What You Need to Know About Common Dental Procedures

When you visit local dentist offices for a checkup, the dentist may announce that you need any one of several procedures to improve your dental health. For some patients, learning that they need dental work done can cause anxiety. Education can help alleviate that anxiety because most procedures seem less scary once you know what they entail.

Most dental services fall into one of three categories – maintenance, common procedures, and dental surgery. When you go in for a checkup, it may involve some maintenance procedures, such as teeth cleaning. The dentist may also need to update your dental X-rays, which means the radiologist on staff will take photos of your teeth with a machine that photographs the bones themselves. This painless process takes just a few minutes and provides the dentist with vital information that lasts typically for a few years.

Let’s explore the most maintenance procedures first, then delve into the most common procedures. Finally, we’ll cover the dental surgery procedures and the dental experts who perform them. Once you know what each procedure entails, you’ll probably feel less trepidation over visiting the dentist.

Dental Maintenance Procedures

All your local dentists typically perform both of these dental maintenance procedures – teeth cleaning and enamel abrasion. They don’t require a specialist and, in most dental offices, a dental hygienist may perform these procedures. Let’s look at each in depth.

Teeth Cleaning

Every six months to a year, every person needs to have their teeth cleaned. Maintaining a regular schedule of teeth cleaning appointments helps maintain your oral health. During this process, the dental expert scraps the teeth using a pick-like tool that removes tartar buildup, but doesn’t cause pain. They also nudge the gum line to check the teeth’s health beneath the gums and clean it as well.

Although most people notice the aesthetic improvements to their teeth after a dental cleaning, the procedure has many other benefits you can’t see. Teeth cleaning helps prevent gum disease and tooth decay. During the cleaning process, the dental expert notices any developing oral health issues and apprises the patient of them.

Enamel Abrasion

If surface stains on your teeth bother you, your dentist might recommend enamel abrasion, a common procedure using a fine grade of pumice to slough off surface stains. Unlike whitening, which requires many applications, enamel abrasion removes environmental surface stains, such as those from drinking coffee, tea, wine, and soda pop, or from smoking or chewing tobacco. Enamel abrasion cannot remove discoloration inside a tooth, but having a veneer applied can address this problem. The pumice doesn’t hurt and treatment takes a single office visit to see results.

Ten Most Common Dental Procedures

Your local office of family dentistry probably provides all the top ten common dental procedures. By the time people reach adulthood, they’ve typically undergone a few of these dental treatments. We’ve already covered what goes into the number one most common dental procedure – teeth cleaning, so we’ll pick up with the second most common – having teeth whitened.

Teeth Whitening

Having your teeth whitened at a dentist’s office doesn’t hurt, and it works faster than the at-home kits. A few people experience sensitivity to the whitening agents, a gel made with hydrogen peroxide, but this rarely occurs. A professional whitening treatment combines the hydrogen peroxide gel and one of three types of light sources: ultraviolet (UV) lights, halogen lights, or light-emitting diode (LED) lights.

Tooth Extractions

While most patients experience soreness at the site of the tooth extraction for a day or so, having the procedure done doesn’t hurt. The dentist either numbs the tooth area, so you don’t feel the procedure, or sedates you, so you remain unconscious throughout it. Having a tooth pulled out might sound frightening, but removing the diseased tooth prevents future pain from it.

Dental Veneers

Sometimes, you have one discolored tooth or teeth that come in slightly crooked, and you want to quickly correct the problem. Your dentist can install a veneer over the area, hiding the anomaly from view during one visit. A veneer consists of a thin porcelain or composite covering installed over the front of a tooth. A veneer does not alter the teeth underneath it, so it only cosmetically addresses the problem.

Dentists use veneers to cover one or more teeth. It doesn’t hurt to have veneers made or put on your teeth. This simple procedure provides a quick, painless way to seemingly have the perfect smile.


You might have expected getting fillings for cavities to rank higher than the fifth most common procedure, but it doesn’t. The spotlight put on modern dentistry and dental care has improved dental health for many people. When a person develops a cavity, having it filled enables the dentist to save the tooth instead of extracting it. This process removes all diseased bone and inserts permanent packing material into it, comprised of one of the following: gold, porcelain, silver amalgam, composite resin (tooth-colored plastic or glass materials), or ceramic.

Most fillings take about one hour for the procedure. The dentist numbs the area, so you won’t feel pain, although you may notice slight pressure in the area while the dentist works. The numbness from the drugs used lasts a few hours after the appointment, so plan accordingly since it can make drinking and eating a bit of a chore.


Sometimes, a cavity defies filling because the patient has lost too much bone or the top of the tooth has decayed. Your dentist may turn to dental crowns as the solution. Depending on the process used, the crown process may require two visits. In both the traditional method and the 3D printing method, the dentist takes x-rays of your diseased tooth and makes a mold of it. Using the traditional method, the dentist sends the mold and x-rays to a lab that creates the crown and ships it to the dentist, but many dental offices now use a computer and 3D printer to create the crown while you wait.

