This is a guide to the some of the treatments carried out by dentists. Not all are available on the NHS. Some may only be available from a specialist.
A bridge is a fixed replacement for a missing tooth or teeth. It is made by taking an impression of the surrounding teeth, which will eventually support the bridge. A bridge is usually created from precious metal and porcelain and will be fixed in your mouth (unlike dentures, which can be removed).
Bridges are available on the NHS (band 3) and cost £214.
A crown is a type of cap that completely covers a real tooth. It is made from either metal, or porcelain and metal, and is fixed in your mouth. Crowns can be fitted where a tooth has broken, decayed or been damaged, or just to make a tooth look better.
To fit a crown, the old tooth will need to be drilled down so it's like a small peg onto which the crown will be fixed. It can take some time for the lab to prepare a new crown, so you probably won’t have the crown fitted on the same day.
Crowns are available on the NHS (band 3) and cost £214.
Fillings are used to repair a hole in a tooth, most often caused by decay. The most common type of filling is an amalgam, made from a mixture of metals including mercury, silver, tin, copper and zinc. Your dentist will offer the most appropriate type of filling according to your clinical needs. This includes white fillings, if appropriate.
Amalgam fillings and some white fillings are available on the NHS (band 2) and cost £49.00 per course of treatment.
Root canal treatment (also called endodontics) tackles infection at the centre of a tooth (the root canal system).
When the blood or nerve supply of the tooth has become infected, if root canal treatment is not carried out, the infection will spread and the tooth may need to be taken out.
During treatment, all the infection is removed from inside the root canal system. The root canal is filled and the tooth is sealed with a filling or crown to stop it from becoming infected again. Root canal treatment usually requires two or three visits to your dentist.
Root canal treatment is available on the NHS (band 2) and costs £49.00.
This is when your teeth are professionally cleaned by the dentist, therapist or hygienist. It involves carefully removing the deposits that build up on the teeth (tartar).
A basic scale and polish is available on the NHS and costs (band 1) £18.00.
Braces (orthodontic treatment) straighten or move teeth to improve the appearance of the teeth and how they work.
Braces can be removable, so you can take them out and clean them, or fixed, so that they are stuck to your teeth and you are unable to remove them.
They can be made of metal, plastic or ceramic. Invisible braces are made of a clear plastic.
An referral to an orthodontist is required for brace work.
Implants are a fixed alternative to removable dentures. They may be the only option if the loss of teeth has caused the mouth to shrink so that it can no longer support dentures. You can use implants to replace just a single tooth or several teeth.
To fit an implant, titanium screws are drilled into the jaw bone to support a crown, bridge or denture.
Replacement parts take time to prepare. This is to ensure that they fit your mouth and other teeth properly. Therefore, they may not be available on your first visit to the dentist.
Implants are usually only available privately.
More commonly known as false teeth, dentures are fitted in place of natural teeth. A full set is used to replace all your teeth. A part set is used to replace one or more missing teeth. Dentures are custom-made using impressions (mouldings) from your gums. They are usually made from metal or plastic.
Dentures are removable so you can clean them, although part dentures can be brushed at the same time as your other teeth. A full set needs to be removed and soaked in a cleaning solution.
Dentures are important if you lose your natural teeth as losing your teeth makes it difficult to chew your food, which will adversely affect your diet and may cause your facial muscles to sag.
Dentures are available on the NHS (band 3) and cost £214.
It is common to break, chip or knock out a tooth.
If the tooth is just chipped, make a non-emergency dental appointment to have it smoothed down and filled, or to have a crown.
If the tooth has been knocked out or is badly broken, see a dentist immediately. Your dentist may fit a denture or bridge. If you need an implant, you will be referred to a dental hospital or private clinic.
Teeth whitening involves bleaching your teeth to make them a lighter colour. Teeth whitening cannot make your teeth brilliant white, but it can lighten the existing colour by several shades.
Standard teeth whitening involves several visits to the dentist plus sessions at home wearing a mouthguard containing bleaching gel. The whole process takes a couple of months.
A newer procedure called laser whitening or power whitening is done at the dentist's surgery and takes about an hour.
Teeth whitening is cosmetic and therefore only available privately.
Veneers are new facings for teeth which disguise a discoloured or damaged tooth. To fit a veneer, the front of the tooth is drilled away a little. An impression is taken, and a thin layer of porcelain or composite is fitted over the front of the tooth (similar to how a false fingernail is applied).