Most Common Dental Procedures Explained



While dentistry is considered one of the top 10 most trusted and ethical professions in the United States, many people are still scared of getting dental work done. While you may be familiar with some of the most common dental procedures, such as a general cleaning or cavity filling, there may be some that you’re less familiar with and thus are intimidated by. While getting dental work can seem scary, it’s important to remember the reason for it, to protect your dental health and, honestly, overall health. Here are some of the most common dental procedures dentists perform, how they are done, and their benefits.

Teeth Cleaning

Cleanings are one of the most common dental procedures that people receive. Dental cleanings can be considered periodontal treatments, as they are generally a special type of cleaning that aims at removing and controlling bacteria that can cause gum disease. It’s recommended that you visit your dentist every six months for general cleaning and checkup.

At a dental cleaning, your dental hygienist will remove built-up tartar, or a type of plaque, that forms on your teeth. There may be at-home ways to prevent tartar, but getting a professional cleaning is the only effective way to have it removed. They will also floss and brush your teeth, take x-rays, and check for any issues such as cavities, oral cancer, or root issues. They may also apply a fluoride varnish to prevent tooth decay and treat hypersensitivity.

Cavity Filling

A cavity is an area of the tooth that is permanently damaged by decay, usually forming a hole or opening in your tooth. They can be caused by improper tooth care, bacteria, or consuming too many sugary substances. They can often go unnoticed if you don’t get a general checkup as they sometimes don’t come with symptoms.

When you go in for dental services, your dental hygienist will be able to find cavities from your x-rays or even just by looking in your mouth at your teeth. Fillings don’t generally take too long and can sometimes be done in the same appointment, depending on how many you have. Getting a filling is one of the most common dental procedures. After numbing the area, the dentist will drill out the decayed tooth and clean it away with water. They will then use a sealant such as gold, silver, porcelain, or dental resin. Fillings can also be used for cracks in teeth.

Getting a filling will stop the decay in your tooth from spreading. Untreated cavities can cause toothaches, infection, and even tooth loss.

Dental Crowns

Dental crowns are a type of prosthesis that replaces the visible part of your tooth that has been damaged due to decay or an injury. Crowns are the final step to save a natural tooth before it just needs to be extracted all together, and as such, are one of the most common dental procedures. They can also be used cosmetically for teeth with imperfections. Crowns can be made from acrylic, porcelain, or metal. Porcelain provides a more natural look and is often used for front tooth crowns, while metal is stronger and is often used for back teeth crowns.

Dental crowns generally take two appointments to install. During the first appointment, your tooth will be numbed with anesthesia and then filed down significantly so a cap can fit over it. Your dentist will take an impression of your teeth and a temporary cap will be placed over your natural tooth while you wait for the real cap to be made. In your second appointment, the dentist will remove the temporary cap and secure the permanent cap to your natural tooth.

Getting a dental crown installed will keep you from having to get your tooth removed altogether and will save the healthy part of your tooth that is left. A cap can also prevent your tooth from further decaying.

Root Canal

A root canal treatment is another step that can be taken to save a natural tooth that has suffered decay from extraction. While a crown or filling is used for decay that has created an opening on the outside of your tooth, a root canal is used to treat decay or damage that is inside your tooth due to a crack or opening. A root canal will clear out the infected tissue inside your tooth to keep it from further decaying.

A general dentist won’t perform a root canal, you will need an endodontist, a specialist on the inner pulp of teeth. During the procedure, they will open up your tooth to remove infected pulp or root. They will use anesthesia to numb your gum, tooth, and nerves. The endodontist will clear out the inside of the tooth and then fill and seal it. The endodontist will then place a type of crown over the tooth to protect and restore it.

Many people are concerned to get a root canal done because they’ve heard it’s extremely painful. Because it’s a procedure dealing with your roots, it can be very sensitive. If the endodontist you’re working with is well trained and you communicate clearly about what you’re feeling, you shouldn’t feel any discomfort during the treatment.

Tooth Extraction

A tooth extraction is one of the most common dental procedures. It’s necessary when a tooth has decayed so much that it is beyond saving. A tooth could also need to be extracted if it has been damaged past repair in an accident. Teeth may also need to be removed for orthodontic reasons such as making room for teeth to grow in correctly or in preparation for alignment procedures. Tooth extraction is something handled by general dentistry unless it requires more intensive surgery, such as a tooth that has issues within the gums or is affecting your jaw bone.

general dentistry

For tooth extraction, a dentist will have to loosen the tooth from your jaw bone. The dentist will use anesthesia via a shot to numb the tooth, gum, and bone tissues around it. The doctor will have to expand the socket with a tool to loosen the tooth ligament. Due to the anesthesia, you won’t feel pain, but you will feel pressure from the adjusting. You may also hear some surprising sounds such as snapping or creaking.


