It’s happened to all of us. You’re sitting in the dentist’s chair and he and the hygienist are talking among each other about their observations of your mouth, teeth, and gums. Numbers and foreign words whiz around your ears but you don’t really understand a word they’re saying! To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of some of the words you might hear while visiting your dentist.
Abcess: An infection in the root of your tooth. It usually has pus, swelling, and may be very painful
Abutment: The part of an implant that supports a crown or bridge
Acid etching: Chemically roughing the outer tooth surface for bonding
Alveoplasty: Reshaping bone before getting a prosthesis like a denture or dental implants
Amalgam: A blend of metal, or alloy, that’s used to fill cavities
Anesthesia: A drug that is used to deaden nerves before surgery or a dental procedure; anesthesia options include local, which numbs only the surgical area, or general, which renders you unconscious
Anterior: The front six teeth on top and bottom; you might hear them referred to as central (front and center), lateral (on either side of the front teeth) and cuspids/canines (the next teeth out from the laterals)
Arch: The curved line of teeth on top or bottom; the top arch is the maxillary arch, while the bottom is the mandibular arch
Avulsion: A completely knocked-out tooth
Bicuspid: The teeth between your canines and your molars, also called “premolars”
Bitewing: An x-ray that shows the “in-between areas” of both the top and bottom molars in one picture.
Bleaching: Teeth whitening
Bridge: A partial set of false teeth that is anchored onto other teeth or dental implants
Bruxism: Teeth grinding
Calculus: Calcified plaque that is affixed to the side of your teeth
Caries: Another word for cavities, or tooth decay
Cast: A model of your teeth used to study how they fit together in order to fit a crown or other dental work
Cavity: A hole in your tooth caused by bacteria
Ceramic/Porcelain: The man-made materials used to create crowns and restorations
Cleft Palate: When the roof of the mouth has not fused along the midline
Complete Denture: Prosthetic teeth that replace the entire top or bottom arch when no natural teeth remain
Composite: The white material the dentist fills your tooth with; usually made of resin and quartz
Cosmetic Dentistry: Treatment that is focused solely on enhancing the appearance of the teeth
Crown: A cover or replacement for a tooth that is missing or decayed; may be supported by the remaining tooth structure or by a dental implant
Cuspid: Also known as canine teeth; the third tooth back from the midline
Debridement: When the dentist removes tartar or calculus from beneath the gumline in order to perform an exam
Deciduous: Anything that falls out or sheds; trees that lose their leaves are deciduous, and baby teeth are deciduous, too!
Dentin: The softer interior layer of your teeth below the enamel
Dentition: Your teeth!
Denture: Any removable false tooth prosthesis
Diastema: A gap between your front two teeth
Direct pulp Cap: When the interior part of a baby tooth is treated and sealed over in order to retain the tooth
Displaced Tooth: When a tooth has been partially knocked out
Distal: The surface of the tooth farthest from the midline
Dry Socket: When the blood clot gets displaced from a recently extracted tooth; tt is typically very painful!
Edentulous: No teeth!
Enamel: The harder, white outer surface covering your teeth
Endodontics: The type of dentistry that deals with the pulp and roots of your teeth
Excision: The surgical extraction of tissue, bone, or tooth
Filling: When the dentist replaces decayed tooth structure with a man-made material like ceramic or metal
Gingiva: Your gums
Graft: A piece of tissue, bone, or material that is attached in place of a defect in order to repair
Immediate Denture: When your prosthetic teeth are placed immediately after natural teeth are extracted
Impacted Tooth: When a tooth is coming in at an angle and pushes against another tooth, causing it to become “stuck”; usually pertaining to wisdom teeth
Implant: In dentistry, this refers to the “screw” or artificial tooth that is surgically placed to act as the root of a prosthetic tooth or teeth
Incisor: The central and lateral teeth on the top and bottom arches
Malocclusion: Poor bite alignment between upper and lower teeth or jaws
Mandible: Your lower jaw bone
Maxilla: The bone your upper teeth are attached to
Molar: The teeth in the back of your mouth; you have at least 8, maybe 12 if you still have your wisdom teeth!
Occlusion: The way your teeth bite together
Odontoplasty: When the dentist shortens the length of a tooth
Osteo: About the bone; osteoplasty is modifying the bone, while osteotomy is removing bone.
Overdenture: Dentures that sit over dental implants; removeable
Palate: The roof of your mouth
Partial Denture: A denture that only replaces a few teeth and snaps in around the existing teeth
Periodontics: The branch of dentistry that focuses on the gums and soft tissues surrounding the teeth
Pin: A tiny rod used to support the inside of a dental restoration
Plaque: Soft biofilm that forms naturally throughout the day; not to be confused with calculus or tartar
Post: Like a pin, but used to restore function with a crown, usually when there is not enough tooth structure
Posterior: The teeth in the back of your mouth
Prosthesis: A crown, implant, or denture, or other artificial tooth
Prosthodontics: The branch of dentistry that handles prosthetics like dentures or bridges
Pulp: The nerve inside your tooth
Reimplantation: Placing a lost tooth into its original socket
Resin: An acrylic based material used for fillings, sometimes as a composite
Root: The bottom of the tooth that is implanted in the gum and bone
Root canal: Also known as “endodontic therapy”; when the dentist cleans out the interior of the tooth, through the root, to remove an infected nerve
Root Planing: Removing calculus from the roots; also called a “deep cleaning.”
Rubber Dam: A barrier placed around your teeth to keep saliva out of an operative field
Scaling: Combined with root planing, but above the gums; removes plaque and stains
Sealant: A plastic-like coating placed over the chewing side of the teeth to prevent cavities; usually for children.
Sedative Filling: A temporary, palliative filling; only for pain relief
Temporomandibular Joint: Your jaw joint, also referred to as TMJ; a painful TMJ is called TMD (disorder)
Torus/Tori: A bony lump or growth on the roof of the mouth or along the jaw, near teeth; may interfere with the fit of prosthetics like dentures
Trismus: When your jaw hurts and won’t open
Unerupted: A tooth that’s in the jaw, but hasn’t grown into the mouth yet
Veneer: A thin coating over the surface of the tooth that corrects discoloration or damage.
These are just SOME of the everyday terms we use at Grand Parkway Smiles when treating our patients. If there’s one you have a question about or that we didn’t include, just ask!