Frequently Asked Questions
Should I have my old dental amalgams removed?
This one is certainly controversial and is something that many people have passionate opinions on. It would be easy enough to write a book on this topic! As with many things in life, the best opinions are often not the extreme ones, but the ones that are somewhere in between. And the answer is … maybe!
But perhaps not for the reasons you might think. In reality, we end up replacing old amalgam fillings for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are driven by patient concerns, such as when patients are unhappy with the dark appearance of these fillings or are concerned with the fact that they contain mercury. In other circumstances, we may remove these fillings due to the presence of fractures in the adjacent tooth structure. Such fractures are common adjacent to long-standing amalgam fillings. Although they do not occur in every case, they can be very significant if not diagnosed and addressed. These days, we have many materials that are more capable of protecting teeth against fractures and preserving the residual tooth structure for the long-term.
In terms of what we do - we like to take a collaborative approach as this area is not always black and white. If present, we like to outline our concerns regarding health and structural viability of teeth. We also try to listen to any concerns that patients have. We usually then have a chat about the pros and cons of action and inaction. As with many things in dentistry, there is often more than one way to solve a problem and we enjoy tailoring treatment plans to suit individuals.
Should I be flossing my teeth?
In a nutshell - yes! Although there are certainly several other ways to clean the spaces in between your teeth, some of which may be better than flossing. This is quite dependant on an individual’s circumstances. We all should absolutely be doing something to clean in between our teeth, as this is the most common area where we see plaque accumulation, leading to dental decay and gum disease.
What is a crown?
Crowns form a hard shell that covers the external surface of a tooth and they can have several advantages. They can be made of durable materials and can provide protection for the residual tooth structure if they are designed correctly. They can also be made with great precision in terms of their shape and their colour. On the other hand, there is more time and cost involved with crowns compared with some other types of restorations and the preparations involve removal of more tooth structure than may be ideal. The argument for a crown is often stronger when the next outcome for a tooth might be irreparable.
There is certainly a time and a place for simple fillings and a time and a place for crowns. These decisions are not always absolute and are best tailored to an individual's circumstances. In many instances we are moving away from traditional crown designs. One of the big leaps forward in dentistry has been the development of adhesive technologies and newer materials, which mean that we can sometimes use inlay/onlays and combine the conservative preparations of fillings, with the stronger materials and tooth protection of crowns. Contact us to discuss which options may be right for you!
When should I see a dental specialist
In dentistry, there are dental specialists that limit their practice to treating some of the trickier conditions that we might encounter. An orthodontist for straightening teeth, endodontist for root canals and periodontist for gum problems are some of the more common examples. As dentists, we all have different strengths and special interests but the reality is that no one dentist, general or specialist, can complete every procedure to the highest standard. Although patients are able to request a referral at any point in time, our philosophy regarding this is simple: if we don’t think we can complete a procedure to an equivalent standard within our practice, we’ll offer a specialist referral.
Do implants last forever? What can go wrong?
The introduction and improvements in dental implants have revolutionised dentistry and how we replace missing teeth. However, dental implants are not natural teeth and are generally a ‘second choice’ when compared with retaining our own natural teeth. Dental implants are placed with long-term intent and, if carefully planned, usually represent great long-term treatment options.
Like anything in life, dental implants do not necessarily last forever and are not without the potential for complications. They should certainly not be seen as a risk-free ‘permanent’ solution for all situations. At times, dental implants may fail to integrate. Implants can also get a type of gum disease or can have complications with the attached overlying crowns. Thankfully, with careful planning and monitoring, these risks can often be minimised and managed early.
Where is labwork sent?
In order to maintain quality control, we only use dental laboratories that are based in Melbourne and quality dental technicians that we have close working relationships with. We never trust your lab-based treatments (crowns, dentures, splints) to unknown or cheap overseas technicians.
Should I go overseas to get dental treatment?
At the risk of over generalising, the answer to this would be NO! Australia generally has a very high standard of dentistry when compared to the rest of the world. This not only applies to our technical standards but to our conservative and considered planning and philosophies. Although it is certainly not the case that all overseas treatment is poor, our experience is that it rarely matches our expected standards. Going overseas to get teeth ‘done’ in an accelerated timeframe breeds additional problems. Providers spruiking ‘dental tourism’ are usually far more skilled in marketing than they are in patient care. Good quality healthcare requires careful planning and often takes time to implement. Rushing treatment often involves deviation from established treatment protocols. Chasing inexpensive treatment usually means that materials will also deviate from the ideal. Equally, structured follow-up and review protocols are an important part of patient care. The cases that we have seen of patients chasing discounted treatment in the developing world have often ended up costing far more to rectify than to complete properly in the first place. We have also seen many cases of damage that is irreversible and would suggest a high degree of caution to any patients considering this.