Dental implants are the best way to replace teeth that have been extracted due to decay or accident. Other alternatives are dental bridges or dentures which can be removed and need to be cared for differently than natural teeth implanted in your jaw. Implants are optimal for most people because while it’s not a natural tooth, it looks and feels natural. Because they’re the best option, they’re one of the most common dental procedures performed.

An implant procedure is a type of minor oral surgery. The implant is installed in your jawbone and takes a few procedures to finish. A metal post is installed in your jawbone and a crown is attached to the post that looks like a natural tooth. You don’t have to worry about removing the tooth to clean it or care for it, as you would with dentures. You also don’t have to worry about it moving or shifting while you eat or live your day to day life.


Braces are a device used by orthodontists to reposition and straighten teeth. Orthodontists are types of dentists that specialize in preventing and diagnosing misaligned teeth. So orthodontic procedures, like braces, are used to align teeth.

Braces not only reposition your teeth to make your smile more beautiful, but they also help the long-term health of your teeth. When your teeth are properly aligned, eating is more comfortable and chewing is spread out across all of your teeth rather than done in one area. This could wear down your teeth and cause other problems like cavities or the need for caps or implants.

Braces are generally used for older children or young teens. It’s easiest to make the changes in alignment at a young age so the person can get their straighter teeth and better dental health younger. However, adults can get braces and are doing it more and more now, making them one of the most common dental procedures.

When you are going to get braces, the orthodontist will adhere small squares of metal, ceramic, or plaster to your teeth. They then string a metal wire through the pieces of material adhered to your teeth and use a rubber band to keep the wire in place. This is how braces work. The metal wire keeps constant pressure on your teeth so they slowly shift and adjust in the jaw bone socket and realign.

The length of treatment with braces depends on the severity of your misaligned teeth. It can last a few months for some people up to a few years for others.

While braces are one of the most common dental procedures to use for aligning teeth, there are a lot of other options for teeth straightening. For example, Invisalign is a common alternative to braces that many teens and adults use. Invisalign is a clear tray you put on your teeth, like a retainer, that again exerts that constant pressure to adjust your teeth. People often choose this option for the less obvious element. While you can get clear braces, they are still fairly apparent on the teeth. Invisalign is much less obvious and easier to hide.

Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is a purely cosmetic treatment. There is no physical health benefit to having whiter teeth, though it might boost your confidence. As such, this is a procedure you will likely have to pay for out of pocket. There are many at-home options for teeth whitening, but working with a dental professional will get you the most effective results. Because people are often trying to get more beautiful smiles, teeth whitening is one of the most common dental procedures.

At-home teeth whitening involves strips or trays that use hydrogen peroxide gel to work. Your dentist will combine hydrogen peroxide gel with a light source to speed up the whitening process. After you have whitened your teeth, there are certain substances you will want to avoid to prevent future staining. This could include coffee, tea, berries, and certain drugs.

Bonding And Veneers

Bonding and veneers are some of the most common dental procedures used to enhance the beauty of your smile. They are both procedures that can correct imperfections in your teeth, such as cracks or chips, or even poor shaping.

Bonding is a form of restorative dentistry where a dentist will take tooth-colored dental resin and adhere it to any teeth that are chipped, cracked, or oddly shaped due to decaying. They shape it to the tooth and then harden it with a light so it has strength and durability similar to a natural tooth. After it’s hardened, they will file it and sand it so it’s smooth and unnoticeable as anything other than your natural tooth. Bonding can also be used on older teeth that have worn down. It can also fix gaps in teeth.

Veneers are a strong piece of porcelain that is adhered to teeth to make them appear less damaged or strangely shaped. They are also used for teeth that are heavily stained and cannot be correct with bleach whitening. They have even been used to fix the appearance of overcrowded and overlapping teeth. Because the teeth need to be ground down for veneers to be installed, general anesthesia is used. Depending on the severity and number of teeth that need to have veneers applied, it can take a few appointments to finish them.

Your Dental Health

No matter how meticulous you are about brushing and flossing and taking care of your teeth, it’s more than likely that you need to have a few of these procedures performed on you during your life. If you’re intimidated by dental work, the key to getting some peace of mind is understanding what steps will be taken during the procedure so you can feel prepared and understanding the benefits. While it’s understandable to be nervous, you shouldn’t let those nerves keep you from getting the dental care you need and using these most common dental procedures to take care of your teeth.

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