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Dental Procedures List

Updated: Jan 27

A list of all dental procedures that are performed by dentists, dental specialists, hygienists, and dental assistants.


Table of contents:


Diagnostic Procedures

Diagnostic procedures are used to clinically diagnose oral conditions such as tooth decay, infections, gum problems, and various oral pathologies. The most common diagnostic tool would be the dental x-ray.

  • Dental Check up. Oral examination to check for cavities, gum disease, and infection.

  • Bitewing x-ray (BW). The best x-ray for detecting cavities that are in between the teeth.

  • Dental cone beam CT (CBCT). A 3D image which is used for implant planning and also for detecting fractures as well as extra nerves in root canals.

  • Oral cancer screening. According to the CDC there are about 45,000 new cases per year.

  • Periapical x-ray (PA). The x-ray that will show infections at the root of the teeth.

  • Panoramic x-ray (PANO). An x-ray that will show all of the teeth in one image. It is particularly favored by oral surgeons because it shows how close impacted wisdom teeth are to the nerves.

  • Vitality testing. These tests involve a cold, hot, and electric stimulus to see if you have a dead tooth.


dental x-rays
dental x-rays

Emergency Dentistry

Emergency dental treatment that is meant to get you out of pain. These may or may not be permanent but they all require follow up appointments.

  • Incision and drainage. Large abscesses with swellings need to be drained.

  • Replanting avulsed teeth. A knocked out tooth can be placed back into the mouth.

  • Splinting teeth. Not all teeth get knocked out, some only get loose. Splinting them will help stabilize them until they recover.

  • Temporary restorations. Temporary fillings, bondings, and crowns to hold you over until you can get the permanent one.


Endodontic Procedures

These procedures are the bread and butter of endodontists who are also known as the root canal specialists. These treatments typically involve the interior of the tooth or the roots of the teeth.

  • Apicoectomy. A surgical procedure which excises the last few millimeters of the root tip.

  • Pulpotomy. A partial root canal which only removes the the nerve in the pulp chamber.

  • Root canal. A procedure where the nerve of the tooth gets removed from the tooth. The tooth is no longer alive after this is completed and will be considered dead.

  • Root canal retreatment. Teeth with root canals can get re-infected and if they do, a retreatment is in order. It is essentially a redo of a root canal.

  • Root resectioning. When your dentist amputates one of the roots of your teeth, it is akin to limb amputation except this involves your tooth.


Implantology

This is the field of discipline of replacing diseased or missing teeth with a titanium substitute.

  • Dental implant. A surgical procedure which replaces the tooth root with a titanium screw.

  • Implant crown. A porcelain crown that attaches to the titanium implant.

  • Removable overdenture. Similar to a denture but it is supported by implants for better retention. It can be removed at will by the patient and is easy to clean.

  • Fixed overdentures. These are similar to dental bridges except they are all supported by implants. One of the most popular options is an all on 4 which is a a long span implant bridge.

  • Second stage surgery. When the implant gets uncovered because it is now ready to be restored. This will be the last time that you see the implant specialist.


Oral Maxillofacial Surgery

Oral surgery procedures are the bread and butter for oral maxillofacial surgeons (OMS) who specialize in dental surgery. We often associate them with removing teeth but they actually treat all hard tissue conditions in the face.

  • Bone graft. Implants need to be placed into bone and if you don't have enough of it, you'll need a bone graft. There are many different types of grafts: xenograft, allograft, and autograft.

  • Canine exposure. Impacted canine can be exposed and dragged down with braces by attaching a gold chain to it.

  • Cleft lip and palate repair. A birth defect that occurs during pregnancy where the lips and/or palate do not form properly. The result is a hole or slit in the oral tissues.

  • Coronectomy. Extract only the crown of the tooth while leaving the root tip behind.

  • Facial trauma. Broken jaws, broken noses, broken orbits and facial lacerations will often be repaired by OMS in the emergency department.

  • Orthognathic surgery. This procedure is a corrective jaw surgery to fix the malocclusions that braces cannot do. The jaws will be manually repositioned.

  • Tooth extraction. This treatment will remove the entire tooth completely from crown to root.

  • Sinus lift. A sinus augmentation is needed if the maxillary sinus is intruding into the space where an upper implant is supposed to be placed. You can't place an implant into the sinus!

  • Wisdom tooth extraction. Impacted or symptomatic wisdom teeth will need to be taken out.


Orthodontic Procedures

Orthodontic procedures are performed by an orthodontist, who is the specialist in aligning teeth.

  • Braces. The traditional way of straightening your teeth with metal wires and brackets.

  • Clear aligners. These are invisible braces which move your teeth with plastic trays.

  • Palatal expander. An appliance that is used to correct a narrow upper arch.

  • Retainers. After teeth are done moving they will need to be retained in their position, otherwise they may relapse or move again.


Pediatric Procedures

A pediatric dentist is the specialist for all procedures related to children. They do a lot of preventative, restorative, and diagnostic procedures as well but will do them only for children.

  • Preventative resin sealants (PRR). A thin resin that is placed into the teeth with deep grooves to prevent tooth decay.

  • Silver diamine fluoride (SDF). A type of fluoride treatment that can arrest tooth decay.

  • Space maintainers. Baby teeth that are lost from extensive cavities will need the space maintained, otherwise it will become an orthodontic nightmare later on.

  • Stainless steel crowns. Kids don't get porcelain crowns but rather stainless steel ones.


