Before I talk about the most common dental procedures in Nigeria, let’s talk about why people visit a dentist. People have different reasons for visiting a dentist. Most times, especially in Nigeria, pain from toothache drives them to the dental clinic.
Poor dental education is the reason why most people only visit the dentist when they are in pain.
Anxiety, lengthy period on dental chair, specious information passed around from ignorant citizens and previous unpleasant experience on a dental chair are some of the reasons militating against visits to the dental clinic.
However, advent of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) has improved visits to the dentist lately, this can be arguably due to people’s resolve to utilize their monthly or yearly contribution, as the case may be, to these HMOs.
There are lots of dental procedures that anyone that goes to the dentist can experience. Here are the most common dental procedures in Nigeria.
This is the removal of teeth from the alveolar bone under local anaesthesia (LA). Extractions can be simple or surgical.
For a simple extraction, after it is confirmed that the LA is working (the patient feels numbness around the tooth to be extracted), an elevator is used to luxate the tooth after which an extraction forceps is used to pull the tooth out.
The procedure is a bit more advanced when it comes to surgical extractions as the tooth area has to be incised and the tooth drilled out with motor- driven burs, once the tooth is removed, the incision is then sutured with the right sutures.
Fillings are restorative dental treatments to repair minimal to moderate tooth fractures, tooth decay and damaged surfaces of teeth.
Fillings are conservative procedures. They are utilized to prevent further damage to teeth.
Different materials for fillings are used depending on the location of the tooth, extent of tooth decay or damage and preference of the patient or the dentist.
Examples of filling materials are but not limited to composite, glass ionomer cement(GIC), MTA, Zinc Oxide Eugenol cement, Zinc Phosphate cement etc.
3. Root canal treatment (RCT)
RCT, as commonly used by dentists, is a procedure used to salvage teeth that otherwise would have to be extracted.
It involves the total removal of the pulp tissue which supplies the tooth with blood and nerves. This procedure involves 2 to 3 visits to the dentist after which it is always advised to crown (put a cap on) the tooth.
This can be done both in the clinic and the dental lab. A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cap placed over a tooth to restore its shape, strength, and improve its appearance.
Crowns are cemented after the tooth is prepared, and they fully encase the visible or coronal part of the tooth (the portion above the gum line). There are different types of crowns namely Porcelain- Fused with metal crown (PFMC), Metal crown, Zirconia crown, Gold crown etc.
A denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth. Dentures can be partial or complete depending on number of missing teeth.
An impression is usually taken in the the clinic, cast with dental stone to make a model then sent to the dental lab for the fabrication of the denture. When the removable denture returns from the lab, the dentist then fits it in the patient’s mouth.
6. Gum surgery
Infection to the gum may lead to surgery to the gum. Gum surgery due to gingival recession is as a result of the use of a hard brush and over zealous tooth brushing. This involves raising of flaps or gum grafts under local anesthesia.
Braces are orthodontic appliances that are fixed on the surfaces of teeth to align and straighten them. They help to position teeth with regard to the patient’s bite thereby improving aesthetics and facial appearance of the patient.
Braces corrects a lot of dental anomalies by a constant force which over time move teeth into the desired position. There are different types of Braces with relative cost.
8. Groove sealant
This procedure involves the application of a thin, plastic restorative material on the occlusal (chewing ) surfaces of the teeth. Sealants are usually applied on deep grooves on molars and premolars to reduce food stagnation thereby preventing tooth decay.
This procedure is mostly done for children. It is a treatment that gives children a good impression of a visit to a dentist because it is painless.
9. Scaling and polishing
This is becoming the treatment most enlightened individuals visit a dental clinic for.
It involves the use of dental instruments or an ultrasonic machine to remove plaque, calculus, and stains attached to the surfaces of teeth, then polished using prophylactic paste which contains higher fluoride level than toothpastes.
Patients are advised to do S&P, as fondly called, at least once a year.
Bridges are used to replace missing teeth. They are cemented permanently. They are a better option compared to a removable denture.
They use the support of the two adjacent teeth of the space created by the missing tooth or teeth. The dentist prepares the adjacent teeth to accept a cap which will hold and act as the support for the replacement.
There are different types of bridges which are employed by the dentist according the location of the missing teeth or space created.
These are used to replace missing teeth too. The advantage of implant over bridge is that an implant only utilizes the space as the adjacent teeth are not disturbed.
The treatment involves an implant being sunk and surgically positioned into the bone which acts as the root. And an appropriate crown fabricated and cemented on the implant.
12. Teeth whitening
This procedure also is gaining ground as more and more people become conscious of their looks. Thanks to advertisement people watch on the TV showing sparkling white teeth.
It involves the use of chemicals or solutions to improve the shade of teeth colour.
There are two types. In-office teeth whitening which is done by the dentist using some equipment including teeth whitening machine in the clinic and take-home kit which is used by patient at home. In-office teeth whitening gives an instant result while the take-home kit takes some time before result is seen.
People go to the dentist to get veneers for chipped, decayed and stained teeth. Veneers are strong thin pieces or facings of ceramic or resin material that are bonded to teeth. They restore aesthetics and also help to close gaps between teeth.