Dental Procedures: Preventative, Restorative, Cosmetic

Dental Procedures: Preventative, Restorative, Cosmetic

Updated on March 19, 2024

7 Dental Procedures to Improve Your Oral Health

Elena Borrelli
Written by 
Alyssa Hill
Medically Reviewed by Elena Borrelli
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The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends a visit to the dentist every 6 months. Dentists perform various procedures to help prevent, cure, or reduce oral health conditions. 

Here are some of the most common dental procedures to improve your oral health:

1. Teeth Cleanings

A routine dental cleaning (prophylaxis) is the most common dental procedure. During a cleaning, a dental hygienist will remove plaque and tartar buildup from your teeth. 

Dental prophylaxis cleaning teeth polishing procedure with professional brush and gel

Fluoride treatments are usually a part of routine cleanings. This procedure also involves checking for early signs of cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay. 

2. Cavity Fillings

If you have cavities, cavity fillings help prevent further damage to your teeth. The procedure involves removing the decayed portion of the tooth and then filling it with a dental material. 

temporary filling

Your dentist may also use fillings for chipped or broken teeth.

3. Root Canals

You may need a root canal when you have severely damaged or decayed teeth. A root canal involves removing the infected pulp from the tooth’s root canal system.

medically accurate 3d render of an endodontic root canal treatment process

The entire procedure can take up to three visits to complete. Failing to get a root canal when necessary can lead to severe pain, infection, and eventual tooth loss.

4. Tooth Extractions

Tooth extractions are necessary for teeth that can’t be saved through fillings or root canals. They may also be recommended for people with alignment issues or who have experienced trauma. This procedure involves removing the entire tooth from its socket in the jawbone.

There are two types of tooth extractions⁠—simple and surgical. Your dentist will determine the type of extraction based on your condition. 

5. Braces

Braces are the most common treatment used to correct teeth misalignment. It involves brackets and wires that apply gentle pressure to your teeth. Over time, braces help your teeth slowly move to the correct position. 

Treatment with braces will depend on the severity of your misalignment. It can take can anywhere between several months to a few years.

6. Dental Implants

Dental implants help replace missing teeth after tooth loss or extraction. The procedure involves placing an implant, an abutment, and a crown. 

During the procedure, artificial tooth roots are surgically implanted into your jawbone. Dental implants also help prevent further bone loss and reduce stress on your remaining teeth. 

7. Dental Crowns

Dental crowns are custom and fitted caps that cover a tooth. This procedure is meant to restore and strengthen decayed teeth. 

3D illustration of a Temporary Dental Crown being installed on to teeth

There are various types of dental crowns, depending on their material. Common materials include porcelain, metal, and ceramic. 

8. Dentures

Dentures are removable prosthetic devices that replace missing teeth and surrounding tissues. You can get full or partial dentures, depending on the number of missing teeth you have.

Aside from replacing missing teeth, dentures improve oral functions and support facial structure. 

9. Dental Bonding

Dental bonding is a dental procedure for minor cosmetic flaws. For example, you may get a dental bond to improve the appearance of chipped or irregularly shaped teeth.

3d render of crooked tooth treatment using bonding procedure

The dentist will apply a tooth-colored resin material to the affected tooth during the procedure. They will shape the tooth as needed and then cure it. 

10. Veneers

Veneers are a cosmetic treatment that improves the appearance of discolored or chipped teeth. They’re made from porcelain or composite resin materials bonded to the tooth’s surface.

While veneers don’t necessarily improve oral health, they help improve overall smile and self-confidence.

11. Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening refers to the general process of brightening and removing stains from your teeth. These procedures can be done at home or a dentist’s office.

white woman getting LED whitening treatment

Common teeth whitening procedures include teeth whitening strips, LED trays, and laser whitening.

Who Performs These Procedures?

General dentists can perform the majority of procedures. However, for some ailments, you might be referred to a specialist.

Dental specialists include:

  • Oral surgeons
  • Orthodontists (malocclusion specialists)
  • Periodontists (gum disease specialists)
  • Prosthodontists (teeth replacement specialists)
  • Endodontists (root canal specialists)
  • Pediatric dentists (children’s dental specialists)

General dentists perform restorative dentistry (fixing or replacing teeth) and cosmetic dentistry procedures.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should children see the dentist?

Your child’s first visit should be scheduled within 6 months of their first tooth eruption. They should return to the dentist twice a year (every 6 months).

What are the most common dental procedures?

Teeth cleanings, cavity fillings, root canals, tooth extractions, braces, dental implants, dental crowns, dentures, dental bonding, veneers, and teeth whitening are all very common procedures.

What dental procedures does insurance cover?

Many dental insurance companies use the 100-80-50 plan model, which covers:

  • 100 percent of preventative care (teeth cleanings, dental exams, fluoride treatment, etc.)

  • 80 percent of basic procedures (dental fillings, extractions, root canals, etc.)

  • 50 percent of major procedures (bridges, implants, crowns, etc.)

  • But check with your insurance provider for a complete and accurate list.

How can I find a dental specialist?

Your general dentist will be able to refer you to a dental specialist if you need one. Alternatively, a third-party company, such as 1-800-DENTIST can help you find a specialist that fits your needs and takes your insurance.

Key Terms

Malocclusion

Maxillofacial

TMD

Mandible

Dental Savings Plan

Malocclusion

Normal occlusion is a perfect bite. Malocclusion is the misalignment of teeth. It can be caused by a difference in teeth and jaw size, congenital disabilities, childhood habits, teeth abnormalities, failed procedures, or jaw injuries and problems.
Types of malocclusion include: crowded teeth, diastema (gapped teeth), overbite, underbite, crossbite, open bite, and overjet.
Learn More:
Malocclusion of the Teeth: Types, Causes & Treatment

Maxillofacial

“Maxillofacial” refers to the face and jaw. “Oral” refers to the mouth. Common maxillofacial problems include fractures, dislocations, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, osteonecrosis, and jaw cancers.
Learn More:
What is Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery?

TMD

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMDs) cause pain and improper functioning in the jaw and muscles that control jaw movement. It is the most common jaw disorder, affecting over 10 million Americans.
Learn More:
What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)?

Mandible

The mandible refers to the lower jaw. It holds the lower teeth and connects to your skull’s temporal bones. This connection is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The upper jaw is called the maxilla.
Learn More:
What is the Mandible (Lower Jaw)?

Dental Savings Plan

A dental savings plan, also known as a dental discount plan, is an alternative to dental insurance. They are like club memberships. You pay a low monthly fee and receive discounted rates for dental services provided by dentists in their network.
Learn More:
What are Dental Discount Plans?
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