. The root of the tooth is not covered by enamel, it's covered by another structure called cementum. Cementum is not as strong as enamel, but it does cover the tooth. And inside the cementum is dentin again, and then the nerve of the tooth.
What is "plaque"?
Plaque is a film of mostly food product, that sits on the teeth, usually down where the tooth meets the gum (or the gingiva). Plaque is easily removed by toothbrushing. If the plaque sits there for a long length of time, it will harden, and become tartar. Once plaque becomes tartar, it's almost impossible to remove with a toothbrush, and needs to be scraped off by a dental professional.
What is a "dental hygienist"?
A dental hygenist is responsible for what most people would call cleaning the teeth. But actually its more than just cleaning the teeth. A good dental hygenist will, in addition to polishing the teeth, also scale the teeth, and by scaling I mean take off all the tartar that has built up since your last appointment. Tartar was once plaque but has hardened and you cant take it off with your toothbrush. The dental hygenist does this to keep your teeth clean, and at the same time make sure that there is no bacteria affecting your gum. If your teeth are clean, and the area where your teeth meets your gum is clean, it will eliminate the bacteria that can go into your system and cause medical problems. So the hygenist is responsible for maintaining the health of your gums, or as we dentists say, your gingeva.
What is an "oral surgeon"?
An oral surgeon is a dental specialist who takes care of surgeries in the mouth. Most commonly an oral surgeon will take out teeth - he will do extractions. The primary place that we see an oral surgeon doing extractions is in taking out wisdom teeth. Everyone thinks of impacted wisdom teeth, and that's what the oral surgeon does. An oral surgeon will also place implants. He'll do those surgeries that are necessary to maintain the health of your mouth. Anything from removing cancer, to replacing bone that has been lost, augmenting bone that would be necessary, changing the shape of the jawbone, and taking care of fractures in and around the mouth. So an oral surgeon is a surgeon of the mouth.
What is a "periodontist"?
A periodontist takes care of all of those tissues around the tooth. That's what periodontist means: peri means 'around' and dontist means 'around the tooth'. So, a periodontist will take care of the soft tissues or the gums (the gingiva, as we call them) and the bone that supports the teeth. If you have not been good and your hygiene has lapsed so much that a dental hygienist cannot maintain your teeth and your gums, you'll need to go to a periodontist who will then perform surgery to make sure your gums are in a situation where you can maintain them. So, a periodontist most often will be doing surgery to allow your mouth to be in a situation where you can maintain it and keep it in optimum health.
What is an "endodontist"?
An endodontist is a specialist who does root canals, and that is all an endodontist does. So when you have an infection that has gone into the nerve chamber and killed the nerve, or is killing the nerve, you will see an endodontist. He will take out the diseased tissue, sterilize it, and place a filling material. So then the dentist can restore the tooth and you can have many more years of health with that tooth.
What types of teeth do I have?
Teeth come in different shapes and sizes because they have different jobs to do. The teeth in the front, the four front teeth, are called incisors. They are called incisors because they are used for biting into things. Going back towards the back of the mouth, from the incisors, we have the canines, or the eye teeth, or cuspids. Behind them are the pre molars. The pre molars are also called bicuspids. The cuspid is called the cuspid because it has one cusp, or one pointy thing. The bicuspids have two, so they are called bicuspids, two pointy things. Behind the bicuspids we'll find the molars. There are usually two biscuspids and then three molars. Your first molar will come in at six years, the second molar at 12 years, and the third molar, often called the wisdom tooth, will come in at 18 years.
What stages of development do teeth go through?
Teeth go through several stages of development. The first teeth that come in are called the Primary teeth, or the deciduous teeth, because they're going to be lost when the adult teeth come in. The teeth come up through the gum and that's what we call teething, as a child goes through a lot of discomfort as these teeth come in. But these teeth are very important as they're necessary for the child to be able to chew and also to maintain the space when the adult teeth come in. A healthy primary dentition, just before the adult teeth come in, should show many spaces between these teeth. This is because the primary teeth are much smaller than the adult teeth. The first teeth to be lost are the front incisors of the deciduous teeth, followed by the molars. Then the adult teeth will follow up through the roots of the tooth, and as they come in they'll eat away at the roots of the primary teeth and that's how the primary teeth become loose. The molars come in at 6 years, and at 12 years, and at 18 years. Not everyone will get the 18 year old molar, or what's sometimes called the wisdom tooth and this is because we're evolving as a species. Our head is changing from a forward position to a more up and down position, and many people don't have room for this wisdom tooth. That's why they have impacted wisdom teeth, which are teeth that are locked either underneath the tooth, in front of it, or in the jawbone, so that it has difficulty coming out.
What is "dental decay"?
Dental decay is a disease of the teeth that is caused by food sticking to the tooth which breaks down to become acid. This food becomes acid which is made from the sugars in the food that stick on the tooth, and this acid eats away at the tooth causing dental decay. Initially it has to go through the enamel. Because the enamel is a very hard material, harder than bone, it takes a long time for dental decay to go through the enamel. If dental decay begins in the enamel and is cleaned up really well, the tooth will re-mineralize and become whole again. If it doesn't, the dental decay will progress through the enamel into the dentin of the tooth, which is softer than the enamel. The dental decay will then go very wild rapidly, and sometimes go all the way to the nerve and cause a need for a root canal. So we want to arrest that dental decay in it's very earliest stages.
What is a "cavity"?
A cavity is a hole. The cavity may be just a hole in the tooth because that's anatomically how it was, but most often, a cavity is something that was caused by tooth decay. Someone will say, "I have a cavity" or the dentist will say, "You have a cavity." That means you have tooth decay and it needs to be eliminated for the health of the tooth.
What are the most common warning signs of a dental problem?
There are several warning signs of a dental problem, but the most common ones are pain. If something hurts, then something's wrong. Bleeding is another reason to be concerned as if your gums are bleeding, then again something's wrong. If you have a sore that doesn't heal, something's also wrong. All of these things should be brought to the attention of your dentist to determine if you have a dental problem.
What can I do to prevent future dental problems?
The way to maintain your teeth and avoid future dental problems is to brush your teeth regularly and also floss them regularly. Visit your dentist at regular intervals, to catch those things that you may not notice which may cause dental problems. Your dentist can best decide which interval is the best for you. And you also want to avoid foods that are high in sugar and sticky so that you won't face tooth decay or other dental problems from a poor diet.