FAQ Articles

Read our Frequently Asked Questions
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Fissures are the grooves that are naturally present on the top, biting surface of the back teeth. These grooves can be very thin and deep. This can cause food and bacteria to become stuck.

When food and bacteria keep getting stuck over and over again, it can increase the risk of tooth decay developing inside the grooves.
A fissure sealant is a thin layer of dental filling material is placed over the grooves of the teeth. It is done to prevent food and bacteria from sticking in the grooves and to decrease the risk of tooth decay developing.

Fissure sealants are most commonly placed in the grooves of the back adult molar teeth in children and teenagers. Sometimes other teeth may also need fissure sealant treatment. The filling material is commonly white or clear. Sometimes the filling material will include fluoride for even more protection. Over time, using your teeth can cause the fissure sealant to wear down.

Fissure sealant in a back molar teeth. 

Fissure sealants are not required in all children. Your dentist will let you know if this treatment is recommended for your child’s teeth.

Here are Shepherds Hill Dental Centre we believe in  preventive care for all members of the family.  Our hygienists and oral health therapists are the professionals who are most involved in prevention, by regularly removing potentially harmful plaque and calculus build up, and teaching patients how to optimally care for their teeth at home.  We believe that it is valuable for children to have visits with the hygienist or oral health therapist so that they can learn excellent habits from a young age, and prevent future problems.  Speak to us at your next dental visit to see if your child can start their preventive care journey.

We all know our teeth wear down with use over time, but many of us aren’t aware that exposure to acids can wear away the enamel too.  Wear of the teeth due to exposure to acids is called dental erosion.  The most common sources of acids that our teeth encounter are acidic drinks, most commonly soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks.  These have a very low pH – low enough to result in tooth mineral dissolving away.  Internal acid from gastric reflux is another common source of erosion, as is wine, and regular consumption of citrus fruits and juices.

Tooth erosion can negatively affect the health and appearance of the teeth. Affected teeth can become increasingly sensitive, such as to hot and cold temperatures. As well, teeth can visually appear shorter with sharper edges due to the tooth structure being worn away. The tooth surfaces that are worn away can become thin and easily chip or fracture. When multiple or all teeth are severely worn, this can affect how the teeth bite together.

Once tooth enamel is worn away, the tooth can appear darker as the inside dentine layer becomes visible through the thin enamel. Dentine is yellowish-brown in colour, so this makes the overall appearance of the teeth appear darker.

Reducing the exposure to acid sources is crucial to preventing erosion.  We recommended minimal exposure to soft drinks, energy drinks, and acidic juices, sports drinks and cordials.  In addition, having plain water after an acidic drink can help bring the salivary pH back up and reduce the impact of the acidic drink.  Similarly, having milk or eating a piece of cheese can help to neutralise the acids and protect the teeth. Wait at least 60 minutes before brushing your teeth after consuming acidic food or drink or vomiting. While waiting, consider rinsing your mouth with plain tap water, or fluoride mouthwash. If you are not at home, chewing sugar free chewing gum can help to stimulate saliva production that can help to rinse acids from the mouth.

If acids have worn your teeth down and this is causing sensitivity, or has affected the function or appearance of your teeth, speak to one of our dentists.  They will be able to offer options for repairing the damage.

A root canal treatment is done to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth instead of removing the tooth from the mouth. During a root canal treatment, the dentist removes the severely damaged or infected nerve tissue (called the dental pulp) from inside the tooth. A filling is placed using a material called gutta percha to take up the space where the dental pulp was located. Root canal treatment can be performed by a general dentist or by a root canal specialist, called an endodontist.  Root canals are a procedure that allows us to save many teeth that would otherwise end up having to be removed.  This allows patients to continue smile and function without having to face the consequences of losing a tooth (can link to article here about replacing a tooth)

The dental pulp

The dental pulp is the soft tissue located in the centre of the tooth as well as in the canals of the tooth root/s. Both nerves and blood vessels are located in the dental pulp.
Dental PulpA tooth can continue to function without the dental pulp after it is removed and replaced with a filling by a root canal treatment.

What damages the dental pulp?

The three main methods of damage to the dental pulp include:

  • Tooth decay that travels into the dental pulp causing it to become infected or severely inflamed.
  • Severe injury or damage to a tooth. This type of damage can come from playing sports, a car accident or even a fall.
  • A crack in the tooth that extends into the dental pulp.