Periodontic Procedures

Periodontic procedures are typically performed by a periodontist, who is the specialist in treating gum disease and also surrounding tissue of the tooth.

  • Adjunctive therapy. Prescription medication such as chlorhexidine and minocycline HCL to help manage gum disease.

  • Alveoloplasty. A surgical procedure that smooths the bone and makes it more denture friendly. Dentures cannot be placed over bony undercuts.

  • Crown lengthening. This treatment will remove the bone surrounding a tooth to make it "longer". Typically it is used for teeth with short clinical crowns with poor retention.

  • Dental cleaning. This procedure will remove plaque and tartar from above the gum line to treat gingivitis.

  • Deep teeth cleaning. Removes plaque and tartar from deep below the gum line and even on the root surface. Dental professionals call this procedure "scaling and root planing" and it is used to treat periodontitis.

  • Gingivectomy. Overgrown gums can be trimmed away.

  • Gum graft. The traditional method to treat gum recession by grafting gum tissue.

  • Gum surgery (osseous surgery). This surgical technique is used for moderate to severe periodontitis. It is the last resort if deep cleanings are ineffective.

  • Pinhole surgical technique. A modern surgical technique that is used to treat whole mouth gum recession.


Preventative Procedures

Preventative dental procedures focus on preventing problems before they happen because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  • Fluoride treatment. Extra doses of fluoride can help prevent tooth decay.

  • Mouth guards. These are acrylic guards that you wear over your teeth to protect them from injury such as for sports.

  • Sealants. A very thin composite resin that is used to fill in deep grooves in your teeth to prevent the formation of cavities.


Removable Prosthetics

All of these procedures will fabricate a removable appliance or oral prosthetic to replace missing teeth. They can come in a variety of different materials such as acrylic, valplast, and etc.

  • Complete denture. A prosthesis that is used to replace the entire arch of missing teeth.

  • Flipper tooth. A miniature denture that is used to replace 1-3 teeth at most. It is a temporary prosthetic that is meant to be used for aesthetic purposes.

  • Partial denture. Different from a complete denture in that they replace some missing teeth but not all of them.

  • Palatal obturator. A hybrid between a denture and facial prosthetics. These will replace missing facial structures such as a palate and even noses or eyeballs.


Restorative Dentistry

All of these procedures have the sole purpose of restoring your teeth to their original shape and function so that you can smile, eat, and speak.

  • Core build up. A restorative technique that restores a tooth back to a shape that is suitable to place a permanent restoration over it.

  • Dental bridge. Multiple crowns (abutments and pontics) that are connected together which are used as an alternative to implants for replacing missing teeth. It is a less conservative treatment method.

  • Dental crown. A tooth cap that is made of porcelain or other metals, which replaces a lot of missing tooth structure. It also serves to protect the tooth by covering over the entirety of it.

  • Dental fillings. Small cavities can be removed and filled back in with different materials.

  • Composites. A type of resin that is tooth colored.

  • Amalgam. Silver filling that contains mercury.

  • Glass ionomer. Filling material that is resistant to tooth decay.

  • Inlays. A porcelain restoration that is used to treat medium to large sized cavities.

  • Onlays. Similar to a crown but it does not cover the entire tooth with porcelain.

  • Post and core. A core build up that involves a post for added retention.

  • Temporary crown. A temporary tooth that is used until the permanent crown is made.

  • Veneers. A cosmetic procedure which places a thin piece of porcelain over the front of the teeth. Its purpose is to change the shape and color of them.


Teeth Whitening

Let's be honest, you can brush your teeth all day long but they'll still be yellow. The only way to make them white is by whitening them with hydrogen peroxide to oxidize all of the stains.

  • At home. There are a plethora of DIY at home whitening products. Give them all a try.

  • Whitening gum. Chewing gum that can make your teeth whiter.

  • Whitening mouthwash. A mouth rinse that does more than kill bacteria.

  • Whitening pen. A pen that can dispense whitening gel and brush it on your teeth.

  • Whitening strips. An adhesive strip that you wear over your teeth to bleach them.

  • Whitening toothpaste. Special toothpaste that contains peroxide.

  • Whitening trays with and without LED lights. These trays contain peroxide.

  • Professional whitening. There are three types of professional treatments.

  • Custom whitening trays. These trays are custom made for your teeth. You place the bleaching gel into the trays and then wear the trays.

  • In-office whitening. The entire procedure is done at the dentist. Some of the products utilize a LED light while others use a catalyst to activate the bleaching gel.

  • Internal bleaching. In lieu of bleaching the teeth from the outside in, the gel is placed inside the pulp chamber. This whitens the tooth from inside out. This technique is reserved for severely discolored non-vital teeth.


Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

The TMJ is a double jointed joint that controls your jaw. Consequently it affects the way you eat, chew, and speak. Problems with it can often refer pain to your teeth.

  • Arthrocentesis. This surgical procedure flushes out the joint to remove inflammation.

  • Botox. Freezing the TMJ muscles can alleviate some of the TMJ symptoms.

  • Night guard. An appliance that you wear to sleep to protect your teeth from grinding damage.

  • Splints. An oral appliance that you wear which puts your TMJ into a better position.

  • Total joint replacement. Severely damaged TMJs will need to be replaced completely.

  • Trigger point therapy. Overused TMJ muscles can develop muscle knots and trigger points which can spasm and cause you sporadic pain. You can treat these by massaging them or via trigger point injections.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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