Periodontics is the section of dentistry that deals with the gum, tooth, jaw bone connection. This includes the treatment of gum disease. Gingivitis is a localized inflammation of the gums where they touch the teeth. Any foreign object or protrusion on a tooth can irritate the gums. The easiest way to prevent gingivitis as well as more serious gum problems is to brush and floss daily and to get regular dental check-ups and cleanings. Periodontitis is a more severe gum problem. As the gums become more and more inflamed, your bodies immune system sends very aggressive cells to the area of the gum/tooth/tarter/bacteria combination. The actual damage is cause by white blood cells and destructive enzymes in an attempt to "clean" the tooth surface. Because the tooth surface can only be mechanically cleaned, there is an over abundance of destructive chemicals which start to degrade the connection between the tooth,jaw bone and gums. Teeth eventually loosen and ultimately will need to be removed. Periodontal surgical procedures can stop the process before the tooth loss stage if caught early enough.
Endodontics is the section of dentistry that deals with the pulp or nerve of the tooth. A tooth has a crown which is the part above the gums as well as a root which is the part anchored inside the jaw bone. Within the crown is the pulp chamber. There is a canal that runs from the pulp chamber to the tip of the root in the jaw bone. This canal has the tooth's nerve as well as the tooth's blood supply. This is called the root canal. When the pulp or tooth nerve is violated by a deep cavity or by a fracture, the nerve degenerates and becomes inflamed. This is called pulpitis. When the pulpitis becomes irreversible, in order to save the tooth we perform root canal therapy. Root canal therapy is a procedure by which the nerve tissue of the tooth is removed and replaced with an inert filling material. A root canal usually takes two visits and the tooth will eventually need to be restored.
Oral Surgery is the section of dentistry deals with surgical procedures involving the tooth, gums and jaw bone. Removing wisdom teeth is the most common job of the oral surgeon. More complicated cosmetic jaw surgeries are also done as well as arthroscopic surgeries of the TMJ (temporomandibular joint).
TMJ is the abbreviation for the Temporomandibular Joint. It is the jaw joint, specifically where the lower jaw (mandible) connects or articulates with the temporal bone of the skull. It is a very complicated joint. The initial opening movement is a rotation then the lower jaw slides over a portion of the skull bone (translation). Between the upper and lower articulating bones there is a fibrocartilage disc. Because of the tremendous forces generated by the chewing muscles, too much pressure can damage the disc and its ligaments. If the ligament that holds the disc over the joint is stretched, the the disc will move forward and backward during the jaw movements resulting in popping and clicking sounds. TMJ problems or disorders cause pain in front of the ear as well as limited jaw opening and can cause severe headaches. Treatment of these problems include bite plates, physical therapy, acupuncture/accupressure, bio-feedback,TENS and either reconstructive dentistry, orthodontics or surgery. The first attempt at treatment is usually to fit a bite plate on the patients upper or lower jaw. The plate is adjusted to balance the biting forces and to move the lower jaw into a healthier position. Muscle relaxants, analgesics and a nti-inflammatory medications are also helpful.
Orthodontics is the section of dentistry that straightens teeth. Orthodontic appliances are used to place constant force on the teeth in the direction in which we would like them to move. This is usually done with braces, however, some mild problems can be corrected with retainers.