Possible signs and symptoms

There are a few signs and symptoms that mean you might need a root canal treatment.

  • Severe pain that does not go away after taking pain medication.
  • Severe pain when biting together or while chewing.
  • A pimple on the gums next to a tooth.
  • Tooth discomfort that continues even after the hot or cold item has been removed from the mouth.
  • Deep tooth decay that may or may not be associated with pain or discomfort.
  • A swollen area of the face.

The root canal treatment process

A root canal treatment may be performed from start to finish in one appointment. However, it often requires multiple appointments. During a root canal treatment the following procedure occurs:

  1. Local anaesthetic is given to ensure the treatment is pain-free.
  2. A rubber dam is placed to isolate one or more teeth from the rest of the mouth.
  3. The dental pulp located in the centre of the tooth and extends down the tooth root/s is located and accessed.
  4. The dental pulp tissue is removed using small metal files and disinfectant.
  5. The disinfected space is filled with a material called gutta-percha.
  6. This root canal filling is sealed as a barrier from stopping bacteria from re-entering the space.
  7. The crown of the tooth is then fixed with a filling or a crown.

Dental x-rays are a key part of root canal treatment and will usually be taken before, during and after treatment. These x-rays help the dentist see inside the root canals of the tooth, which cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Root Canal

Dental implants are a treatment option used to replace teeth missing from the mouth. Implant treatment may be performed by a general dentist, periodontist, oral surgeon or oral maxillofacial surgeon.  At Shepherds Hill Dental, implants are done by Dr Ryan Cornish, and restored by our dentists, Dr Tharaka, Dr Renee and Dr Jasper

What is a dental implant?

A dental implant can be thought of as an artificial tooth root that looks like a metal screw. The implant is put into the jawbone where the tooth was originally located. Over time, the jawbone that surrounds the implant grows around it to hold the screw securely in place. This takes approximately three months.

An artificial tooth, known as an implant crown, is attached to the dental implant screw to fill the space in the mouth left by the missing tooth. The implant crown is made to match the surrounding teeth in both shape and colour. This treatment is generally completed several months after the screw has been placed to allow time for healing.


At our practice, a consultation would be made with a specialist like Dr Ryan Cornish to assess the suitability of the patient, and the tooth site, for an implant.  The specialist will likely order 3D x-rays to check there is sufficient bone for an implant, and will discuss whether the patient is suitable for having the implant surgery under local anaesthetic, or whether general anaesthetic would be better.  A time is then made for the implant surgery itself.  A few months later, the surgeon will again test whether the implant has securely locked into the bone, a process called osseointegration, before asking one of our dentists to restore the implant with an abutment and crown.

In a nutshell, yes!  Most modern electric brushes have small heads that allow better access to back teeth, and an oscillating action with soft bristles than removes plaque better than manual cleaning usually does.  Our hygienists find that in most cases, electric toothbrushes can more effectively remove plaque and are less capable of wearing out teeth than manual brushing.  A lot of electric brushes nowadays have pressure sensors, timers and other features than take provide useful guidance, so patients can know they are doing a good job at home!

In a nutshell, sometimes.  Private health insurance in Australia is divided into Hospital Cover, which can help with major operations in hospital, and Extras, which can help with allied heath care such as dental, optical, physiotherapy etc.  Most of the time, the private health insurance provider will chip in towards the cost of the provider’s fee.  Most of the time our patients find that the rebate provided may not be worth the premiums required to have the Extras cover in the first place.  Thus, many patients find they are better off with no extras cover at all.  Given that most of our patients have regular preventive care with us, they rarely end up with major problems, and it is often better to not have Extras cover.  Some patients shop around and have their hospital cover with one provider, and their extras cover with another provider, that contributes far better for allied health.  It’s a complex decision that requires carefully consideration and calculation of one’s personal health situation, budget, likelihood of needing to claim, and the degree the provider will support the patient in seeing a provider they know and trust.

For more information, please visit the comprehensive article by the ADA on private health insurance on teeth.org.au

Shepherds Hill Dental Centre participates in the Child Dental Benefit Scheme, or CDBS, and the Veteran’s Affairs Scheme.  We are a non bulk billing practice for CDBS and so for most treatments, there will be a small co payment along with the government funded portion of the care, for eligible patients.  The practice has always had a long associated with the Veteran’s Affairs scheme.  Dr Tharaka is a serving army officer, and all of our clinicians enjoy supporting veterans with their dental care.

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