As soon as the dentist has the crown, they fit it on your tooth and secure it in place. This takes little time, so expect a short and painless appointment. Having a crown put on doesn’t hurt, and your mouth will feel better afterward.

Root Canal

Although the procedure sometimes strikes fear in the heart of a patient, the root canal ends the pain from an inflamed tooth. Technically, when you need a root canal, your tooth might be fine, but the tissue beneath it becomes infected. The dentist numbs the area beforehand or the patient can request nitrous oxide or oral sedation, which involves taking a sedative before the appointment. When using oral sedation, you’ll need a designated driver after the appointment.

The procedure’s title may make it sound arduous, but you won’t feel anything. When you come to, your mouth won’t hurt because the dentist will have deadened the nerve beneath the tooth and removed any diseased tissue. Because it involves infected tissue, many dentists prescribe antibiotics before the root canal appointment.

Traditional Braces and Invisalign

Anyone with crooked teeth may want to undergo straightening of them. Today’s dentists offer braces and invisible aligners made of plastic. Most Invisalign dentists offer braces, too. Which type of device you use depends on the severity of the teeth overlap, because Invisalign only works on slightly to moderately crooked teeth.

Treatment with Invisalign can take a little more time than braces. A fitting of either process may leave you with a little mouth pain for a day or so. In most cases, taking Tylenol relieves this. With braces, you must temporarily give up some foods that could become stuck in the metal, but with Invisalign, you can eat whatever you like.

Dental Bonding

It’s less common than veneers, but dental bonding achieves the same goal – covering damage. If you’ve chipped a tooth or otherwise damaged it, your dentist may use a resin that matches your natural teeth shade to repair it. By layering a few applications of resin, and drying each using a special light, the dentist fills in the chip or gap. Finally, the doctor polishes the bonded area to make it appear like a part of the natural tooth.

Dental Bridges and Dentures

When you lose a tooth or teeth, you probably want them replaced as soon as possible for cosmetic and health reasons. Having a full set of teeth makes eating easier and provides an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Dental disease, accidents, and aging can cause teeth loss, but dentists can address this problem with dental bridges and dentures. You insert a dental bridge, also called a partial, in the same way as dentures to create a full set of working teeth.

Either partial or full dentures take some time to develop. The dentist designs them to look natural and match your original teeth as closely as possible. They shouldn’t hurt, so if you do feel any pain after your dentist fits you with them, immediately report it, so they can adjust the fit of the dentures. Most people who wear dentures do so pain-free, and getting fitted for them does not hurt either.

Oral Surgery

Oral surgery falls into the least common dental procedures. Most individuals won’t need emergency dentists in their lifetime unless they lose a tooth during a sports event. Having a tooth pulled does fall into the category of oral surgery, and it tops the list of most common oral surgeries.

Wisdom Teeth Removal

Between the ages of 17 to 20, most people have their wisdom teeth erupted. These extra molars can come in straight and provide added chewing power, but if they come in crooked or only partially erupt, your dentist will need to remove them. When wisdom teeth erupt improperly, they can crowd other teeth, resulting in bite problems. The surgery takes a few days of recovery but doesn’t hurt when it occurs, because the dentist numbs the mouth or uses light sedation when requested.

Dental Implants

Dental implants offer a permanent solution to teeth loss that dentures or bridges don’t. Instead of removing them at night, dental implants become a part of your mouth. It can take some research to find affordable dental implants near you, but if you lose teeth due to an accident, insurance may cover the implant surgery. The process requires a few visits to the dentist’s office over a period of months.

After a consultation and planning visit, your oral surgeon implants a post for each tooth into your jawbone and gums. In cases of damaged jaw bone structure, a patient may also need a bone graft, so the jaw can support the post. Your dentist creates a faux tooth that looks like your original and, at a later appointment, screws this tooth implant onto the post. This complex set of procedures can restore your smile, so put some research into finding the best cosmetic dentist in your area.


In rare situations, a dentist can’t perform a root canal because the tooth’s root has grown into a hooked position at the bottom. In an apicoectomy, an oral surgeon removes the root’s tip and then fills the empty space with inert material. This process serves the same purpose as the root canal but requires a dentist who specializes in oral surgery. Similar to the root canal, the patient undergoes a numbing agent or sedation, so they feel no pain.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatments

In recent years, dentistry has developed medical treatments for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition that drops oxygen levels to dangerous lows while a person sleeps. Oral surgeons perform procedures, such as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPP), which removes throat and soft palate tissue and corrects tongue advancement. Non-surgical methods include being fitted with an oral appliance called a mandibular repositioning device (MRD) that, when worn during sleep, repositions the mandible to create a larger airway.

Visiting Your Dentist

Visiting your dentist annually helps keep your mouth, teeth, gums, and jaw healthy. Although you may need to undergo a dental procedure, most of these involve no pain. If the sound of the dental drill bothers you, ask your dentist for headphones or bring your own, so you can listen to music while you undergo your procedure. Don’t let dental anxiety keep you from dental health; beat it with education and preparedness.

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